Tag: Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Cody Zeller

Kobe Bryant says he can’t see himself playing beyond current contract


Kobe Bryant said he wouldn’t request a trade from the Lakers, though Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding speculated Kobe could leave as a free agent in 2016.

But Kobe insists he’ll spend the rest of his career with the Lakers – and that means probably this season and next.

Kobe, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Nah, not really,” he said with a grin and a shake of the head when asked if he can envision playing beyond his current contract. “But I’m so loyal to this organization, there’s not a chance (of him leaving)…I’ve been really fortunate to win a lot of games here, a lot of championships here. You can’t (expletive) with (that).”

“It’s not going to happen,” Bryant told USA TODAY Sports when asked if the temptation to change teams might still grow from here. “It’s not going to happen. You go through the good times, you’ve got to go through the bad times.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he continued after finishing with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists against the Hornets,. “I have a no-trade clause. (Lakers governor) Jeanie (Buss) and (Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations) Jimmie (Buss) aren’t sending me anywhere.”

Kobe has waffled about when he’ll retire. The 36-year-old’s contract expires after next season thanks to an extension he signed last season, the most recent indicator of his plans.

So, I’d put some stock into Kobe declaring he can’t see himself playing beyond 2015-16. But he won’t have to make that decision for a couple years, so there’s plenty of time for him to change his mind (again).

Then, if he returns for another season, he’ll face the big question. Would he change his mind about which team he’ll suit up for, too?

Chris Copeland’s surprising NBA career now includes even-more-surprising third act

Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers

Chris Copeland is leading an NBA team in scoring.

Chris Copeland – who never led his college team in scoring – is leading an NBA team in scoring.

Chris Copeland – who was cut from two European teams in two months – is leading an NBA team in scoring.

Chris Copeland – who didn’t make even an NBA summer-league team until age 28 – is leading an NBA team in scoring.

Early in a season where the sample is small enough to create more than a few oddities, this one of the more interesting twists. For one, Chris freaking Copeland is leading an NBA team in scoring. For another, there’s at least an outside chance this sticks.

Just two years ago, not even diehard NBA fans had heard of Copeland. He’d toiled overseas after a solid, though unspectacular, four years at Colorado. Then, he got a summer-league invite from the Knicks and played well. That led to a training-camp invitation from New York, and he played even better in the preseason.

For so long, Copeland’s primary goal was just making the NBA. His mom used to hang pictures with the word “NBA” around the house. In his first season in Europe, Copeland said he thought too much about the NBA, and that undermined his focus on the court.

But after the dream looked so distant, a 28-year-old Copeland made the Knicks’ roster two seasons ago.

Since 1970, 2,881 players have broken into the NBA. Just 36 made their debut at such an old age.

If Copeland’s journey ended there, it would have been a great story. He overcame long odds to fulfill his dream. Everyone could have gone home happy.

But Copeland didn’t stop there.

“As you reach one goal, you set new ones,” he said.

Copeland played well for the Knicks. He scored 8.7 points per game and finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting – the highest place for someone so old since a 31-year-old Arvydas Sabonis ranked second in the 1996 voting.

Last offseason, Copeland signed with the Pacers, where his role shrunk drastically. After expecting to serve as the primary backup power forward, Copeland saw Indiana trade for Luis Scola to fill that role. Copeland ranked 14th on the team in minutes.

Again, if his story ended there, it would have been a satisfying one. Not only did Copeland topple all the obstacles he faced to reach the NBA, he had a little success while in the league. He’d always have that, even if his career fizzled.

But a funny thing is happening this season. The Pacers – who lost Paul George (to injury) and Lance Stephenson (to the Hornets) – need Copeland, and he’s delivering in a way he never has before. The forward is averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game.

Here’s every NBA team’s scoring leader, sorted by their highest-scoring season entering this year:


Unfortunately for the Pacers, such a reliance on a player of Copeland’s caliber has gone as well as you’d expect. Indiana is 1-6 – the NBA’s worst record, non-Philadelphia division – with its only win coming over the 76ers.

