Author: Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Quote of the Day: Nick Young’s answer to Lakers’ offensive woes is more Nick Young


Of course, Nick Young’s answer to all problems is more Nick Young.

If it were not for Nick Young the Lakers might be completely unwatchable the rest of the season.

Kobe Bryant was a good show but the curtains have come down on that production for the season.

The Lakers offense looked uncentered Sunday night without Kobe against Houston, there is no go-to guy that forces double teams and the Lakers ball movement is inconsistent. To his credit, Nick Young is one guy who can create shots. The problem is he creates them for himself and if you chase him off the three-point line he doesn’t make the shots — Young is shooting 39 percent from three and 35.8 percent inside the arc. Or, look at it this way: The Lakers offense is the exact same in points per possession this season whether Young is on the court or not.

But what has Byron Scott got to lose (except more games, which the Lakers may want to do anyway) — give us more Nick Young. No matter how disinterested he may be on defense.

Kobe Bryant to have surgery on shoulder, is done for season

Kobe Bryant

Sunday night Lakers coach Byron Scott said he was holding out hope Kobe Bryant could still find a way to come back and play this season, even though every medical professional anyone spoke with said he would need surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff — which had detached from the bone — and that would be the end of his season.

Monday, after seeing another specialist, it became official. The Lakers announced Kobe would have surgery on Wednesday. While the team would not provide a recovery timeline until after the operation you can be sure he will not return this season according to every medical professional I consulted. No, not even Kobe. From the official release.

“(Kobe) was examined this morning by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. Dr. ElAttrache confirmed an earlier diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff, and advised Bryant to have surgery to repair the shoulder. Bryant has agreed, and surgery has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.”

The recovery from this kind of injury usually takes at least four, maybe six months. Either way, Kobe would be back for next season if he wants. And it’s hard to imagine Kobe not wanting to be back.

Hall of Famer and current Rockets coach Kevin McHale provided an interesting perspective on whether Kobe would return next season to play. He said that he played through pain because he didn’t want injuries to force him out, either.

“I wanted to go out playing, and we made it to a playoff series and we lost but I went out playing as hard as I possibly could, I found a little magic in a bottle for a couple weeks and played pretty good, then that was the end of it,” McHale said before his Rockets beat the Lakers Sunday night at Staples. “It’s hard. You’re used to being able to do things, you’re used to your body responding, and if you’re a good player you’re used to your body bouncing back and doing a lot of stuff. You never really thought it could not hold up, but at some point it goes down.”

Kobe is going to want to leave on his own terms. So while his body may require more rest and nights off, that strong will — not to mention the $25 million salary — will almost certainly bring Bryant back for one more year.

In the short term the Lakers will struggle. A lot. Which is not all bad because if they are in the top five of the draft after the lottery this season they get to keep their pick (otherwise it goes to Phoenix as part of the Steve Nash trade, and that pick will go to them next year). The Lakers are currently 12-33, which is the fourth worst record in the league, and it’s hard to imagine them getting past 20 wins now.

PBT’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings: Hawks continue to fly high


Atlanta’s win streak is up to 16 in a row and while we see flashes from the Bulls and Cavaliers, a trip to the Finals in the East still runs through the ATL. That’s a good story. Out West Golden State remains the team to beat, although the margins for error in that conference are miniscule. That’s a good story, too. But in these Power Rankings we talk a lot about All-Star reserves.

source:  1. Hawks (37-8, Last Week No. 1). The winning streak is now at a ridiculous 16 games. We know at least one Hawk will be represented at the All-Star Game — Mike Budenholzer will coach the East. The question for the coaches voting around the league is how many of Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver to add to the All-Star team as reserves (two at least, maybe three).

source:  2. Warriors (36-6, LW 2). Klay Thompson put on a 37-point third quarter show last week right as coaches started to vote on the All-Star reserves. He’s a bubble guy but that performance plus the fact one more guard will get in with Kobe Bryant being out means Thompson should be a lock for New York.

