Kurt Helin

Kobe Bryant, Chandler Parsons

Lakers give Kobe Bryant day off because he was “really angry”

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“I’m 200th best player in the league right now. I freaking suck.”

“I’m just playing like s***.”

“Well, if I’d make a damn shot, that would help.”

Kobe Bryant‘s frustration at his inability to knock down shots or lift up his young Lakers team was stated in no uncertain terms after the Dallas Mavericks jumped out to a 15-0 lead and led wire-to-wire Sunday night on the Lakers’ home court. He wasn’t in a better mood on Monday, so the Lakers told him to take a day off, reports Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

Kobe has gotten a lot of practices off in the last five years, that’s not out of the ordinary. It’s Byron Scott’s phrasing that raises an eyebrow.

Kobe has always been able to overcome adversity through a combination of talent, hard work, and sheer force of will. That didn’t happen on his 3-of-15 shooting night Sunday against Dallas, nor has it happened all season as Kobe tries to bounce back from multiple injuries. Kobe said he was getting the shots he wanted, but he’s averaging 9.7 three-point attempts a game (hitting 20.7 percent of then). Also, on average nine of his 17 nightly shots have been contested. He can’t create the same space anymore, and the predictable Laker offense isn’t doing it for him, so shots are contested or look out of rhythm. If those are really the shots he wants, it’s going to be a long season.

But this is the bigger problem, from Serena Winters of Lakers Nation.

What games is he watching?

Kobe has all the power in the organization and Scott is his No. 1 fan, so how exactly are things going to change? Who is going to call out Kobe on his poor shot selection, who is going to modify the offense to get Bryant the ball in his strong spots and in good matchups?

Sorry Lakers’ fans, it is going to be a long season.

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Warriors, Thunder teams to chase early

Stephen Curry
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It’s small sample size theater — the first few weeks of PBT’s NBA power rankings always see a lot of volatility as teams we over/under rated climb and fall. We try to see through it, but expect more shakeups in the coming weeks. That said, the top and the bottom of the list remain solid.

 
source:  1. Warriors (3-0, last week No. 1). Stephen Curry looks more explosive and is finishing better when he gets in the paint. Which is scary. This week he averaged 39.3 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting. Although he did that going against Nate Robinson, Toney Douglas and Ish Smith for two games (vs. Pelicans), he and the Warriors face better tests this week with the Grizzlies and Clippers.

 
source:  2. Thunder (3-0 LW 2). Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook look in mid-season form and with those two you know their offense is elite. The Thunder defense did not look tight for the first couple games, although it looked better against Denver Sunday. Dion Waiters has looked decent, didn’t see that coming.

 
source:  3. Clippers (3-0, LW 5). Blake Griffin has been a beast through three games, averaging 32 points per game on 64 percent shooting, although he was not matched up vs. the toughest competition. That changes when they travel to Golden State Wednesday. Personally, I’m not sold on Lance Stephenson as a starter.

 
source:  4. Cavaliers (2-1, LW 4). It’s just three games, but the Cavaliers have the third best defense in the NBA the first week, allowing just 90.3 points per 100 possessions. If that continues, watch out. They are beating teams by an average of 13.4 points per 100 possessions (despite the opening night loss in Chicago).

 
source:  5. Spurs (2-1, LW 3). Their defense has looked good (allowing just 90 points per 100 possessions) and LaMarcus Aldridge has been a big part of that. The offense is coming around with more Kawhi Leonard — who has looked like a beast — and Aldridge (24 points on Sunday).

 
source:  6. Raptors (3-0, LW 11). DeMarre Carroll has looked been worth the big contract so far, bringing the Raptors defense into the top 10 and shooting 8-of-19 from three. They beat up on middle of the pack teams in the East last week, this week Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Miami provide better tests.

 
source:  7. Pistons (3-0, LW 18). I picked them to make the playoffs, but their defense has been better than anyone expected (92.8 points per 100 possessions, sixth best in the young season). Andre Drummond looks like a franchise cornerstone in the paint. Losing Jodie Meeks for 3-4 months hurts, he is the kind of reliable veteran shooter they need on the roster.

 
source:  8. Grizzlies (2-1, LW 7). Their only loss was to the Cavaliers, you can forgive that.It’s worth noting their defense wasn’t that great the first week, but this is likely more sample size than anything else. Outside shooting still an issue in Memphis, same as it ever was.

 
source:  9. Bulls (2-1, LW 9). Through three games they are fifth in the NBA in defensive efficiency but 20th in offense. Sounds familiar. Fred Holberg is still playing with lineups and while some work — not playing Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah is good, more Mitotic is good — some of his defensive lineups can’t score enough.

