Kurt Helin

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Pelicans take step forward, not leap

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You don’t have to sell me on Anthony Davis. In the next three years he will take over the mantle as the best player in the NBA. He will be in the mix for the MVP award this year — at age 22.

You don’t have to sell me on how Alvin Gentry helps the Pelicans, not only the offense but I also think he improves their struggling defense.

But I don’t see the Pelicans making a huge leap forward this season, as Jenna Corrado and I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. The issue isn’t Davis and Gentry, it’s everything around them. Jrue Holiday is on a 15 minutes a game limit until January; Norris Cole, Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca are out injured to start the season. Add in a rough schedule to start the season in New Orleans and a slow start is not out of the question.

Report: Derrick Rose to make preseason debut for Bulls Friday

Derrick Rose
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I guess his vision has cleared up.

Derrick Rose wanted to play for at least a few minutes in the Bulls’ preseason finale on Friday night, and new coach Fred Hoiberg was on the same page. There was just one little problem — Rose was still suffering from vision problems related to the broken orbital bone around his eye, an injury he suffered that required surgery. Rose couldn’t play with one eye shut.

Apparently those have clear vision because he will play Friday night, reports K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune.

Derrick Rose indeed will make his preseason debut Friday when the Bulls play host to the Mavericks in a neutral site home exhibition, their last.

More importantly, both Rose and coach Fred Hoiberg said if Rose’s left eye reacts favorably to game conditions, he’s on track to play in Tuesday’s regular-season opener against the Cavaliers.

“It opens it up even more,” Rose said of the possibility of playing in the opener. “Every day my eye is improving. We’ll see how tonight goes. Everything I need to work on, this gives me a couple days to really work on it so I’m prepared for Tuesday.”

Don’t expect a lot of mask-wearing Rose Friday, likely two or three five-minute stretches at most. He’s not going to play a ton in the opener Tuesday against Cleveland either, expect a lot of Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks (matched up against Matthew Dellavedova and Mo Williams, the Cavaliers are without Kyrie Irving to start the season).

It may be a slow start, but this is good for the Bulls, a team with a lot of talent and a lot of questions. Getting Rose and Jimmy Butler on the same page and flowing. They need to figure out the frontcourt rotation that works best — Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic appear destined to be the starters, with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson coming off the bench, but that will be mixed and matched a lot during the season.

Fred Hoiberg has a full season to keep everyone healthy and figure out how the puzzle pieces fit together.

51 Questions: Is this Kobe Bryant’s final season?

Kobe Bryant
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Is this Kobe Bryant’s final season?

Kobe Bryant does not want a Derek Jeter-style farewell tour.

Even if Kobe were sure this coming season — his 20th in the NBA, all with the Los Angeles Lakers — was to be his last, he’d be coy about it just so it didn’t become a thing (although, he can only slow that so much). He doesn’t want opposing teams presenting him with a rocking chair before games.

Still, the question still hangs over the Lakers: Will this be Bryant’s final NBA season?

Nobody knows.

That includes Bryant himself.

If there is one thing Kobe fans — really all hoops fans — should root for it that on April 13, Bryant will be healthy enough to run out of the Staples Center tunnel with his teammates and take part in warmups before the Lakers take on the Jazz in their final game of the season. For the past few years, the end of Kobe’s season has been determined by injury — which each time left Kobe determined to overcome that, outrun Father Time a little longer, and leave the game on his own terms. Another serious injury would pretty much answer the question about his return.

If he gets through the season healthy, then he gets to make his own decision.

He will have options.

• He can decide to walk away. I think this is the most likely outcome. We all know the mythology of Kobe’s competitiveness — much of that myth is true — and it will be a challenge for him to move on from the game. Having been around him, I believe him when he says he doesn’t want to play for any other franchise. I also think Kobe will get to the end of this season and see some hope in the direction the Lakers are headed (with D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle) but realize they are still years away from title contention (and that’s if things go right). There is not a good enough Lakers short term, so he will choose to walk away. He is a man with a business plan, charitable foundations, and a platform for his life after basketball that few players have when it’s over. He can transition.

That said, a lot of people who know Kobe better than I — Phil Jackson, Jerry West, long-time Lakers beat writer (now with Bleacher Report) Kevin Ding, among others — think he will continue to play.

• He can choose to re-sign with the Lakers. If Kobe wants to stay a Laker, the Buss family will welcome him back — he is worth too much to them financially not to. Kobe sells season tickets, he fills the luxury boxes, he draws television ratings (and that massive local cable deal the Lakers have is ratings dependant). But there are questions with this approach. First, would Kobe be willing to take $10 million (give or take) a year, Tim Duncan style deal to give the Lakers’ flexibility to go after big name free agents? Would those free agents still come to L.A. the shadow of Bryant looms over the team? (For a lot of elite players the answer there is no, even though they would never say that publicly.) Finally, will Kobe accept a role that has fewer minutes and more mentoring, as his skills decline with age, and the Lakers try to transition to their next phase?