source:  3. Spurs (29-17, LW 3). They have won six of seven and the only off day happened to come on a day the Bulls finally played up to their potential. Looming out there starting Feb. 8: The nine-game rodeo road trip, a signature trip that has made some previous Spurs teams.

source:  4. Grizzlies (31-12, LW 4). I’m not so sure about the whole “starting Jeff Green” thing, but the Grizzlies have won six of seven and are looking rock solid again. Interesting tests this week vs. Dallas and OKC. Good on the fans for rightfully voting Marc Gasol as a starter for the All-Star Game.

source:  5. Clippers (30-14, LW 5). It’s odd to think that Chris Paul is on the bubble for making the All-Star Game as a reserve, but that’s just how deep the West is. Fans going by points alone or falling for the hot new flavor of the month have others in front of CP3, but look at his assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. To me the best floor general in the game today has to make the cut. Clippers are +11.9 as a team in last 10 games, third best in the NBA, thanks to an offense scoring 114.5 per 100 over that span.

source:  6. Rockets (31-14, LW 6). Kevin McHale would like the Rockets to play at a faster pace but says it’s like pulling teeth: “Everybody says they want to run until it’s time to run. I asked one guy, ‘Do you run down to get your mail?’ ‘Do you run and get your eggs?’ Nobody likes to run — they all say they do but they’re lying to me. It’s been 25 years since anyone liked to run, and we grew up running, we ran all the time, that’s the way we grew up playing.”

source:  7. Mavericks (30-15, LW 8). It was a scary moment Sunday when Tyson Chandler had to be helped to the locker room holding his knee. Fortunately it was nothing too serious, he returned and played later in the game. However, the next center after him on the roster is Dwight Powell. The Mavs think they can sign Jermaine O’Neal. Either way, both are huge drop offs from Chandler, who is key to any Dallas postseason run.

source:  8. Trail Blazers (32-13. Last Week No. 6). The Blazers are entering a tough stretch of the schedule so they could use the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge is going to play through a torn ligament in his thumb. By the way, if you thought he might bolt Portland as a free agent this summer, you think he would put the team first and play through this injury if that was the case?

source:  9. Bulls (29-17, LW 12). The Bulls look like they broke out of their mid-season slump with a thrashing of the Spurs followed by a win over Dallas the next night, both on the road. Then they got home Sunday night against a sub-.500 team and laid another egg. Their inconsistency is maddening, but I still see their peaks and think they could come out of the East.

source:  10. Suns (26-20, LW 9). If the Suns are going to hold off the hard-charging Thunder in the West they need to do well in a rough stretch of games through Feb. 5. They started of 1-2 and this week face the Wizards, Bulls and Warriors. The good news is the Thunder have yet to get hot.

source:  11. Cavaliers (25-20 LW 13). In the Cavs five game winning streak they are averaging 118 points per 100 possessions behind an explosive LeBron James, it’s the best offense in the league by a wide margin in that stretch. Their defense is improved, but still is just middle of the pack in the league. That has been enough of late.

source:  12 Wizards (30-15, LW 10). They lost to both the Trail Blazers and Thunder last week because of poor fourth quarter execution (and if Kenneth Faried didn’t miss two late free throws the Wiz would have dropped three last week). Interesting showdown with slumping Toronto later in the week.

source:  13. Raptors (29-15, LW 11). In their last 10 games as a team they are -3.2 per 100 possessions, and the real concern is it’s a drop on both ends of the court. That said, Raptors fans should celebrate Kyle Lowry being voted an All-Star starter of Dwyane Wade, that was the correct choice.

source:  14. Pelicans (23-21, LW 16). They picked up a quality win over Phoenix and are now just two games out of the final playoff spot in the West, plus they have 10 of their next 12 at home. The playoff dream is alive in New Orleans.

source:  15. Thunder (22-22, LW 14). They have dropped two in a row and are 5-5 in their last 10 because their offense is struggling. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been fantastic (and both deserve to be All-Stars) but in his last five games Dion Waiters is shooting just 37.7 percent and Reggie Jackson is worse. The rest of the team has to step up.