But that’s hardy Copeland’s fault, and it’s scary to think how much worse the Pacers would be without him.

Indiana’s offensive rating, a decent 106.6, with him on the floor collapses to a dreadful 75.6 while he sits. No other leading scorer can match that 31-points-per-100-possession boost.

Here’s each team’s offensive rating with its leading scorer on the court (blue) and off the court (yellow):


Leading scorer On Off Boost
Chris Copeland (IND) 106.6 75.6 +31.0
James Harden (HOU) 111.7 84.9 +26.8
Stephen Curry (GSW) 107.3 87.8 +19.5
Anthony Davis (NO) 105.1 85.6 +19.5
Greg Monroe (DET) 108.1 90.5 +17.6
Gordon Hayward (UTAH) 111 95.4 +15.6
LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) 111.6 96.6 +15.0
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 116.6 105.2 +11.4
Carmelo Anthony (NY) 103 92.2 +10.8
Kevin Martin (MIN) 105.1 95.5 +9.6
DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 106.4 98.1 +8.3
Marc Gasol (MEM) 101.4 93.1 +8.3
LeBron James (CLE) 103.6 95.9 +7.7
Isaiah Thomas (PHO) 106.8 99.2 +7.6
Joe Johnson (BRK) 111.6 105.2 +6.4
Tony Wroten (PHI) 95.1 89.7 +5.4
Reggie Jackson (OKC) 99.3 94.3 +5.0
Jeff Teague (ATL) 104.6 100.1 +4.5
John Wall (WSH) 102.5 98.4 +4.1
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 110 107.9 +2.1
Chris Bosh (MIA) 108.8 106.7 +2.1
Jimmy Butler (CHI) 109 108.2 +0.8
Jeff Green (BOS) 107.1 107.1 0.0
Kobe Bryant (LAL) 103.1 104.5 -1.4
Blake Griffin (LAC) 105.3 109.6 -4.3
Al Jefferson (CHA) 95.6 100.1 -4.5
Tony Parker (SAS) 95.5 100.1 -4.6
Nikola Vucevic (ORL) 95.3 101.2 -5.9
Ty Lawson (DEN) 96.3 102.4 -6.1
Brandon Knight (MIL) 89.5 112 -22.5

Not only is Copeland making such a large impact, he’s doing so while learning a new position. He’s mostly played small forward this year after working primarily as a stretch four.

At small forward, his strengths – pulling a big man to the perimeter, taking a defender off the dribble – are less pronounced, maybe even to the point he loses his edge. He’s versatile enough to post up smaller players and take advantage on the offensive glass, but his forte still seems to be playing stretch four.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel believes this experience – serving as a go-to option, playing a new position – will only better equip Copeland once he returns to a smaller role, and that should happen soon enough. Two of last year’s starters, David West and George Hill, have yet to play this this season and are expected to return this month.

When they do, will Copeland maintain his status as the team’s leading scorer?

West (14.0 points per game last season) and Hill (10.3) could take the mantle, and so could Roy Hibbert (10.8), but none of those three returning starters seems particularly great fits in a go-to role at this point. Rodney Stuckey, who averaged 13.9 points per game for the Pistons last season, was a trendy pick to lead Indiana in scoring, though he’s battling his own injury issues.

I’d take the field over Copeland (or any individual), but Copeland has put himself squarely in the mix.

How did someone who doubted his ability to play in the NBA until he actually put on a Knicks jersey come this far?

It’s easy to see how all those setbacks motivated Copeland to reach the league. It’d seem a chip on his shoulder would take him only so far once in the NBA, though.

But Copeland, who said he thinks daily about the lessons he learned in Europe, insists his pre-NBA years have helped him succeed in the league just as much as they helped him reach it.

“If I didn’t play overseas, if I got a real shot early,” Copeland said, “I would have failed.”

Instead, he’s thriving.