• He can choose to sign with another NBA team. This one comes up around NBA circles when you discuss Kobe’s future, and there two schools of thought. The more common one is that he joins Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher in New York as a member of the Knicks, playing in the nation’s other major market in a sort of reunion tour. This makes no sense for the Knicks in their effort to rebuild, and I’m not sure you can play Kobe and Carmelo Anthony together for heavy minutes, but relationships play a big part in how decisions are made in the NBA. The other option you hear is he takes a big pay cut to join the Warriors (Jerry West is there), Thunder (with Kevin Durant back), Spurs, or some other contender to chase ring No. 6. I doubt any of this happens because Kobe is too protective of his brand — and part of his brand is being a Laker for life. Plus, can you see Kobe agreeing to be option No. 4 on a team?

• He can choose to play in China for a season. Because of his years of work, taking trips for Nike there every summer — he has his own Chinese-language website and a charitable foundation — Bryant is huge in China. He could go there, play only once or twice a week in games where defense borders on optional (have you ever watched a CBA game?), put up numbers and sell a lot of shoes. It would be good for the Kobe brand. But that would also mean a lot of time away from his family, something that is very important to him.

We don’t know what path Kobe will take — Kobe doesn’t know what path he will take.

All we can hope for is that he is healthy enough to choose his own path.

NBA now offers direct access to game streams on Twitter, Facebook

David Lee
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Picture it this way: You are sitting at home, checking out Twitter on your phone when you see a highlight of Blake Griffin throwing down a monster dunk against the Thunder. You think “I should be watching that game.”

Now, in just a couple taps of the screen, you can. The NBA is announcing on Friday they are making it even easier to watch individual NBA games through social media links.

At the bottom of that official NBA tweet of the dunk (or the Facebook post) there will be a “watch” link that will jump you to the game page of the NBA app, where with just a couple taps you can buy just that contest on live stream for your phone or tablet and start watching immediately (for $6.99 per game, or if you are already a subscriber you can just log in).

“We’ve spent a lot of years now cultivating an audience on social media, and when we looked at the (League Pass) packages we thought this would be a great way to add to our everyday storytelling on social (media),” Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA’s Senior Vice President of Digital Media, told PBT.

Last year during the Finals, the league announced that fans would be able to buy single games that they could stream on their phone, tablet, laptop, whatever — ala carte games. This season NBA becomes the first major sport to offer its games this way for streaming, you don’t have to buy the entire package. Just want to watch Golden State vs. Milwaukee? Then just buy that one game. It seemed a smart play for younger fans (read: Millennials) who tend to consume their media in bite-sized portions (usually on a phone or tablet). The die hards will always buy the entire League Pass package, and fans of one team can now buy just that team’s game on League Pass, but ala carte games were the next logical step.

Not long before that announcement, at the Sloan Analytics Conference last year in Boston, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took it one step further, saying he thought the best thing would be to alert people via social media — Twitter and Facebook, specifically — and have them be able to quickly tap right into the experience. The NBA social media team took that and ran with it — they set up the plans for this direct access to live games via social media, and got it in place for this season.

Streaming is becoming big business for the NBA, and its teams and media partners. Everyone wants in. For example (as we often link to here at PBT), if you are a home-town subscriber to a Comcast regional sports network that broadcasts local NBA games — the Warriors in the Bay Area, the Celtics in Boston, the Wizards in Washington D.C., and so on — you can watch streams of every game they broadcast from those local sites.

In a world where the NFL foolishly takes steps to force GIF highlights of its product off Twitter, the NBA has always taken the opposite approach — make the game as accessible as possible. That means fans can post GIFs on Twitter or highlights on YouTube and it all has the league’s blessing.

“It’s about accessibility,” Rosenthal Brenner said. “I think we also subscribe to this notion that fan-generated content is the ultimate marketing. There’s a notion that fans either seeing tonight’s highlights, or things from each other showing their joy and love of the game, is going to compel other people to watch.”

There also is no more active major professional sport on social media than the NBA.

“It’s not just us, over 90 percent of our players — I think the exact number is 87 percent — have at least one social (media) account,” Rosenthal Brenner added. “Our teams are committed to posting great content. At the end of the day, we’re all huge fans of the game and using social to talk hoops has been a very successful strategy for us. And that includes just access.”

Which is now just a couple clicks away for any game.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Will Spurs’ defense remain strong?

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The Spurs’ core is getting a step older and a step slower. They are replacing Tiago Splitter‘s size and rebounding with LaMarcus Aldridge. As Jenna Corrado does in this latest PBT Extra, it’s fair to ask if San Antonio’s defense is about to slip a little this season?

I don’t see it, at least not much. First, they still have Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter. Second, Aldridge is a better defender than he gets credit for in some quarters, and he can replicate a lot of what the Spurs asked Splitter to do in their system.

Maybe they don’t finish second in the NBA in defense as they did last season, but any slip on that end will be more than made up for by an improved offense.