source:  16. Hornets (19-26, LW 19). They have won 8 of 11 and with that moved past the Nets to be the eight seed in the East. Why the run? Because of a soft schedule, the only quality wins in there were over the slumping Raptors and the Heat. Things change this week on the road at the Spurs, then next week they have a home-and-home with Washington.

source:  17. Heat (20-24, LW 18). Heat fans (and people around the team) had been buzzing for a while about Hassan Whiteside, but he announced his presence with authority on Sunday blocking a dozen shots in a win over Chicago. He’s matured physically — he’s put on a lot of weight since he entered the league, and he needed to — and in terms of the mentality of his game. He’s patient now, not frenetic.

source:  18. Bucks (22-22, LW 15). They are 1-3 since returning from London and have not looked sharp, particularly the bench. Potentially important game for seeding against Miami on Tuesday.

source:  19. Pistons (17-28, LW 17). . The Brandon Jennings injury could be devastating. D.J. Augustin had a great game as a replacement on Sunday, and he has played better as a starter than off the bench in recent years, but this is still a step back.

source:  20. Jazz (16-28, LW 25). If he were not in a ridiculously stacked Western Conference, Derrick Favors should deserve a little All-Star buzz. The Jazz are 10-10 in their last 20 games and are doing that with solid defense.

source:  21. Nets (18-26, LW 21). The most interesting thing about this team continues to be the trade rumors — now they are talking to Charlotte about a Joe Johnson trade for Lance Stephenson. There will be other rumors flying as they try to reduce payroll before selling the team.

source:  22. Nuggets (18-26, LW 20). They have lost six in a row and the issue is on defense, where they have been the worst team in the NBA over their last five games. Brian Shaw should make sure his resume is in order for this summer.

source:  23. Celtics (15-27, LW 26). Credit coach Brad Stevens if you want, credit the makeup of the players if you want, but what you have to like about this Celtics team is that they don’t quit. Down in games when a lot of teams would just roll over Bosotn fights back. That is a good quality.

source:  24. Pacers (16-30, LW 22). Well they beat Orlando on Sunday to snap a seven-game losing streak. However despite their good defense their offense is not going to allow them to win many more games.

source:  25. Kings (16-27, LW 23). DeMarcus Cousins should make the All-Star team, at least in my book (I’d have him over Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan, which Duncan would be good with as he doesn’t want to be there). Cousins getting in might takes Kings’ fans minds off the six-game losing streak.

source:  26. Magic (15-32, LW 24). I think Nikola Vucevic deserves to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team, but if he doesn’t it’s because he plays on a struggling team right now that shows flashes of good play surrounded by some raw, sloppy play.

source:  27. Knicks (8-37, LW 30). Break up the Knicks! They have won three in a row and Langston Galloway is on his way to establishing cult hero status in New York. They could keep winning with teams like the Kings and Lakers on the docket this week.

source:  28. Lakers (12-33, LW 27). The loss of Kobe Bryant is the big story, but the other issue around the Lakers is that the minutes and rotations are just all over the map. Coach Byron Scott is searching nightly for anything that works, but the result is guys just don’t know if they will be called on. Nick Young is the latest guy in that doghouse.

source:  29. 76ers (8-36, LW 28). As if the Sixers couldn’t get any harder to watch, Tony Wroten goes down with a knee injury and is done for the season. They play hard and defend as well as they can, but this team is not entertaining.

source:  30. Timberwolves (7-35, LW 29). Nikola Pekovic is back and Flip Saunders is throwing him out there like he wants to showcase him for a trade. Or he doesn’t have other good options. Or a little of both. Kevin Martin can expect the same thing.

Reports: Kings at Knicks, Trail Blazers at Nets games Monday postponed due to coming storm


The Northeast is about to get buried in snow from a potentially historic blizzard bearing down on the region, one that is expected to dump at least two feet of snow in New York City and it could be much more.

