Kurt Helin

Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott

Lakers’ coach Byron Scott says Kobe Bryant will “probably” play some power forward

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We knew that with a guard rotation of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams, the Lakers were going to slide Kobe Bryant over to the three for stretches this season. And when Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti discussed it with him, Kobe’s reaction was “I can do that.” Which is probably Kobe’s reaction to every question he is ever asked — “Hey Kobe, could you land a 747?” — but in this case he certainly can do it if healthy.

But how about Kobe at as a small four?

Not sure how Kobe feels about it, but Lakers’ coach Byron Scott is thinking about it, he told David Aldridge of NBA.com (hat tip to NBA Reddit).

“The one thing that we wanted to do and accomplish through this draft and through free agency was to try and be a little more versatile, have some versatility. So I think (Clarkson, Russell, Williams) can definitely do that. Kobe can play one, two and three. There’s no doubt in my mind. And there’s some games. against some teams, where he’ll probably play four. With his tenaciousness, the way he guards people and when his mind is set, if I say ‘Kobe, you’ve got him,’ he takes that as a challenge. You know how he is. He’ll compete.”

This is a decent idea, one worth exploring, if it is situational (the Lakers tried it very, very briefly last season).

If the Lakers are playing the Toronto Raptors and they’ve gone small with DeMarre Carroll at the four, the Lakers can match that with Kobe. Same with the Wizards if they go small and slide Jared Dudley to the four. Orlando if they go small with Tobias Harris at the four. There are matchups where this could work for the Lakers — not for long stretches, playing against bigger guys would take a toll on Kobe’s body, but for 5-10 minutes it could work.

However, notice all the teams noted above are in the East. The problem is that in the West most of the teams have fours Kobe would simply not be able to match defensively — Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka (or the Thunder go small with Kevin Durant), LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Draymond Green, and the list goes on. The West is simply a different animal with the forward spots.

That’s why most of the Lakers’ minutes at the four will be split between Julius Randle and Brandon Bass. Still, I could see a short stretch with three shooters to space the floor, Kobe at the four and Bass at the five. It’s worth taking a look at in preseason and early in the season. Scott is right, versatility matters more and more in the NBA. We’ll see if he puts that plan into action.

Larry Bird says Stephen Curry, himself in mix for best deep shooter ever

Larry Bird
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There were a lot of great shooters from eras gone by who probably watch today’s spread NBA offenses and think “man, I wish I could have played in this era.” Or, maybe more accurately, “man, I really would have gotten PAID if I played in this era.”

Pacers’ president Larry Bird was on the Dan Patrick Show and talked about the best deep shooters the game has ever seen, and where Stephen Curry falls in that discussion. It’s going to be pretty high, even now, but those two throw out some great old names, like Dale Ellis. Of course, Bird puts himself on the list.

What Bird will not do is say he can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one right now.

Report: Heat will pick up contract of Tyler Johnson, as expected

Tyler Johnson
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Goran Dragic is the starting point guard in Miami. The question is who plays when he sits?

With Shabazz Napier now gone and Mario Chalmers still being shopped around, it was a forgone conclusion that the Heat would pick up the contract of point guard Tyler Johnson. They will do that soon, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

Johnson was all about energy. He came in as a spark plug off the bench and played hard — sometimes crossing the line into out of control. He shot just 41.9 percent overall (although 37 percent from three) and had too many turnovers. But you could see the potential in the former Fresno State player who spent much of last season in the D-League.

This is an easy call for the Heat, he’s the kind of player they should be developing.

To my mind so is James Ennis, who showed not only can he finish at the rim but he is a threat from three (32.6 percent). If he can develop better handles and refine his shot he’s got a place in the league. The question is do the Heat think he has that in him (and can they bring it out of him). With Justise Winslow now in the mix at the three, how big a priority is Ennis?

Gilbert Arenas goes full hibachi at county fair hoops game, gets all the stuff animals

Washington Wizards v Sacramento Kings
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Even if this is staged I don’t care, it’s the best Instagram of the NBA summer:

I would like to think that between bites of his deep-fried peanut butter-stuffed pickle, Wasabi bacon bombs, and caviar covered twinkie, Gilbert Arenas walked up to those crooked-rim hoop games at the Orange County Fair and went off like he was dropping 60 on the Lakers.

Arenas may become the next Peter Drako.

Good to see Arenas back in the news for being hysterical, rather than less pleasant reasons.

Phil Jackson says Knicks wanted Goran Dragic at trade deadline. Because he’s such a triangle fit?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:   New York Knicks president Phil Jackson watches from the stands as his team plays the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.   The Knicks won 101-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Rule No. 1 about winning in the NBA: It’s all about the talent.

Gregg Popovich is brilliant, but he’s not wearing rings without Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tony Parker and the others. Phil Jackson was the master at getting great players to buy into a team concept, but he had great players, from Michael Jordan through Kobe Bryant.

And Jackson knows if he wants to turn the Knicks around, he needs exceptional talent. Like maybe Goran Dragic — when healthy one of the better point guards in the NBA. In his conversations during the season with his old friend Charlie Rosen (now published at ESPN), Jackson talked about eyeing Dragic at the trade deadline last February.

“Goran Dragic, for one. I heard through the grapevine that he was open to coming here. We worked hard on that possibility, but the asking price was too dear. Maybe we worked on that possibility so much so that it distracted us. I mean, Dragic is every team’s current choice for a nuclear option — a guard who can penetrate and either score or kick. Guys like Chris Paul and James Harden. But, anyway, that’s not really the way I want us to play.”

As a reminder, the Jackson and the Knicks moved first, on Jan. 5, took part in a three-team trade that sent Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland. On Feb. 19 the Suns moved Dragic to the Heat in another three-team trade, which netted the Suns Danny Granger, John Salmons, and the real prize of two future first round picks (2017 and 2021). Dragic then re-signed with the Heat this summer.

But it’s the last line that is the most interesting from Jackson: “But, anyway, that’s not really the way I want us to play.” Dragic, like any traditional point guard who needs the ball in his hands, is not a fit in the triangle.

Jackson wants to validate his vision of the triangle in a new era. He wants an unselfish team where players cut and move off the ball, where the system is as big a star as the players. Like the Hawks, I guess.

But the system is only going to be as good as the players in it. What both the Bulls and Lakers for Jackson did well was put in role players who fit and bought into the system around their elite stars. Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, Pippen, etc. would have been successful regardless of the system. We can debate whether Carmelo Anthony can be one of those elite stars, but there is no debate the Knicks need more of them. Maybe Kristaps Porzingis can be, but we’re a few years from finding that out for sure. In the short term, the Knicks did a good job getting solid role players like Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez that will work in the triangle. That’s a start.

As much as changing the culture and putting in a system, Jackson knows he needs more elite players if he is going to bring a title back to NYC. Even if that means bending the triangle a little to make them work.

Jackson knows, he can talk all he wants about system and style, it comes down to talent first. Restock that cupboard and the triangle will look great again.