By the start of the 2003-04 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were title contenders breaking apart at the seams from the weight of the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant feud. This isn’t new news, both Gary Payton and Karl Malone have talked about it before.
How bad was it? How about “camp Kobe” and “camp Shaq” bad.
Kareem Rush spent his first two NBA seasons in the middle of the Lakers war, for the final two seasons of the Kobe/Shaq era, and he talked about it on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Tom Byrne & Rick Mahorn (you can listen to the interview below).
“Yeah, it was like a real issue. We actually had like a separation of the team. We had a big man alliance and a guard alliance. I had to pick Kobe’s side.”
How deep was that split? For a while Shaq would not let long-time Laker trainer Gary Vitti (who had been with the team since the Showtime era, and is just now entering his final year) tape him up before games because he was allegedly a Kobe guy.
Now for the “what ifs.” As Shaq has said, could the Lakers have won three more titles if that group stayed together?
“Shaq got three Finals MVPs and I think Kobe wanted his, so it didn’t work out for us. We definitely had talent to win more than three titles.”
Of course, now everything is good between Shaq and Kobe, with both regretting their hard-headed youth. But talking about that era is a fun August diversion.
What I still wonder: Despite all the dysfunction, if Malone had been healthy for the 2004 Finals would the Lakers have won the title anyway?
Playing in both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues, Justise Winslow showed some flashes of why he felt like a steal for Miami at No. 10. You could see the athleticism on both ends of the floor, he played at pace but under control, he had solid handles, and he knew how to attack the rim and use his body to draw calls.
But his shot needed work. He hit just 34.2 percent overall and 25 percent from three (3-of-12) across the two summer leagues. There seemed to be a little hitch in his release.
That’s what he’s been working on with Heat coaches through the rest of the summer, Winslow told the Miami Herald.
“I definitely feel comfortable shooting from three-point range but it’s working on everything: pull-ups, mid-range, posting up, finishing. There has been a huge emphasis on my shooting mechanics, trying to get everything more fluid and more natural so I can become a better three-point shooter. But there hasn’t been an over-emphasis on three-point shooting.”
Winslow shot the ball fairly well at Duke (41 percent from three) and was impressive in the tournament, but he needs to clean everything up now that defenders are faster and longer.
Winslow is should get plenty of run off the bench for the Heat this season, and in a system that suits his strengths. He’s probably not going to get the touches needed to get the numbers for Rookie of the Year (not with Jahlil Okafor and Emmanuel Mudiay getting the keys to their respective franchises) but he’s going to look good fast. And get better from there.
So long as that shot starts to fall.
JaVale McGee has battled a stress fracture and other leg injuries for a couple of seasons now — he has played just 28 games over two years. When he has gotten on the court, he has not been near the same athletic — and entertaining — player.
Which leads to the biggest question about McGee with the Dallas Mavericks for this coming season: Will he be healthy enough to contribute? Or even make the roster?
McGee told Mavs.com he would be, and that part of the reason he chose to sign with Dallas in the first place was the training staff.
“That was one of the major things about (signing with the Mavericks),” McGee confessed. “With how good the training staff is and all the training materials that they have and other teams don’t have, it’s definitely a good thing.
“I’m definitely getting back to that elite level. The injuries really slowed me down, so I’m definitely going to get 100 percent healthy and come out and give it my all.”
He’s going to need to be 100 percent and show that old form to make the team. Dallas has ZaZa Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert and Salah Mejri all on the roster with guaranteed contracts to play center next season.
Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of those — that McGee would make this roster despite the depth at the five. I hope he makes it, the league is more fun with him in it.
This is a low-risk move for Dallas — McGee agreed to a two-year deal at the veteran minimum (team option in the second year), he doesn’t cost much if he proves to be healthy. If he’s not that McGee, it costs $500,000 to let him go before the season starts (half that if they dump him before training camp even opens).
Between 2006 and 2012, John A. White was a personal assistant and one of the people close Gilbert Arenas — and all the while he was siphoning off money from the NBA star.
To the tune of $2.1 million.
That is what a federal jury said Thursday in finding White guilty of multiple charges, as reported by Keely Diven of CSNmidatlatic.com.
According to prosecutors, White stole money during a period from 2008 to 2011, making unauthorized bank transfers from Arenas’ accounts into three accounts of his own. He was found guilty of 11 counts of wire fraud for the theft.
The money funneled from Arenas was not reported in White’s and his wife’s joint income tax returns during that span, resulting in four additional counts of filing a false tax-related document.
The judge can give out up to 20 years per wire fraud charge, while it’s three years per tax document. That could add up to a lot of years.
White bought a Ferrari and made his mortgage payments with the money, among other things.
Arenas will be fine. He hasn’t been on an NBA court since 2012, but thanks to the stretch provision the Orlando Magic are still sending him checks.
Bradley Beal is a guy poised to take a leap forward this season — if he can stay healthy. He wants to prove he can do for season what he did in the playoffs last season when he lead the Wizards in scoring at 23.4 points a game. He’s an elite sharpshooter and two guard, and he and John Wall proving they are the best backcourt in the East is key to Washington making it to the conference finals or beyond.
Does that make Beal a max player?
He wants a max extension; the Wizards haven’t been ready to give that up. The two sides have until Oct. 31 to get a deal done, but there has been no progress of late reports J. Michael at CSNmidatlantic.com.
While talks remain open, CSNmidatlantic.com was told, there hasn’t been any movement. Beal, who believes he’s worth a max deal, just returned from Taiwan and president Ernie Grunfeld had been on vacation.
The lack of reaching a compromise isn’t an indication of any greater problems, but the Wizards aren’t in a position in which they must commit to a four-year deal fully guaranteed right now with so many moving parts ahead in free agency in the summer of 2016.
There are two key reasons for the Wizards not to give Beal a max deal right now.
First is Kevin Durant. The Wizards want him to return to his hometown, and believe they have a legitimate shot to land him when he becomes a free agent next summer.But that is going to take boatloads of cash. If Beal and the Wizards do not reach a deal, Beal’s cap hold next summer will be $14.2 million; if he signs a max extension he would cost $20.9 million against the cap. That’s $6.7 million would come in handy landing Durant (or another free agent).
Second is Beal needs to prove he’s worthy of a max. When he’s on he certainly is — he shot 40.9 percent from three last season. But also last season he was inconsistent, and he has missed time for three straight seasons due to a stress reaction in his leg. Do the Warriors want to bet big on that now?
If no extension is reached, Beal becomes a restricted free agent next summer, and if Beal has earned a max the two sides can reach a deal — or even if another team offers him one the Wizards can match. The Wizards can afford to wait. Beal may have no choice.