Kobe still saying he’s not sure if he will be ready for opener

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That Kobe Bryant is recovering as fast as he is from an Achilles injury that could have been career ending says everything you need to know about his drive, his care of his body and his work ethic.

All of that may not have him back opening night.

Kobe did a Nike-fueled world tour selling shoes and everywhere he went he gets asked about his return — and he continues to not give a firm timeline. The latest quote comes to us via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

‘I don’t know [whether] that means I’ll start the season – I hope so,” Bryant said in a recent interview to Time Out Dubai to promote his upcoming there later this month to host a basketball clinic.

“I’m feeling pretty good,’” Bryant said, ‘stronger than I was. I’m ahead of [my recovery] schedule.”

Lakers fans should expect Kobe back at some early point in the season, but they need to understand he’s not going to be quite the same player. He’ll still be good, but not exactly the same. Over the past few years Kobe’s game had shifted from using his explosiveness to using his basketball IQ and footwork to get the shots he wanted where he wanted. He generally did it — he could get to the elbow and rise up and knock down the jumper.

That footwork and IQ aren’t going anywhere, but he will not get there quite as quickly and not have quite the same lift on the jumper. And in the NBA the margins for error are pretty small.

The bigger issue will be defense, where Kobe already gambled more than he should and now will not be able to recover as well. Combine that with the losses of Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace and the question will be can the Lakers defend well enough to get into the playoffs.

For the Lakers to make the playoffs they are going to need Kobe back early, and for him to be fully Kobe, able to run and play in the Mike D’Antoni system. We’ll see if he can do it.

Video Breakdown: Clippers use JJ Redick in split cut to fool Jazz at 3-point line

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The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.

One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.

We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.

Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.

If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.

For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.

John Wall wears cape to postgame press conference (video)

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John Wall has been super, averaging 27 points and 11 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 lead over the Hawks in the first-round.

Did you see Isaiah Thomas carry in Game 5? ‘No,’ says Fred Hoiberg, who walks off (video)

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Fred Hoiberg opened himself to clowning by complaining about Isaiah Thomas carrying.

So, the Bulls coach got clowned after the Celtics’ Game 5 win.

Jae Crowder leg-locks Robin Lopez (video)

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Late in the Celtics’ Game 5 win over the Bulls last night, Jae Crowder leg-locked Robin Lopez – the same dirty play that caused rancor for Matthew Dellavedova in the 2015 playoffs.

Lopez blocked Crowder’s shot, but the ball went to Al Horford, who attacked the basket. As Lopez tried to rotate to contest another shot, he couldn’t move. Crowder, who’d fallen to the floor, had him in a leg-lock. Lopez freed himself just in time to foul Horford.

Adding insult to avoided injury, Lopez got hit with a technical foul for complaining about the no-call.

I bet the league issues a technical foul on Crowder, too.