Kurt Helin

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Can Bulls get over LeBron hump?

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For any team trying to reach the NBA Finals out of the East, LeBron James has been more than a hurdle, he’s been Everest. For five straight NBA Finals, it’s been his team — at times there only because of his force of will (and freak physical nature).

Is this the year the Bulls — with a healthy Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah — finally get over the LeBron hump? That’s the question in this latest edition of PBT Extra.

If it were only LeBron and the Bulls were healthy, I could see it. But there’s Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and a host of other problems for the Bulls (or the Wizards, Heat and everyone else).

Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans has arthroscopic surgery on right knee

Tyreke Evans, Tim Hardaway Jr.
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With Anthony Davis expected to take another long stride forward and Alvin Gentry in as coach, most people (myself included) had the Pelicans as basically a lock to land one of the bottom three seeds in the West this season.

But health will play a role in that. Already starting point guard Jrue Holiday will be on a minutes limit to begin the season, while reserve point guard Norris Cole is out with a high ankle sprain.

Now comes news of knee surgery for Tyreke Evans, something announced by the team on Tuesday. No timetable for his return has been set, but you can expect him to miss the start of the season.

That leaves Nate Robinson, Eric Gordon (who has been injured this preseason himself), and guys such as Sean Kilpatrick and others you don’t know to fill in at the start of the season.

It’s possible that the injuries lead to a slow start, and while that may not keep them out of the playoffs it could hurt their seeding. And if their injuries persist, they could be fighting for a playoff spot in a crowded West.

Khloe Kardashian releases statement concerning Lamar Odom

AXE Music "One Night Only" Concert Series Featuring Weezer
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Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom were estranged, their marriage close to being formally terminated. But there are times in life when you turn up to help the people who need you regardless of past issues, and Kardashian did that for Odom after he was clinging to life in a Las Vegas hospital.

Odom is now back in Los Angeles at a hospital there, with a long road of recovery ahead, but Kardashian released this statement on her website.

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Odom has turned the corner physically after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel after what can best be described as a three-day bender. That said he is still facing serious physical problems — he is on dialysis, there are questions about the extent of any brain damage from his stroke — but he’s got a support system and friends around him who are willing to help.

That’s a big start.

Jim Buss stands by Kobe Bryant contract, says Lakers turned corner

Jim Buss
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Jim Buss knows he got it right.

His critics — and they are legion — would say he’s deluding himself, that he has made numerous mistakes that have set the Lakers’ franchise back. That starts with giving Kobe Bryant a massive two-year contract and comes around with other player/personnel decisions the team has made in recent years. Even the release of Robert Upshaw on Tuesday frustrated fans.

Buss knows this for sure — if the Lakers start to win and return to the top of the NBA, everything said about him will fade away. Winning cures all ills.

He talked about all of it in a must-read series of articles written by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

That starts with the rational to give Kobe a massive contract.

“You give Kobe Bryant $50 million for two years,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview. “Are you kidding me? What did he bring us? In this day and age, what did he bring us, for 20 years? And if that isn’t what you’re supposed to do, then I have no idea what life is all about.

“You pay the guy. You believe in the guy. If he ends up (staying healthy), that’s fantastic. Well everybody (in the media) cut me up for that, but I’d say over 200 fans have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting my kid see Kobe Bryant for two more years.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m glad I can see him for two more years.’ “

The question was never “should the Lakers keep Bryant?” He’s an iconic part of the franchise, arguably the greatest Laker ever (at least in Jerry West’s mind). The question was the price. As has long been the conventional wisdom around the league, if Bryant had been offered and taken a Tim Duncanesque $10 million or so a year (and there is no guarantee Kobe would have accepted it), the Lakers would have had far more flexibility to make moves the past two seasons. Would they have landed a huge star free agent? Probably not. But their efforts to put together a foundation that would draw one of those stars in the next couple years could have been accelerated with some smart moves. We’ll never know how that timeline works out.

Buss sees paying Bryant as showing that next star the Lakers take care of their own. Plus, Kobe’s financial value to the Lakers — in terms of sponsors, ticket sales, luxury box sales, even television ratings (that massive local Lakers television deal is tied to ratings) — is far more than the checks they are cutting him. Even at that price Kobe is a good business deal.

Buss thinks the Lakers’ rebuilding is on course and the they are headed the right direction with D'Angelo Russell (selected over Jahlil Okafor, a move some questioned), Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson.

“We’re ahead of (the schedule), so I’m fine with it. I think we’ve turned the corner, exactly like we have (planned). Get a free agent next (summer), and then I think we compete.”

While there are certainly reasons for optimism, how good those three players turn out to be remains to be seen. Also in question is whether Byron Scott and the Lakers’ organization can develop those players, it has not needed to be an organization strong suit in the past. That said, the Lakers may have some good young players they can keep or use as assets to acquire more.

Saying Jim Buss is not his father is an unfair comparison — no NBA owner was his father. What’s more, the change in the NBA’s business rules over the last couple CBA’s have tied the hands of big market teams to a degree, removing some advantages. The Lakers for years were a combination of smart and having an enormous financial advantage; now the financial advantages have been drastically reduced.

Whether they are still smart in today’s, Buss feels he knows the answer to that.

If he’s right or not will become very clear over the next couple years.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Cavs big three all average 20 PPG?

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I think the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three — LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love — are good enough to bring the first title to Northeast Ohio since Roy Orbison released “Pretty Woman.”

But there are limits to how much they can do, and we cover that in this lastest PBT Extra bold prediction preview — those three cannot all average 20 points per game scoring.

The problem comes down to one thing: NBA rules insist that only one basketball can be used at a time on the court. There are only so many shots to go around (and guys like J.R. Smith and Mo Williams are going to get theirs, too). The numbers just will not work out, two of the three can get to 20 but not all three.