Tag: Kobe Bryant

2015 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

D’Angelo Russell says Kobe Bryant is “mentally on another level”


The big headlines involving Lakers’ rookie D’Angelo Russell and Kobe Bryant this off-season came from an innocuous comment about Tracy McGrady and Kobe’s amusing Twitter reaction.

But the Lakers drafted Russell No. 2 because they saw a little Kobe in him, in the way he approached the game. They saw the mentality that helped make Kobe a star.

Russell threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium recently (he threw a strike) and before he went out he talked with Serena Winters of Lakers Nation about his mentality and what he sees in Kobe (hat tip Matt Moore at Eye on Basketball).

“I always preach, I didn’t get here from being the most athletic guy, the fastest guy, the tallest guy, or the strongest, I got here from my mind.”

And, that’s also what he respects so much about Kobe Bryant.

“That’s something when I watch Kobe interviews or listen to Kobe talk, he’s mentally on another level, when I listen to him, I relate to that.”

Russell is saying the right things, although following through with a Kobe-like mentality is different from talking about it. We’ll see where Russell ultimately falls on that scale.

It’s been discussed plenty that Russell didn’t have a great Summer League, that he was trying to do too much, and he struggled to catch up with the speed of the game. It’s also almost meaningless — plenty of players who had rough Summer Leagues had good seasons, while the list of Summer League MVPs who didn’t do much in the league is long. What matters is what Russell learned and how he grows from that experience. Can he apply those lessons when the games get real in late October?

That will be the true test of his mentality, because the learning curve for point guards in the NBA is steep.

Kareem Rush on Lakers during Shaq/Kobe feud: “We had a big man alliance and a guard alliance”

Kobe Shaquille O'Neal Lakers

By the start of the 2003-04 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were title contenders breaking apart at the seams from the weight of the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant feud. This isn’t new news, both Gary Payton and Karl Malone have talked about it before.

How bad was it? How about “camp Kobe” and “camp Shaq” bad.

Kareem Rush spent his first two NBA seasons in the middle of the Lakers war, for the final two seasons of the Kobe/Shaq era, and he talked about it on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Tom Byrne & Rick Mahorn (you can listen to the interview below).

“Yeah, it was like a real issue. We actually had like a separation of the team. We had a big man alliance and a guard alliance. I had to pick Kobe’s side.”

How deep was that split? For a while Shaq would not let long-time Laker trainer Gary Vitti (who had been with the team since the Showtime era, and is just now entering his final year) tape him up before games because he was allegedly a Kobe guy.

Now for the “what ifs.” As Shaq has said, could the Lakers have won three more titles if that group stayed together?

“Shaq got three Finals MVPs and I think Kobe wanted his, so it didn’t work out for us. We definitely had talent to win more than three titles.”

Of course, now everything is good between Shaq and Kobe, with both regretting their hard-headed youth. But talking about that era is a fun August diversion.

What I still wonder: Despite all the dysfunction, if Malone had been healthy for the 2004 Finals would the Lakers have won the title anyway?

Shaq tells Suzy Shuster he, Kobe Bryant could have tied Jordan’s six titles

Kobe Shaquille O'Neal Lakers

Kobe Bryant went on the Shaquille O’Neal podcast this week and both men admitted regret letting their egos get in the way and acting immaturely at the time, breaking up a dynasty with the Lakers that had already won three titles.

But how many could they have won if they had checked their egos at the door?

Shaq thinks six, he told Suzy Shuster, who was the guest host on The Rich Eisen Show.

“I think we could have probably tied Mike, or surpassed Mike. I guess six. Everybody talks about Bill Russell’s 11; no player will ever come along that will win 11 championships unless they reduce the league to 10 teams. So you shouldn’t even bring Bill up. So now Mike, when you talk about the pinnacles of championships you always gotta go with Mike. So Mike has six. I think we could have either tied that or got that.

“But if “if” was a fifth we’d all be drunk, Susan.”

It’s just speculation, but could a non-bickering Lakers squad have beaten the Pistons in 2004? The Spurs in 2005? Reached the Finals and defeated Dwyane Wade’s Heat (without Shaq) in 2006? We can go on and on here, but six sounds reasonable.

Then again, I’m playing around with an “if” fifth of Jefferson’s Presidential bourbon here.

LeBron James: Championship not a requirement of a great team

LeBron James

LeBron James played for a 66-win team. Didn’t win a title.

LeBron and his teammates proved it wasn’t a fluke the next season, winning 61 games. Didn’t win a title.

LeBron joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a team many feared would destroy the NBA’s competitive balance. Didn’t win a title.

LeBron formed yet another super team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Didn’t win a title.

But – at least in LeBron’s eyes – that doesn’t mean those teams necessarily fell short of greatness.

LeBron, via Bleacher Report:

If you don’t know the history of the game, man, you’ll forget how many great teams didn’t win championships. And that doesn’t mean they wasn’t great, though.

LeBron was referring to the 2000 Western Conference finals. The eventual-NBA-champion Lakers beat the Trail Blazers in seven games. Portland – with a starting lineup of Damon Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace and Arvydas Sabonis – won 59 games and crushed the Jazz and Timberwolves before running into the Lakers.

I agree with LeBron’s premise. A team can be great without winning a title. Sometimes, a team just catches the wrong breaks, like playing in a season where there are multiple great teams.

Those Trail Blazers were borderline great, with both past and future success to support their consistency. They just ran into Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Nothing Portland could do about that.

But a title is an important consideration – the most important – when determining a team’s greatness. Personally, I think the 1999-00 Trail Blazers fall just short, but either argument is reasonable.

And for what it’s worth, I think all of LeBron’s title-less teams fall short of greatness for similar reasons, though last year’s Cavaliers played great between their midseason trades for Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith and the postseason injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson does his imitation of Kobe’s shot

Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Lakers

We’ve already seen D’Angelo Russell do a Kobe Bryant imitation, which was all about the fist pump.

But Jordan Clarkson has the whole Kobe shot process down.

The best part of this is the multiple pump fakes before just going to the fadeaway. It’s not a shot you want young players to grow up practicing, but with Kobe’s footwork it gets the job done.

We’re going to miss Kobe and these shots when he’s gone.

Hat tip Eye on Basketball.