Connecticut already has banned travel after 9 p.m. Monday night and numerous flights have been cancelled out of the region. Other modes of transportation will be shut down as well, and there will be many more cancellations…

Including the Kings’ game at the Knicks scheduled for Madison Square Garden, reports Grant Napear, the Kings’ television play-by-play voice.

Also shut down is the Portland Trail Blazers visiting the Brooklyn Nets, reports Adrian Wojnarowski:

This is the right thing to do. Most people would stay home anyway and the fans trying to get to the arena just put themselves in danger, it’s not worth it.

The games can be re-scheduled for another date. Both Portland and Sacramento likely would have to make another cross-country trip to play the games (or not, in the case of the Kings, because with both New York and Sacramento well out of the playoffs the question is really about how a loss for once side could impact lottery seeding, if it doesn’t it may not be replayed).

Everyone reading this in the Northeast, stay warm and stay safe.

Did win over Lakers break Rockets out of their defensive slump?

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES — Over the course of the season, the Rockets have the fifth best defense in the NBA, allowing opponents to shoot 44.3 percent and score 99.6 points per 100 possession.

But that defense has gone AWOL of late — in the Rockets last five games they had allowed their opponents to shoot 48.2 percent and score 107.4 points per 100 possessions, both 25th in the NBA during that stretch. The Rockets went 3-2 in those games, but the defensive struggles were a bad omen.

“We went through a period where we had a lot of break downs defensively,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “But our guys worked on it, we had good, hard practices, and one thing that’s nice about this team is they get better at what you work on.”

They looked better defensively against the Lakers Sunday — they held Los Angeles to 15 points in the first quarter, and 36 in the first half as the Rockets cruised to a 99-87 win that was never really in doubt from early on. Los Angeles shot 43 percent and had an offensive rating of 88.8 points per 100 possessions on the night. All of that without Dwight Howard in the lineup (sprained ankle).

“I thought our defense was pretty solid for the most part,” McHale said. “We made them work for stuff. And I thought that our defense had been slacking, I’d say the last few weeks. We’ve been working at it, and I thought the last few nights it’s been getting better.”

The obvious answer for why it looked better Sunday is that the Lakers — especially now without Kobe Bryant — are an unfocused disaster on offense. They lack quality shot creators or anyone you have to fear.

Of course, the Rockets saw it as something more than that, as a springboard for themselves to get back to their identity. And when you asked any Rockets’ player about the improved defense they used some variant of the word “focus,” adding they had to do it more consistently.

“It’s definitely getting there,” James Harden said of the defense. “I think we’re locking in a little bit more. We still have a long way to go, but we’re definitely on the right path…

“It’s focus. We are more than capable of being the best team in the league, but we have to focus on defense every single night.”

What the Rockets focus on well is to contest three pointers, teams are shooting just 31.3 percent from beyond the arc on Houston this season, second best in the Association. The Lakers were 1-of-13 from three in the game.

That was one of the points of emphasis this season from assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the rising assistant coach who is the coach in charge of the defense and who helped turn that ship around — something especially impressive because this team lost quality defenders in Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons over the summer, then have been without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley for extended periods this season.

“Concentration more than anything else,” McHale said of why the defense improved Sunday night on the road. “It just seemed (in previous games) like we were not up, we didn’t stay in our coverages, and we had a lot of small mistakes. Whenever you have a lot of small mistakes, a lot of them are mental mistakes. I’m not sure what causes it. I don’t think it was fatigue, but we didn’t play well for a while. We’re getting it back.”

Sometimes when things aren’t working you need an easy one just to get your confidence back and get back in a rhythm. The Rockets got that with the Lakers Sunday. But the reprieve is short lived because next up on Wednesday is a real test: Dallas. The Mavericks are the second best offense in the NBA this season. After that comes games against the scrappy Celtics and Pistons.

Every team has lapses and slip ups over the marathon of 82 games. They key is to not let that linger and develop into bad habits. The problem needs to be rectified quickly.

We’ll see soon if the Rockets have ended their defensive slump, or if they have a lot more work to do.