Kurt Helin

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


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.


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

Sixers’ affiliate trades rights to J.P. Tokoto to Thunder, he’s headed to D-League

Los Angeles Lakers v Philadlephia 76ers
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J.P. Tokoto is very athletic.

He just has to learn how to fit that into the NBA game, ideally as a lock-down defender. But there is some work to do, which is why the Sixers cut him at the end of training camp.

Tokoto signed to play with the 87ers, the Sixers’ D-League affiliate, but they traded him to the Oklahoma City D-League team, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Sixers’ coach Brett Brown said when cutting Tokoto that he could get into the NBA on his defensive skills with some work — that’s what the D-League is for. It’s also for guys looking to develop some shooting range, another Tokoto need.

Some players need more time to develop; the Thunder organization is willing to take a low-risk chance they can make that happen.

Heat rally from 21 down, rout Rockets 109-89

Hassan Whiteside

MIAMI (AP) — Udonis Haslem didn’t play a single second for the Miami Heat on Sunday night.

Instead, he dominated halftime.

Haslem’s fiery speech – replete with some profanity from the tri-captain and a couple bottles getting angrily spiked into the red locker room carpeting for emphasis – led to a Miami turnaround, the Heat outscoring Houston by 41 points in the final 23 minutes and rolling past the Houston Rockets 109-89.

“Absolutely awesome,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said about the speech. “That’s what leaders do. By the time I got in there, he was already halfway through it and there wasn’t much that was needed to be said after that.”

Miami was down 65-44 early in the second half. The Heat outscored Houston 65-24 the rest of the way.

“At times, I can be kind of harsh,” Haslem said. “But it’s harsh reality … and it just comes out the way it comes out.”

Said Heat guard Dwyane Wade: “It was all bleep, bleep, bleep.”

Hassan Whiteside had 25 points and 15 rebounds, Wade scored 20 points and Luol Deng scored 14 for Miami – which enjoyed its biggest comeback win since a 27-point rally at Cleveland late in the 2012-13 championship season. Tyler Johnson scored 11, Chris Bosh had all 10 of his in the fourth and Justise Winslow added 10 for the Heat.

Marcus Thornton scored 21 points for Houston, and James Harden had 16 on 2 for 15 shooting – 0 for 10 from 3-point range. The Rockets have dropped each of their first three games by exactly 20 points each.

“You can’t have a stagnant offense and not get stops,” Harden said. “That’s a sign of disaster, which happened in the second half.”

Dwight Howard sat out to rest on the first night of a back-to-back. He’s expected to play when the Rockets host Oklahoma City on Monday night.

“We have not played well all preseason. We have not played well in the first three games,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “No one feels sorry for us. We just have got to go out and find our rhythm and keep on playing.”



There is something about Miami that doesn’t bring out the best in Harden.

He struggled in two NCAA Tournament games at AmericanAirlines Arena, endured plenty of rough moments in three NBA Finals games there with Oklahoma City in 2012, and the regular-season hasn’t always been kind to him in Miami either.

Harden is now 44 for 117 in Miami as a pro, and 20 for 65 from 3-point land. His two NCAA games were even worse, with him shooting 3 for 18, 1 for 8 from 3-point range and scoring 19 points in two games.

Report: Hornets, Jeremy Lamb nearing deal on three-year, $21 million extension

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Jeremy Lamb has played 23 minutes through two games for Charlotte, shot 8-of-19 overall and 4-of-9 from three, and they are about to lock him down at $7 million a year.

Welcome to the new NBA salary cap world.

Lamb could not make it work for three years in Oklahoma City, but Charlotte is willing to bet on his potential, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is about value. The Hornets need shooting, Lamb is athletic and with potential, and in a world where $7 million will be the cost of an average NBA bench player, the Hornets see some value. He’s going to get more run with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out. If the Hornets think he could have a good enough season to command more on the open market next summer (when television money floods the market), they are smart to lock him up now.

Lamb is still a bit of a project, particularly defensively (to put it kindly), but while the number seems high this is a reasonable roll of the dice.

Report: DeMarcus Cousins out at least two games with Achilles strain

Josh Smith, DeMarcus Cousins
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DeMarcus Cousins left the Kings’ eventual loss to the Clippers Saturday night with a sore Achilles, which meant an MRI on Sunday. Here are the official results of that MRI, from the Kings’ press release:

An MRI conducted this afternoon at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento revealed that Kings center DeMarcus Cousins sustained a right Achilles strain during the second quarter of last night’s game against the L.A. Clippers at the STAPLES Center. Cousins is listed as day-to-day going forward.

However, our old friend Bill Herenda of KFBK AM Sports in Sacramento got more concrete details from his sources.

The Kings have a rough four-games-in-five-nights this week. It starts with back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday, hosting the Grizzlies then at the Suns. After resting Thursday, the Kings host the Rockets then the Warriors Friday and Saturday.

That’s a tough stretch with your best player, but the Kings were 6-17 without Cousins last season and struggled without him against the Clippers on Saturday. This could be a rough week for the Kings.