Getty Images

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant have Lonzo Ball’s back, say give him time

Leave a comment

In Stephen Curry‘s first two months in the NBA, he averaged 10.2 points on 44 percent shooting (39.5 percent from three) and 5.4 assists per game. He played well, but nobody was watching him thinking “this is a future two-time MVP and leader of a championship team.” It took some time for Curry to become Curry.

Curry has seen the ups-and-downs of Lonzo Ball as a rookie, and would like him to get some time out from under the spotlight to develop as well. Here is what he said at practice Tuesday, as the Warriors geared up to face the Lakers on Wednesday night on ESPN. Quote via Chris Haynes of ESPN.

“He’s a rookie,” Curry said of Ball after practice Tuesday. “He’s going through ups and downs like every rookie has. Whether you’re highly touted or not, it’s all a learning experience and you’re trying to find your way and be comfortable. …

“I’ve always said he’s a great talent. I think he loves to play basketball, so he’ll be able to fight through all that and have a great career. I hope you didn’t judge me off my first 20 games in the league.”

Curry (swollen hand) and Kevin Durant (sprained ankle) are both questionable for the game against the Lakers.

They are also on the same page about giving Ball time to develop.

“Lonzo is just playing like a rookie, as far as learning the game, finding the ins and outs of the game,” Durant said. “It’s slowing down for him. Picking and choosing his spots. He’s still figuring it out. He’s 19? That’s what any 19-year-old would go through in the pros (Note: Ball turned 20 last month). It’s just a matter of him being in L.A., where the eyes and scrutiny are on him. He’s playing like he should play as far as learning the game and adjusting on the fly.”

Ball averages 8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, plus he has helped the Lakers play faster and more aggressively (at times), and his defense has been better than expected. However, he is struggling mightily with his shot — 30.9 percent overall, 24.5 percent from three, 43.8 percent at the rim, less than 23 percent on uncontested jumpers (no defender within four feet) — and that has led to a lot of questions about how good he is and can be. Ball is clearly in his own head with his shot now, he is shooting just 42.9 percent on free throws (he hit 67.3 percent at UCLA last year).

Thanks to his bombastic father, Magic Johnson calling him a leader and face of the franchise before he stepped on the court, an impressive Summer League, and a fan base desperate for its next star and a return to glory, the hype machine spun out of control on Ball. Too much was expected too early. Ball is a better shooter than this, how good is up for debate but he will improve. He just needs time. Fans may not fully grasp that, but Curry and Durant do.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Leave a comment

The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek
1 Comment

Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

Harry How/Getty Images
1 Comment

Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

image

So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.