Author: Kurt Helin

Kobe Bryant

Kobe to play Sunday, take Monday off for Lakers


It’s one of the toughest regular back-to-backs in the NBA — a game at Staples Center one night followed by a more than two-hour late night flight to Portland to take on a good Trail Blazers team on the back end.

The Lakers are doing that, hosting the Pacers Sunday night and playing in Portland Monday.

But Kobe isn’t.

Good choice here, the Lakers at home have a real chance to beat the Pacers (who have played better of late), but with or without Kobe they are not likely to beat Portland on the second night of a back-to-back.

Also good that Kobe and Scott have really started to embrace some rest for Kobe. When he’s fresh, when he’s trusting his teammates as he has since his three games off, he elevates the Lakers offense to the level that they can win some games (just because the offense is good enough to outscore teams, the Lakers still are terrible on defense).

Report: Wizards testing trade market for Glen Rice Jr.

Washington Wizards v New York Knicks

This summer, Glen Rice Jr. looked like a guy ready to take a step forward — he was the Las Vegas Summer League MVP. Out in the desert he averaged 25 points a game and had been shooting better than 50 percent until a rough last outing, showing off an attacking/slashing style, and just looking like a guy who knows how to get buckets.

This season has not lived up to that hype. Rice has gotten in just five games, played just 43 garbage time minutes for the Wizards. He’s sitting on the bench in the D-League right now. He doesn’t have a guaranteed contract and on a Wizards’ team loaded with wing depth (especially with the emergence of Rasual Butler) he can’t crack the rotation.

Now the Wizards are trying to trade him, reports Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post.

With a gluttony of wing players and limited financial flexibility, the Washington Wizards intend to trade Glen Rice Jr. before his contract becomes guaranteed on Jan. 10, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Washington has already spoken to other teams about Rice, who was shipped to the D-League in late November and hasn’t played in the Fort Wayne Mad Ants’ last four games despite no reported injury.

They are not going to get much back for him, likely a second round pick.

Teams with interest in him may be willing to wait the Wizards out — if they can’t trade him by Jan. 10 they may just waive Rice Jr. Then a team could pick him up without sacrificing a pick.

The question is was there a GM in the stands in the corner of the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas who saw Rice play and thought “maybe he can fit what we do” and would be wiling to give up a second round pick for him (likely one with conditions attached).

Kemba Walker drops 30 on Orlando, lifts Charlotte to win

Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker is known for his quick first step, his ability to get into the lane and break down defenses.

But he dropped 30 on Orlando Saturday night doing it mostly with the jump shot — he was 4-of-6 on above-the-arc threes and his jumper was working. We’ll add working mostly because the Magic gave him space — he was 8-of-13 on uncontested shots but just 2-of-8 when they got in his face.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Hornets.

Tobias Harris throws it down, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ends up in poster (VIDEO)

Tobias Harris
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It wasn’t Orlando’s day — Charlotte went on a 22-0 run to close out the first half and never looked back — but Tobias Harris had a good day with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

And two of them came on a spectacular dunk — one all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Harris is really having a quality season for Orlando scoring 18.3 points per game with an above average .560 true shooting percentage. If you’re going to put up those numbers, the year you’ll be a restricted free agent is a good time  to do it.

Add Kobe Bryant to list of smart people slamming AAU player development system


You can go ahead and point out the irony of Kobe Bryant complaining about a system that encourages a start mentality and players to play in isolation sets, ignoring teammates.

But the fact is Kobe is one of the most fundamentally sound players in the game, a guy with impeccable footwork honed over long hours in the gym. He plays a high IQ game. And when he trusts his teammates (as he has the past few games) is a very smart passer that is a couple of steps ahead of the defense.

Kobe sees the young players coming out of Europe with those fundamental skills. The ones coming into the NBA out of America’s AAU system… not so much, he told Arash Markazi of ESPN.

“I just think European players are just way more skillful,” Bryant said Friday night after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 109-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. “They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. … They’re more skillful. It’s something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way….

“AAU basketball,” Bryant said. “Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. Its stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. Its stupid.”

Kobe and his Lakers had just lost a game to the Marc Gasol led Grizzlies (and of course Kobe played with Marc’s brother for a couple of rings). Kobe and the rest of us saw a heavily European roster of Spurs play the beautiful game on their way to the title last June. He’s frustrated.

And he’s right.

Kobe joins a long list of NBA people who despise the AAU system, both because of the style of play it produces and because it’s a dirty business (there are few things more fueled by under the table money like AAU/college recruiting). Even at the NBA level talent tends to win out but with the talent disparities seen in high school age kids if you can get two or three potential NBA-level guys on one team you can dominate — now Kings’ coach Ty Corbin once said the “big three” in Miami was the product of the AAU system. Worse yet, those AAU coaches with stacked teams don’t really have to coach the players and get them to improve. There is little defense, little teamwork and off-the-ball movement in a half-court set. We could go on and on, but you get the point.

Of course, pointing out the system is broken is easy, fixing an entreated system designed to create stars that can be lucrative for certain people and businesses is another. People are protective of their fiefdoms. And any dramatic overhaul of a system is messy and complicated.

Kobe hopes the fix can be simpler than that.

“Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” he said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction.”