If you want to get the most out of Kobe Bryant, put a big obstacle in front of him. Like trying to come back from a ruptured Achilles at age 34.
Kobe has been working out diligently on his recovery, in fact holding himself back and letting it heal has been the hard part, he has said.
Lakers co-owner Jim Buss was in Las Vegas to watch his team play in Summer League and was interviewed by NBA TV and said this about Kobe.
“Well, we’re in Vegas, and I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in preseason. He’s real sharp in taking care of himself and he’s not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He’s going to come back when he’s right. He’s a machine. He’s inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can’t believe how much he’s progressed so far.”
The normal recovery time would have had Kobe back somewhere in the middle of the season. But you knew Kobe would be ready sooner than that.
When he returns he will not be the same player — he will lose some athleticism, some explosiveness. Not even Kobe can deny father time.
But over the last five years Kobe’s game has evolved from using that explosiveness to get his shots to using his footwork, his moves, his crafty play to get the shots he wants. He’s moved more into the post at times. Give him the ball at the wing and he’ll make a couple of jab steps, create a little m room then drive to the elbow area where he can pull up for a jumper. He has become very good at getting to his spots on the floor.
Which is to say, Kobe is still going to be good when he comes back. Just not the same.
The Lakers have a preseason game in China, I’d be surprised if he’s back for that. But Game 1 of the regular season, that would not be a surprise.
The Los Angeles Clippers still have Paul Pierce under contract. Not many minutes for him, but he has a roster spot.
Pierce probably wants come back but is thinking it all over, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
Pierce has been debating this with himself for a while now.
Pierce saw a dramatic drop off in production and how much he was used last season by Rivers. Pierce averaged a career-low 6.1 points per game on an also career low 48.9 true shooting percentage. His PER of 8.2 was also a career low. You get the idea. By the end of the season Pierce was mostly an afterthought for Doc Rivers (although he did start one game after Blake Griffin was out and the Clippers’ playoff dreams were toast).
Pierce would be more mentor than a key player on the court, but he would be on probably the third best team in the West, a team that capable of making a deep playoff run. Does he want to do that for one more season? You know Doc would welcome him.
Andrea Bargnani said he would’ve played “for free” to prove himself with the Nets last season.
That would have been about the right price.
Bargnani suffered through a miserable season — full of injury, poor individual play and losing. Brooklyn eventually bought him out.
Now, the entire NBA might be finished with the former No. 1 pick.
Bargnani signed with Spanish team Saski Baskonia.
At age 30, he faces a long road back to world’s top league — if he even wants to try. Bargnani is a one-dimensional jump shooter, and he doesn’t even shoot that well.
It was ridiculous for the Knicks to trade a first-rounder for him, and that was three years ago already. Bargnani is only further from his peak now.
Maybe he carves out a niche in Europe, where his lack of physicality is less likely to be exposed. But Bargnani is no longer an NBA player.
The Heat signed Dion Waiters to a room-exception contract.
Heat president Pat Riley, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
“Dion is not a Room Exception player. He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization. We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”
I’m really curious about those “more lucrative financial opportunities.”
The Thunder didn’t think Waiters was worth his one-year, $6,777,589 qualifying offer. They earmarked that money for a Russell Westbrook renegotiation-and-extension and don’t define the market themselves. But every team has other uses for its money than paying Waiters, and none deemed Waiters a priority.
How much could Waiters have gotten next season if he signed a multi-year deal rather than the 1+1 he inked with Miami? The whole “Waiters betting on himself” narrative falls apart if nobody was willing to bet more more on Waiters.
The 24-year-old is talented. But his ball-hogging, drifting focus and me-first attitude can be infuriating.
It behooves Riley to paint Waiters as more than a room-exception player, because that enhances Riley’s reputation as someone who lures free agents for less than market value. A big-time compliment from the influential Riley might have even part of Waiters’ contract negotiation.
But there’s a reason Waiters signed for the room exception. It has something to do with the type of player he is.
The Clippers don’t just play second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They play second fiddle to the Lakers in their own arena.
Unless the Clippers want to move from the NBA’s second-biggest market, the former isn’t changing.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
The Clippers want to escape the Lakers’ shadow. Leaving the Staples Center wouldn’t turn the Clippers into L.A.’s team, but it’d give them a new avenue for attention — and revenue.
Of course, if the Clippers stay in the Staples Center, they’ll want the best terms possible. Leaking interest in a new arena only helps their bargaining position.