Copeland has joined just eight others who’ve played three seasons in the NBA after breaking in at such an old age – Pablo Prigioni, Fabricio Oberto, Billy Thomas, Pat Burke, Zeljko Rebraca, Dean Garrett, Sabonis and Charlie Criss.

In the final season of a two-year, $6,135,000 contract with the Pacers, Copeland, now 30, will again have to convince someone to sign him this summer. But his big numbers this season should ensure that happens.

What could have been a cup of coffee in the NBA has turned into a career.

“I don’t know if this is the best I’ve played. I think I can play better than I have,” Copeland said. “But we’ll see.”

PBT’s Sunday NBA Winners/Losers: Luol Deng loving life in Miami

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while spending your hard-earned money on Derek Jeter dirt

source:  Luol Deng. He’s fitting in very well in Miami, thank you very much. The Heat went into American Airlines Arena — the one in Dallas, not the one in Miami — and beat the Mavs behind a big game from Deng: 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. On the season he’s averaging 15.6 points a game on 55.7 percent shooting. The Heat are 5-2 and look like a team with real cohesion and chemistry led by Chris Bosh, getting solid play from Dwyane Wade nightly and playing the space and pace system well.

source:  Los Angeles Lakers. They got one. And they played better defense to get it (well, that and Charlotte’s lack of shooting was exposed as they were 3-of-14 from three). Kobe Bryant did what he does and had 21 points on 20 shots, but the Lakers got an offensive boost from Jeremy Lin who had 21 points on 12 shots, hitting 3-of-6 from three.The Lakers got really hot in the second half, hitting 64.1 percent of their shots overall — Carlos Boozer was 5-of-6, Ed Davis 3-of-3 and even Robert Sacre made both his shots. Good win for the Lakers, who needed this one because the schedule gets really tough for the next couple weeks and there are not a lot of obvious wins on the horizon. After the game there were a lot of “Charles Barkley can eat” jokes on twitter (he joked about going on a hunger strike until the Lakers won), and Ed Davis got in on the action.

source:  Charlotte Hornets. It’s not just the loss to the Lakers, it’s the lack of offense highlighted in that loss and the rest of the season that is an issue. The Hornets were counting on continuity plus adding Lance Stephenson to boost what was a dismal offense last season, but so far this young season the Hornets offense is 4.3 points per 100 possessions worse than last season. They desperately need outside shooting, hitting just 29 percent from three as a team. They also are heavy on the midrange shots (fourth most in the NBA) and are shooting just 39 percent on those. All of that has the Hornets just 3-4 this young season. There’s plenty of time to turn it around, but this is a disappointing start for a team expected to take a step forward this season.

source:  Toronto Raptors. It’s not the win over the Sixers Sunday, it’s that the Raptors are off to a fast 6-1 start and are on top of the Eastern Conference. Part of that winning is the top 10 defense they have been playing this season. But more impressive is the top five offense led by DeMar DeRozan, at 22.7 a game. Plus DeRozan is doing this.

source:  Denver Nuggets. Coming into the season they were a team a lot people thought could get it together and compete for a playoff spot in the West, but after their loss to the Trail Blazers they are 1-5 to start the season, tied with the Lakers for the bottom of the West. I spoke to Kenneth Faried last week and he said the slow start was just so many guys coming back from injury and missing time in camp, they are just not all on the same page yet on either end of the floor (they are ranked 22nd in both offense and defense using points per possession). He also said the team understands that in the West they have to get it together sooner rather than later.

Kobe Bryant now = Jordan with Wizards? Kobe, Byron Scott see parallels.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

A lot of us have tried to repress the memory of Michael Jordan in a Wizard’s uniform — he still had the fire and the footwork, but he was reduced to a volume scorer with not much around him, still packing the house but only because of who he used to be not who he was anymore.

Does that sound like Kobe Bryant this season?