 
source:  10. Wizards (2-1, LW 10). They are playing smaller and faster, John Wall and Bradley Beal have looked pretty good. However, the small ball has not translated to better defense — 99.5 points allowed per 100 possessions, 18th in the league.

 
source:  11. Hawks (3-1, LW 12). Kent Bazemore doesn’t do everything DeMarre Carroll did on defense, but he is scoring for them — 19.5 points a game in the last two and shooting 53.8 percent from three for the season — plus using his length on defense. Rebounding remains an issue in Atlanta.

 
source:  12. Heat (2-1, LW 8). That comeback against Houston had to feel good, as did seeing Hassan Whiteside put up big offensive numbers. Justise Winslow showed his potential guarding a (slumping) James Harden as well. Their offense is top five in the NBA already, and Goran Dragic has yet to look comfortable.

 
source:  13. Jazz (2-1, LW 14). Rudy Gobert is living up to the hype early on — through three games opponents are shooting 29.7 percent against him at the rim. The Jazz have the best defense in the NBA early are playing like a good traditional defensive team, keeping the pace at the slowest in the NBA.

 
<source:  14. Suns (2-1, LW 16). Phoenix has a couple wins but that has something to do with playing Portland twice in the first week, I’m hesitant to read much into it. The Clippers, Kings, Pistons and Thunder are up this week and that will provide us a better gauge for where this team is in the pecking order.

 
source:  15. Mavericks (2-1, LW 17). Wesley Matthews is back and moving fairly well, hitting threes, and now Chandler Parsons is back on the wing in a limited role. Coach Rick Carlisle said he was pleased with the first week (all the games were on the road) and he likes them if they can just stay healthy. If they do keep out of the training room they will be in contention for a playoff spot in the West.

source:  16. Timberwolves (2-0,LW 24). Great stat from Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders: Karl-Anthony Towns had 46 points and 26 rebounds total through two games, the only other players to do that in their first two games in the lat 40 years are Artis Gilmore, David Robinson, and Dikembe Mutombo. Nice company to keep.

 
source:  17. Knicks (2-1, LW 27). The triangle has some form this young season as the Knicks offense is averaging 107 points per 100 possessions (third best in the league). Carmelo Anthony had the Wizards’ circled on the schedule (remember Jared Dudley said he was overrated) but is shooing just 41 percent this season. Kristaps Porzingis has been decent.

 
source:  18. Kings (1-2, LW 20). The Kings have started big but have played a lot of smaller ball with Rudy Gay at the four — and Rajon Rondo has seemed comfortable with that. They looked pretty good — both their losses were to the Clippers and they hung around in those games.

 
source:  19. Rockets (0-3, LW 6). This ranking may be too high — that was a terrible week of basketball, all three losses by more than 20. They can’t continue like this, can they? James Harden isn’t going to continue to shoot 22 percent, is he? The defense isn’t going to just keep taking quarters off, is it? Not an easy week to turn things around with Oklahoma City and the Clippers both on the docket.

 
source:  20. Celtics (1-2, LW 21). You could see the limitations of their star-less offense against the Spurs Sunday — they kept it close late, but while LaMarcus Aldridge abused Jared Sullinger on the block, the Celtics had no way to get easy buckets of their own. Their defense is good but the offense is struggling (24th in the NBA the first week).

 
source:  21. Nuggets (1-2, LW 26). Watch a little Denver and the biggest issue becomes clear — they need more outside shooting. They have decent playmakers with Emmanuel Mudiay and Danilo Gallinari, but you don’t need to fear anyone else on this team from the outside and that messes with their spacing.

 
source:  22. Trail Blazers (1-2, LW 29). They got a win because C.J. McCollum went off against a struggling Pelicans team on the second night of a back-to-back, and that’s what it’s going to take for this team to get wins — someone has to have a monster offensive night. Damian Lillard may lead the league in usage rate this season.

 
source:  23. Magic (0-3, LW 22). They are the best 0-3 team in the league, all three losses were close and the team is showing promised. They played Oklahoma City tight in overtime and matched big shots with them for a while. Expect the wins to start coming this week.

 
source:  24. Pelicans (0-3, LW 13). Already Nate Robinson is gone and Toney Douglas is in as the Pelicans scramble to find any help at the point. So far it has not been near enough. More concerning than their defense looking scrambled (playing the Warriors twice already doesn’t help) is that Anthony Davis has looked lost at times on both ends and is not taking the superstar step forward we expected.

