Kobe Bryant will be back when he’s back, and when he is you can expect him to play like Kobe Bryant — he’s not changing.
But what else can you expect from the Lakers this season? What about next summer?
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak met with the media on Wednesday and basically reiterated previous answers in new words. For example, he said once again they franchise is “100 percent” behind Mike D’Antoni as coach. Of course, what else is he going to say?
In the short term, Kupchak said to expect a lot more of Pau Gasol down on the block (via reporters Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report and Mike Trudell of Lakers.com):
Mitch on @paugasol: "If he's healthy, he's going to be an All-Star player. He'll be the focal point of our play in the paint."
Gasol is incredibly skilled as a scorer and passer on the block and for the past couple of seasons (due to Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard) he has been pushed into more of a power forward role. This season he goes back to his strengths, so long as Mike D’Antoni lets him.
As for Kobe, Kupchak said there is no timetable and again said he is not even running at 100 percent yet. Kupchak didn’t sound like a guy who expects Kobe to be in uniform opening night.
Most Lakers fans are not focused on this season but the next summer — that is when a lot of Lakers salary comes off the books (including Gasol and Kobe) and the franchise can rebuild with free agents. Kupchak said the Lakers plan to bring back Kobe Bryant, but they have not discussed a price with him yet.
Mitch Kupchak on Kobe: "He intends to retire a Laker. … We feel the same way."
But Kupchak is realistic about getting the big names (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others) to come to L.A. next summer. Kupchak has said before the plan is less for the summer of 2014 and more about 2015 and beyond and he echoed those thoughts again.
Kupchak on free agency next summer: “It’s going to be tough to get players to move. It really is.”
Yes, the Cavaliers are 11-4 on the season and on top of the East. Yes, they are outscoring teams by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, which is fourth best in the NBA. They have the third best offense in the league. All that without their starting backcourt (Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert). There are reasons to be optimistic.
But the Cavaliers have a middle-of-the-pack defense and their efforts have been up and down. Wednesday night was one of those down nights, they lost on the road to Toronto, dropping the Cavs to 3-4 outside Quicken Loans Arena. All those losses are to teams in the East.
Following a 103-99 road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers held a players-only meeting during which LeBron James and James Jones got on the team for its inconsistent play through the Cavs’ 11-4 start to the season, multiple sources told ESPN.com….
“It’s all mindset,” James said after the game, still visibly frustrated. “It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t.”
When asked whether fatigue was a factor, James said, “No. It’s not an excuse.” When another reporter asked whether injuries were to blame, James repeated, “It’s not an excuse.”
Injuries and fatigue did play a role, this was a team without four regular rotation players and that puts more of a burden on everyone else. Players can’t look at it that way, but injuries are a reality and they are impacting the Cavaliers right now.
But I get it. LeBron is trying to set a tone, one he learned in Miami and is now trying to instill in the Cavaliers. It’s about effort, it’s about attention to detail, it’s about building good habits over the course of a season so they can pay off in the playoffs. The Cavs are winning, they look clearly like the best team in the East once healthy, and yet LeBron rightfully isn’t convinced they could beat Golden State or San Antonio right now. The good news is they don’t have to beat them right now, but they need to beat them eventually. The building blocks for that are laid during the season. He wants that building to start going up.
But getting guys healthy would solve a lot of those problems.
Jason Kidd ejected; shoving match ensues between teams after Kings beat Bucks
Jason Kidd is going to miss a game or three (and some dollars to go with it), and he could not be the only guy in trouble with the league after a tension-filled end to the Kings’ win over the Bucks Wednesday.
There wasn’t a ton of drama at the end of the contest itself. The Bucks played a “defense optional” game that led to 36 points for Rudy Gay and 13 dimes for Rajon Rondo, and the Kings won their first game this season without DeMarcus Cousins (back issue). That frustrated the Bucks to no end.
Jason Kidd expressed that frustration by slapping the ball out of referee Zach Zarba’s hands, a move that rightfully earned him an instant ejection.
You can be sure a suspension is coming for Kidd — the league can’t let that slide. This was not a Budenholzer incidental bump. After the game here is what Kidd had to say.
Kidd tossed at end of game and said he did it because Bucks not getting fouls called and he had to stand up for his team.
After Kidd had gone to the showers, there was a little jawing on the court between Cousins (in street clothes) and the Bucks’ O.J. Mayo. That spilled over after the final buzzer into the tunnel, where there was at the very least some jawing, maybe a little shoving, and a lot of security stepping in before anything serious happened.
BOOGIE AND BAYLESS WERE SHOVING EACH OTHER IN THE TUNNEL
Whatever happened in the tunnel is going to be a lot harder for NBA disciplinarian Kiki Vandeweghe (technically the vice-president of basketball operations for the NBA) to sort out. Who started what, and did it rise to the level it calls for a fine or more, is going to be tricky, especially since this was out of site of the arena cameras.
Cavaliers stand in middle of Raptors dancers’ routine (video)
The Cavaliers were ready for their game against the Raptors tonight, and Toronto’s dance team wasn’t going to change that.
The last time I remember something like this happening, Grizzlies guard Tony Allenwalked through the Warriors’ kid dancers. This video doesn’t show how the Cavaliers got to that point, but they might have the defense of being there first. Allen definitely didn’t have that.
Wizards score six fourth-quarter points in loss to Hornets
Gary Neal made a jumper with 10:12 remaining in tonight’s Wizards-Hornets game.
That was Washington’s last basket.
Jared Dudley made a pair of free throws on the Wizards next possession, and Neal added two more free throws with 23 seconds left.
And that was all the Wizards scoring in the quarter.
Washington, which entered the final period up seven, lost 101-87 after its 1-for-20 final-period shooting.
The six fourth-quarter points were the fewest by an NBA team in a quarter since Cavaliers scored six third-quarter points in a Jan. 26, 2014 loss to the Suns. Last time a team scored so few in a fourth quarter: Nov. 13, 2012, when the Raptors had five against the Pacers.
At least Neal’s late free throws spared the Wizards further shame. Nobody has scored four or fewer points in a quarter since the Warriors managed just two in a Feb. 8, 2004 loss to the Raptors.
As it stands, this is one of only 44 times in the shot clock era a team has scored so few points in a quarter.