Kobe Bryant’s psychology is such that when his teammates struggle on offense he quickly fills that void — he believes he is a better offensive option even if the defense is focused on him than a passive or cold teammate. That has led to some bad choices and miraculous shots over the years.
Now at age 35 coming off an Achilles injury, can Kobe change is ways?
It’s not me asking that question (well, not alone anyway), it is Laker legend, broadcaster and Hall of Famer James Worthy. He spoke with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
“One of the biggest challenges for Kobe this year is, can he step back?” Worthy said. “He’s been in the league for 17 years, has a lot of miles on the body and has had a lot of injuries. Can he find a game that will allow other guys to flourish?”
While all reports are his recovery is ahead of schedule there remains no timetable for Bryant’s return. It is possible he misses the entire Lakers preseason and maybe the start of the regular season as well (they open the season Oct. 29 against the Clippers).
As big a question is what this Lakers team looks like on the court — they are better suited in some ways to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense but there will be a talent step back without Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. The bigger questions are at the defensive end of the floor — they were a pedestrian defensive team last year that lost their two best defenders.
In a sign of how optimistic some Lakers fans are, Worthy thinks the Lakers will be the five seed and finish ahead of the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies in the West. Most prognosticators have them missing the playoffs (I think they finish around .500, which will be 10th or 11th in the West, so they miss the postseason).
But a lot of that comes back to Kobe, when he returns and how he plays when he does. Can he be even more of a facilitator, even when things aren’t going well?
The Detroit Pistons’ playoff dreams hinged on them being able to hang around until point guard Reggie Jackson got back from this thumb and knee injuries. They have done just that — the Pistons are 11-10 and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs started today.
And now they get Jackson back. Stan Van Gundy made the announcement Sunday at shootaround, before the team takes on the Orlando Magic.
It will take a few games to get his conditioning back, but this is huge for Detroit. Jackson running the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond is at the heart of Detroit’s offense – the Pistons were 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with the ball in his hands. Ish Smith played well for the Pistons in his absence — 10.8 points per game, 6.4 assists, and he’s been solid. Move his playmaking to the second unit and suddenly the Pistons become a lot more dangerous.
The scouting report on Jakob Poeltl coming out of Utah said he could run the floor well and he was a good finisher around the rim.
But we didn’t expect this.
During the Raptors win Sunday against the stumbling Hawks, Poeltl filled the lane on the break, got the rock, and nobody was going to stop that finish. Least of all Tim Hardaway Jr., he just ends up in the poster.
Entering free agency last July, Hassan Whiteside said his first choice was to stay in Miami — then Pat Riley gave him 98 million reasons to stick around. While the Heat have been up and down this season, Whiteside has thrived as the franchise player in Miami.
Last July he also met with Dallas, but it turns out that was not his second choice. Here is what Whiteside told Erik Gunderson of the Miami Herald before his team fell to the Blazers on Saturday.
“Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Portland. “I would have came here.”
Interesting. There were reports the Blazers chased Whiteside, but it didn’t seem that serious. Apparently, it was. If The Blazers got Whiteside, would they still have spent $70 million on Evan Turner? Probably not. And suddenly a lot of things look better in Portland.
For Blazers fans, watching their team try to outscore opponents while playing terrible defense this season — in part because of a lack of rim protection behind their undersized guards — it’s easy to imagine how much Whiteside would have changed the picture in the Northwest. But at this point, that’s just fan fiction.
JaVale McGree has become a solid contributor for the Warriors off the bench, giving them a needed shot blocking presence. He’s not getting a ton of run (seven minutes a night), but he’s efficient when he’s out there.
Still, there is his reputation as the guy most likely to end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool. He hasn’t done anything like that for a while… until Saturday night, when after a made free throw he tried to inbound the ball for the Suns for a second.
The Warriors bench was laughing under their shirts and towels.