 
source:  25. Hornets (0-3, LW 23). To their credit they have battled back to make two of their three losses close, with Kemba Walker getting a shot to tie (and missing them). Going to be difficult to get their first win this week with the Bulls, Mavericks, and Spurs on the docket.

 
source:  26. Pacers (0-3, LW 19). Their offense has struggled as both Monta Ellis (PER of 4.4) and Paul George have not been efficient at all. Their defense hasn’t been good whether they played small or big. They have come apart in the second halves of games. There’s just a lot of reasons for concern for Pacers’ fans, who were dreaming playoffs.

 
source:  27. Bucks (0-2, LW 15). What happened to the Bucks’ defense? Last season they got to the playoffs on the back of their length and ball pressure, this season they are giving up a league-worst 117.1 points per 100 possessions. The defensive rotations seem slow out on the perimeter and opponents are shooting 46.4 percent from three against them. This team misses Jabari Parker.

 
source:  28. Lakers (0-3, LW 25). The headlines are Kobe Bryant’s harsh assessment of his own game, but having watched the Lakers in person now is the bigger problem is their defense is terrible — and it’s equally as bad with Roy Hibbert on or off the court. Their transition, and their pick-and-roll defense was terrible. If you want a bright spot, Dirk Nowitzki said this about Julius Randle, “He puts the ball on the floor like no other power forward in the league.”

 
source:  29. Nets (0-3, LW 28). The three-point revolution is not coming to Brooklyn. At least not yet. They are averaging a league-low 12.7 three point attempts per game, and they are shooting just 21.1 percent on those.

 
source:  30. 76ers (0-0, LW 30). Jahlil Okafor has been fine (he needs to attack more, take fewer jumpers), but as you would expect the rookie is struggling some with double-teams — and he’s going to see a lot of them because who else do you fear on this roster. The defense that was close to league average last year is off to a slow start this season as well.

Russell Westbrook with the high-flying putback dunk (VIDEO)

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Note to Emmanuel Mudiay: If you ball watch and don’t put a body on Russell Westbrook, things like this happen. Damn.

Westbrook threw down these two of his 15 points in the Thunder’s comfortable 117-93 victory over Denver Sunday night. Kevin Durant had 25, and the Thunder remain undefeated on the young season.

By the way, not a fan of these Thunder alternate jerseys. The team called that color “sunset”, but I would say it’s closer to the color of Sunkist soda. And I don’t like Sunkist soda. But we get to see these 17 more times this season, so break out the sunglasses.

Five Takeaways from an NBA Sunday: Houston is 0-3 and it’s ugly

Kevin McHale
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Sunday you likely were parked out the couch, recuperating from Halloween, mindlessly watching Kansas City win one for George Brett, and maybe not paying as much attention to the NBA as you should have been. Here are five yet things you missed (reported live from Staples Center).

1) Houston is 0-3, and all three losses are by 20 or more points. First, I refuse to use the easy/cheesy Apollo 13 line here. Second, we are just three games into the start of a long season, it is way too early to reach for the panic button.

But if Rockets fans are feeling nauseous after watching their team blow a 21-point lead to Miami, lose by more than 20 again, and drop to 0-3 on the season, you can’t blame them. ESPN Stats noted no NBA team ever had started the season with three losses of 20 points or more — until the Rockets just did it. And it all starts with James Harden being in a horrific shooting slump to start the season, hitting just 22 percent of his looks. A shot chart can be worth 1,000 words.

harden three game shotchart

The Rockets’ defense has been inconsistent — they gave up 14 points in the second quarter to Miami Sunday, and then 65 points on 58.5 percent shooting in the second half of that game (while scoring just 29). Through three games, Houston is allowing a ridiculously high 109 points per 100 possessions.

It’s far too early to panic in Houston, but this leaves wondering what has to happen for Houston to start winning? Harden has to find his stroke from three and knock down some shots, Dwight Howard needs to get on the court and just play, defense needs to be more of a focus for everyone, Ty Lawson has to have an impact, and I could go on but all that would be a start and get them some wins.

2) The Bucks defense has not been pretty to begin the season. Last season, Milwaukee’s freakish length and defense propelled them to the postseason. It marked them as a team on the rise. To start this season we have seen none of that, and it has been ugly — the Bucks are 0-3 with a defense allowing 117.1 points per 100 possessions. The defensive rotations seem slow, especially out at the arc which has led opponents to shoot 46.4 percent from three against them. Opponents are grabbing 14.9 offensive rebounds per game. The Bucks are not doing a good job getting back in transition defense. They are fouling too much. Some of these are early season aberrations, and others are easily fixable, but until they do the Bucks are going to struggle.

3) Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are now the winningest trio in NBA history. We covered this earlier, but with the Spurs’ win Sunday over Boston Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Many Ginobili have won 541 games together — passing Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish for the most all time. As great as that trio was (and Magic/Kareem/Worthy or Russell/Cousy/Jones) the Spurs three should go down as the greatest trio ever. It’s jut about consistency — the three have never won fewer than 50 games in a season, never missed the playoffs, and together have four titles. We’re going to miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe of more interest to Spurs fans, LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 14 rebounds, his first big game for the Spurs. Through his first two games, he had averaged just 11.5 shots per game, but they found him and got him in a groove on Sunday.

4) Kenneth Faried had the block of the young season. Sorry Kyle Singler.

5) The NBA family gathered Saturday to remember Flip Saunders. Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle was one of the guys on Mark Cuban’s plane to the Saunders’ memorial Saturday, and before his Mavericks carved up the Laker “defense” Sunday night, he gave this assessment of the event.

“I would characterize it as a perfect ceremony for one of the great people that I’ve ever known in the league. It was attended by so many people that cared, so many people that he touched. His son gave just a fantastic talk about Flip and his life, his relationship with his son. Flip’s one of these guys we can’t forget, that’s why we’re going to be wearing pins all year long. To remember what he did as a coach over a period of two decades, and what he meant to us as a human being. Because along with being a great innovator, and a great creative guy, and a great competitor, he had an amazing way with people, and that touched many of us.”`

Kobe Bryant on his play so far: “I freaking suck”

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LOS ANGELES — Through three games, Kobe Bryant has looked older, slower, without the same lift after his injuries, and not willing to accept any of it. He’s averaged 17 shots a game, hitting 31.4 percent of them (20.7 percent from three where he’s launching more than nine shots a night), and he’s struggling on defense. It hasn’t been pretty.

Kobe was more succinct assessing her performance after a 3-of-15 shooting night in a loss to Dallas Sunday.

“I’m 200th best player in the league right now. I freaking suck.”

That’s a reference to ESPN’s NBA rank, an effort by the site to rank nearly every player in the NBA, and they had Kobe 93rd best this season. Kobe always used that kind of doubt for fuel, but that only works if you play above the expectation. Kobe has not, as evidenced by his shot chart so far this young season (notice all the threes).

Kobe 3-game shotchart

As always, Kobe is not afraid to launch a shot with a defender in his face — nine of his 17 shots per game have been contested (a defender within four feet), and he is shooting 25.6 percent on those, according to the NBA’s Sports VU cameras.

Bryant put it more simply Sunday, “I’m just playing like s***.”

He added he’s getting the shots from the spots he wants (such as the elbow area), that rookie D'Angelo Russell is doing a good job setting him up, and that he’s healthy. Kobe has an effective field goal percentage of 44.1 on his 5.7 catch-and-shoot opportunities a game so far, but just 28.9 percent on his 6.3 pull-up jumpers a game.

“You know it’s fun,” Kobe said of playing with the young Lakers. “D’Angelo’s putting me in the right spots. I just have to capitalize better, that’s all.”

Kobe admitted being out a couple of weeks at the end of the preseason with a calf injury may have thrown off his rhythm, but he wasn’t making excuses or pulling punches. He was honest and demanding about his game, as he is with everyone else.

Kobe added he is frustrated. As you’d expect. At points he tries to play through it and take over like he used to — getting the ball on the wing in isolation, pounding the rock looking for an opening or a place to pull up and shoot. None of it has gone well. It will go better at some point, but he’s been off early.

What’s the fastest way to turn things around?

“Well, if I’d make a damn shot, that would help,” Kobe said.

He added he believes that will happen soon, that he had felt in a good rhythm in the preseason before he got injured, and he thinks he can recapture that groove again quickly. Kobe never lacks for confidence, that hasn’t changed.

However, other things change. In recent seasons, the offense ran more through Bryant, and he could become more of a facilitator and not just a scorer if the occasion called for it. Kobe admitted he’d like to do that again, but the young Lakers’ guards need to have the ball and learn how to run a team. Even if it’s the hard way.

“Sure (I’d like to facilitate), but no, you can’t” Bryant said.

As bad as the Laker offense has been, that’s been the better side of the court for them. Their defense has surrendered 111.7 points per 100 possessions through three games (third worst in the league) — and they haven’t played the real offensive powerhouses of the West yet.

Kobe, how would you describe the Lakers’ defense Sunday.

“S***.”

That sums up the feelings of a lot of Lakers’ fans through three games.