Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

Kobe Bryant, can this Laker team make the playoffs? “Of course it can. Absolutely.”

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Kobe Bryant’s confidence is legendary.

So when Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears asked this question, he had to know the answer.

With Kobe back, a few solid veterans such as Brandon Bass and Lou Williams, plus young stars like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, can this Lakers team make the playoffs in a brutal Western Conference?

“Of course it can. Absolutely. We have talented players in their respective positions. We have some really young players. How exactly will the pieces of the puzzle fit? We really don’t know. We are going to [training] camp trying to piece this together just like every other team does. We have to figure out what our strengths are, figure out what our weaknesses are. And every time we step on the court we are going to try to hide our weaknesses and step up to our strengths.”

What did you expect him to say?

He’s wrong, but what did you expect him to say? It’s what GM Mitch Kupchak said as well.

I can hear the comments from the blind faith in Kobe/Lakers fans now, “everyone has doubted Kobe his entire career, he has proved everybody wrong. He will do it again.” That nobody believed in Kobe is a myth in the first place, but even he can’t overcome these hurdles.

Lakers won 21 games last season, and last season it took 45 wins to make the playoffs in the West — and that number likely goes up next season. The Lakers will be improved, but 24 games improved? Have you seen the West?

There are a lot of questions to answer and a lot of development that has to happen for these Lakers. Russell may develop into a quality point guard one day, but he’s a rookie with a steep learning curve (and he showed how steep at Summer League). Randle needs to diversify his offensive game. Clarkson is still growing and will have to work more off the ball. There are new players to fit in the mix with Bass, Williams and Roy Hibbert.

The real question is defense, the Lakers were terrible last season and likely not much improved this year. Hibbert was a rock-solid defensive anchor a couple of years ago in Indiana, but on a team with quality perimeter defenders (Paul George, Goerge Hill) who funneled drives right to him and allowed him to use his size. The Lakers lack those kinds of perimeter defenders, plus Hibbert has to show he can recognize plays and move in the same way he used to.

The bottom line is you look at the playoffs in the West and see the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder (with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back), Grizzlies and Pelicans are locks. That’s seven of the eight seeds. Which leaves the Lakers trying to beat out an improved Jazz team, the Mavericks, Suns, Trail Blazers, and potentially the Kings for that one final playoff spot.

Sorry Kobe, but the 36 wins the Lakers will rack up next season will not be enough.

Due to ankle injury, Spurs will not allow Boban Marjanović to play in EuroBasket for Serbia

Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul v Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16
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The Spurs needed some size up front behind Tim Duncan after Aron Baynes bolted for the Motor City, so San Antonio went to Europe to get some serious size — 7’3″ Boban Marjanović.

Marjanović was set to play for the Serbian national team this summer in EuroBasket, but that’s not happening now due to an ankle injury, the Spurs announced in a press release.

“After a physical exam, which included a MRI, San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanović has been diagnosed significant bony edema in his left ankle… As a result of these findings and in the best interest of his future health, Spurs officials have informed Marjanović and the Serbian Basketball Federation that, under the agreement between FIBA and the NBA, Marjanović will not be allowed to participate with the Serbian National Team in Eurobasket 2015.”

The letter the Spurs sent the Serbian national team says Marjanović should spend three weeks in an air cast resting his foot, then be reevaluated.

The Serbian National Team will challenge this medical finding, according to Sportando, saying the physical he took with them a few weeks ago did not show this. FIBA could be forced to help a player decide between club and country.

A bony Edema means swelling of the bone due to water — basically what happens to your ankle when you sprain it, only with the bone. The press release doesn’t get into the cause, but it likely was direct injury (otherwise it’s due to a stress injury or arthritis).

Certainly the Spurs prefer to keep their players out of international competitions, but guys such as Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker often do participate.

 

Report: Knicks reach deal with backup center Kevin Seraphin

Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets
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The New York Knicks are loaded with big men.

Robin Lopez will start at center, with Kyle O’Quinn behind on him. Kristaps Porzingis probably starts at the four, and there are Derrick Williams and Lou Amundson behind him.

Now add Kevin Seraphin to the mix, reports Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops.

This is a solid deal for the Knicks, Seraphin is a good backup center and they got him at a fair price, he can battle O’Quinn for minutes.

Seraphin had spent his entire five-season NBA career as a reserve with the Washington Wizards. He had hoped to find a place to be a starter, but that market was not out there. Playing on a one-year deal gives him a chance to prove he deserves that next summer, and he will be in line to try and cash in when the television money floods the system.

But Seraphin needs to prove he deserves that starting role and money. The French center has yet to do so.

He’s an undersized center at 6’9″ who played 15 minutes a night last season, scored 6.6 points on 51.3 percent shooting, grabbed 3.3 boards and was solid but unspectacular. He improved last season addressing weaknesses such as not fouling, plus his passing looked better. That said he has no shooting range — nearly 50 percent of his shots come within eight feet of the rim, and while he can step out a little along the baselines he’s not exactly a floor spacer.

Because of that shooting range he’s a center only, and Lopez is the main man there. But Seraphin will be solid and get the chance to prove he is more than that.

Corey Brewer excited to reunite with Ty Lawson, spark Houston

Denver Nuggets vs Houston Rockets
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Back in 2012-13, when the Denver Nuggets were racking up 57 wins under George Karl, Ty Lawson and Corey Brewer meshed well together. When those two shared the court the Nuggets played at a fast 100.5 possessions per game (that’s the Warriors pace from last season) and the team scored 108.3 points per 100 possessions (that would have been third best in the NBA).

You can see why Brewer is pumped to be playing with Lawson again.

They are teammates in Houston and Brewer told James Herbert of CBSSports.com’s Eye on Basketball expects they can recapture that magic.

“I had some good years in Denver with Ty so I know how to play with him and I love the way he plays because he plays fast like I do and he’s going to push the pace, push the tempo. That’s what we need here. That’s what we like to do. We like to run.”

But before that can happen, Ty Lawson needs to get past his personal battle with alcohol, which has led to two DUI arrests this year. Brewer clearly subscribes to the theory that put on a contender with a lot on the line, Lawson will get his life back in order.

“Yeah he’s going to be able to do a lot. You got to think about the different guys he’s going to play with. Denver had some good players, they didn’t have James Harden or Dwight Howard. It’s very different when you play with guys like that.”

For Lawson’s sake, I hope so. It may not be that simple, but I hope so.

Lawson and Brewer did generate offense together, but they also didn’t get a lot of stops — they outscored opponents by just two points per 48 minutes because the defense wasn’t good. It will be interesting to see how Kevin McHale mixes and matches with them to keep the defense solid.

No doubt, however, that the Lawson/Brewer punch can put some points on the board while James Harden rests his beard on the sidelines. The Rockets need that.

Raptors officially unveil new uniforms, yes there is a Drake-inspired one

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The Toronto Raptors have a new logo and now new uniforms for next season, something everyone knew, but they officially announced Monday. Here are the home and away looks.

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I could talk about how they have the colors of the Canadian flag still, or how they have a maple leaf and “we the north” on them, or how the player names on the back will be arched rather than straight across, but that’s not what you care about. Here is what you wanted — the black-and-gold Drake inspired alternates.

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I’m no fashion critic, but they’re not bad. From the official press release.

Raptors Global Ambassador Drake unveiled a Cory Joseph alternate black jersey with gold and white trim during his OVOFest concert tonight at Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.

If you’re not a fan of Drake or these alternates, I would suggest avoiding a lot of the All-Star Game next February from Toronto. It’s going to be a Drake-fest.