<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

LaMarcus Aldridge, Ronnie Price, Ed Davis

Portland shows off some Hoosiers like ball movement for three (GIF)



LOS ANGELES — Coach Norman Dale would be proud of that passing.

Well, maybe not the way it started, with LaMarcus Aldridge almost turning the ball over at midcourt, but once he whips it back into play the Blazers have the floor spaced and make some beautiful passes, while the Lakers’ defense scrambled.

Before the game Lakers coach Byron Scott was praising the Blazers spacing and ball movement on offense. He probably was not hoping to see this kind of demonstration, however.

The Lakers hung close with the Blazers for a little more than three quarters on Sunday night, doing it without Kobe Bryant.

Hat tip to Ben Golliver of SI.

John Wall banks in circus shot falling to ground (VIDEO)

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks

Sure, he called glass on that.

John Wall is one of the better off-balance, falling, circus shot guys in the league and he hit another one Sunday in the first quarter against the Hawks. He ran into Pero Antic, slipped a little and threw it up as he went down, getting the and-1.

That was about the only thing the Wizards had to cheer in this one as they got routed 120-89. Wall had 15 points and eight assists… plus eight turnovers.

Kobe Bryant out again Sunday, coach Scott admits he worked him too hard early in season

Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott

LOS ANGELES — Byron Scott is trying to fall on the sword for Kobe Bryant missing games.

Kobe is going to be out Sunday night for the Lakers as they host the Trail Blazers, meaning Kobe will have been out three of the Lakers last four.

“Just my feeling I wanted to give him another day of rest,” Scott said.

Scott then admitted he wish he’d done that more early in the season. Kobe played heavy minutes — and carried a heavy offensive load — in the Lakers first 27 games of the season. You could see Kobe wear down physically, his lift was gone and his game suffered. Eventually Kobe asked for some time off to rest.

“I thought his workload was too much,” Scott said looking back at those first 27 games. “He had a (minutes) number, my number was higher but his number was right, you know, when I look back at it. We cut those numbers down and I think his efficiency has been so much better, in terms of how he’s been able to play.

“The beginning, us getting on the same page and me getting to know him, what he could take and what he could stand as a minutes standpoint on a night to night basis was something that I had to get used to. We both got a real good feel now and we just got to go from this point on. Overall, he’s proven he’s got a lot left in the tank.”

Scott said he got fooled by his eyes.

“I didn’t take into serious consideration him missing almost a whole year and now getting back and playing,” he said before his Lakers faced Portland. “I should have figured out that would take a little time. But watching his workouts and watching what great shape he was in I think I got a little too confident, expecting that he could handle those type of minutes. And like I said, I was wrong….

“You may think it’s not a lot — if it’s a minute or two or three minutes, it doesn’t make much of a difference — but in the long run it does.”

Part of the issue was that the Lakers offense early on was very Kobe-centric — he was the guy with the ball in his hands nearly every time down, being asked to score and create. Kobe will shoulder that load, but the Lakers have been more dangerous when he facilitates, which is part him and part the other guys on the team not standing around and watching.

From here on out Kobe will be a game time decision most nights and most likely will miss one end of back-to-backs, Scott said.

“I want him to be right not only for this season but next season as well.”

Next season could be Kobe’s farewell tour, and the pressures on him to place certain nights and more nights will only grow.

Pau Gasol drops career high 46 leading Bulls to win over Bucks

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is playing his best basketball since he was winning titles next to Kobe Bryant. Maybe even equal to that level — and that was the best basketball of his career.

After a few years of injuries and coaches that didn’t know how to use him properly in Los Angeles, Gasol has come to Chicago and been revitalized.  This was not only a great move for him, for the Bulls they landed a much better free agent fit than if Carmelo Anthony had decided to come to town. Gasol’s all-around game is a much better match in Chicago (and notice Lakers’ fans, he’s not soft, some of you just didn’t appreciate what you had).

Never was that more evident than when Gasol dropped 46 on the Bucks, plus added 18 rebounds, to lead the Bulls to a win Saturday night. He took over on a night Derrick Rose was out.

The last Bull to score more than 45 and have 15 or more rebounds? That guy with the statue in front of the building.

Gasol has found a comfort zone in this offense. one where he provides consistent front court scoring but is a willing passer the nights Jimmy Butler or someone else has it going. He’s always been about balance, it’s why he thrived for Phil Jackson in the triangle. This is that same kind of fit. You can see a bounce in Gasol’s step and his love of the game is back, something that seemed to be sucked out of him the past couple seasons by Mike D’Antoni’s use of him.

Gasol has responded with a season that has him on track to be an All-Star starter (voted in by the fans). Deservedly. And with him playing this way — and if Derrick Rose and the rest of the Bulls can stay healthy — he is on the team to beat in the East.

Derrick Rose sat out Saturday with sore knee. Gulp.

Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls, derrick rose

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau has been careful to manage Derrick Rose’s minutes — in the last 11 games he had played about 30 minutes a night (compare that to 35 for Pau Gasol and 40 for Jimmy Butler). And Saturday was the second night of a back-to-back for the Bulls after falling to Washington on Friday.

Still, this is a little concerning.

Derrick Rose sat out Saturday night’s Bulls win because of soreness in his knee. You know, the reason he missed eight of the Bulls first 13 games (not to mention much of the past two seasons). From Mike Singer of CSNChicago.com:

He didn’t participate in shootaround prior to the Bucks game and will see Bulls team physician Dr. Cole later on Saturday. No MRI is scheduled as of now, but coach Tom Thibodeau said that could change depending on the examination.

“He had a little bit of soreness yesterday, so just want to see where he is,” Thibodeau said ahead of Saturday’s game.

Maybe this is nothing, maybe a little rest is all he needs. Still, this is concerning.

The Bulls have gone 8-3 in those 11 games since Rose became a regular part of the starting rotation. They’ve done that mostly with a stingy defense, in their last 10 games the Bulls offense has been just 20th in the NBA.

Still, with a healthy Rose — not to mention the play of Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler of late — the Bulls should be considered the team to beat in the East. They have the defense, their style of play is made for the playoffs, and Rose gives them just enough offense to make it all work. But if he’s not fully healthy the door to the East becomes wide open.