Kobe leads the NBA scoring at 27.6 points a game, but he’s shooting just 40.2 percent (.488 true shooting percentage, well below the league average). He’s got great footwork and his game IQ is as good as ever, but he can only do so much. Before you say “he’s just a ball hog” think about if you really want to see more of Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson taking shots. Like Dwayne Johnson as Hercules, nobody should pay to see that.

Does that mean Kobe Bryant now equals Jordan with the Wizards?

Not exactly, but Byron Scott and Kobe himself can kind of see it, as reported by my man Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

The 36-year-old Bryant first laughed when asked if there were similarities.

“No. Not really,” Bryant said. “Well maybe. I guess…

“He wasn’t in Chicago, playing for the same organization for all those years. It’s a little different. I’m still younger than he was,” Bryant said. “I can see where you guys are thinking there’s similarities there. I also think it’s probably reachable content at this point. I get it. So, yeah, there’s similarities. Then there are differences. Just have at it.”

“There’s some parallel to it,” Lakers coach Byron Scott told this newspaper. “Kobe didn’t retire or come back. But he’s coming off an injury and coming off of retirement. Michael played with the Wizards. That wasn’t the Chicago Bulls, a team he wasn’t used to playing with. Kobe’s still with the Lakers, but playing with a group of guys that aren’t like the group he’s been accustomed to playing with. There are some parallels.”

Does that mean in a decade we’ll be trying to block these couple final years of Kobe out of our minds?

No. Or at least not completely. Because there is a little truth in what his “Kobe can do no wrong” cult of fans say about his season — this comeback will fit into his legendary toughness legacy. It fits his storyline he (and his marketing team) like to spin. The man blew out his Achilles and his knee then came back at age 36 to be one of the top scorers in the league. That’s not nothing, and this comeback isn’t all ego trip. This does not tarnish Kobe’s legacy. He’s still next in line to get a statue outside Staples Center.

He’s going to get frustrated with the losing, more and more frustrated, but the Lakers are not going to trade him. That speculation ignores basic realities — he doesn’t want to go, he means too much to the Lakers financially to let him go, and finally even if the Lakers and Kobe came around to the idea you can’t move that massive contract onto another contender. What, you think you can just slide Kobe into the Spurs and he’ll happily take a reduced role without the ball in his hands?

Kobe is a Laker. He is staying a Laker. And while the next couple years will not be pretty, it’s the last chance for us to see one of the game’s all time greats in person and we should savor that.

Byron Scott wants the Lakers to stop deferring to Kobe Bryant so much

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns

Byron Scott wants the Lakers to shoot a ridiculously low number of 3-pointers.

Byron Scott wants Carlos Boozer to play better defense.

Byron Scott wants Game 7 intensity during the fifth regular-season game.

On this edition of “Byron Scott wants,” the Lakers coach would appreciate Kobe Bryant’s teammates shooting occasionally, too.

Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I think there was a timeout last game where I pointed at Kobe and I said, ‘I know how great this guy is, but you guys have got to play basketball,'” Scott said after the team’s practice Thursday. “‘You can’t look at him every single time and try to give him the ball. You’ve got to take shots that are there. You can’t pass up shots.’

“They can’t be afraid to fail,” Scott said of Bryant’s teammates. “That’s the biggest thing. You’ve just got to be able to go out there and play.”

But Bryant also has to play a role in helping his teammates.

“I think he’s done his share in trying to play that role and trying to get those guys an opportunity to play,” Scott said, “but they’ve got to take advantage of it as well.”

Good luck.

Even relative to other teams’ leaders in shots, Kobe – who’s attempting 24 field goals per game – is far and away carrying the largest load:


The Lakers have enabled Kobe. They gave him a huge contract extension without even negotiating. They’re giving him a lot of minutes and planning on him to score a lot. They’ve surrounded him with substandard teammates.

Even if Kobe, on some level, wants to share the ball more, everything is set up for him to hog it.

This isn’t an issue Scott can easily fix. It will take a structured offense – that Kobe buys into – to move the ball and create good shots for his teammates.

That, or waiting until next summer for the Lakers to sign another star worthy of taking shots from Kobe.