Tag: Kobe Bryant

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Clippers

Paul George refutes report he didn’t want to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘Media reaching again’


The largest sports media outlet in existence published two hit jobs on Kobe Bryant inside of the same week.

The first piece, which was in defense of placing Bryant at 40 in their individual player rankings, wasn’t worth responding to, mainly because of the bizarre, angry tone with which the screed was written. And, a line near the end stating that “the current version of Kobe is not much of an NBA player” essentially erased the entire argument, because if that were true (or at least if that was the true belief of those who compiled the rankings), he should have been much further down on the list.

The second piece, however, which claimed that Bryant is almost entirely to blame for the current state of the Lakers franchise, was different. It contained detailed reporting from numerous (anonymous) sources, some of which specifically called out players by name who refused to consider Los Angeles as a free agent destination while Kobe was still around.

One of those players has responded.

That would be Paul George, who re-signed with the Pacers in 2013 because, at least according to this piece, he reportedly “was turned off by the thought that Bryant would police his efforts.”

The problem here — besides the player personally refuting the information — is that it wasn’t like George ever had a chance to sign with the Lakers. He would have been a restricted free agent this summer had the Pacers not offered him a five-year max contract in advance of the 2013 deadline to do so, and even if George decided that he wanted to leave to play in Los Angeles, it wouldn’t have been his decision because Indiana would have had the right to match any offer he would have received.

That’s just one of many issues in the piece, which was well-written but comes from a very one-sided perspective.

It’s disappointing to see such a prominent outlet continue to take shots at one of the game’s greatest players. It feels like we should be celebrating Bryant in the final years of his career, especially after seeing him hobble through only six games a season ago. But for some reason, this particular network seems to feel that tearing him down is the way to go instead, which is even more odd considering that it’s one of the league’s broadcast partners, and the Lakers (as usual) will be heavily featured this season during nationally televised contests.

But as the kids are saying these days, that’s none of my business.

PBT Extra preview: Lakers, Celtics big name teams headed to lottery

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers

While the talk of the lottery is often the tanking in Philadelphia, there are some traditional, power franchises in the NBA headed there this season. That is what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in the latest edition of PBT Extra.

Kobe Bryant is still going to put up numbers (not efficient ones, but numbers) however the Lakers terrible defense this season will keep them out of the playoffs and throw them in the lottery.

Is Rajon Rondo long for Boston?

And Minnesota is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season, but they are not going to be good.

Could lottery reform be bad for small market teams? Sam Presti argues yes.

Grant Gilbert

The NBA league office loves to point out that the final four teams standing in the NBA last season were smaller markets — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana and Miami (remember Miami is the nation’s 16th largest television market, behind places like Minneapolis and Phoenix).

Notice how those teams got their stars: The Spurs drafted Tim Duncan and Tony Parker; the Thunder drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; the Pacers drafted Paul George and Roy Hibbert; and while the Heat got LeBron James via free agency he’s not coming there (and Miami doesn’t win its 2006 title) if the franchise doesn’t draft Dwyane Wade.

Which brings up an interesting discussion going on in NBA front offices right now: Does changing the lottery odds to punish tanking teams such as the Sixers — a reform expected to be voted in on Wednesday — hurt small market teams?

Behind closed doors Thunder GM Sam Presti is making exactly that case, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Presti declined comment to Yahoo Sports, but his case, laid out to others, is this: The big-market teams badly want this change because it’ll give them one more advantage over small markets in securing top talent. Big-market teams have an advantage signing superstar free agents, an advantage trading for them because those players are far more apt to agree to sign a contract extension. And, now, the big market teams will get better access to top players higher in the draft.

As one GM sympathetic to Presti’s concerns – and employed by an owner who has decided to vote for the new system – told Yahoo: “Everyone is too focused on Philly, on one team in one situation. The only chance for a lot of teams to ever get a transformational player is through the draft, and eventually we are all going to be in the lottery, in that spot. The teams that’ll drop from two to eight, or three to nine – that’s just going to take the air out of those fan bases and franchises. They’ll get little, if any chance, to improve.

“We are going to see more big-market teams who just missed the playoffs jump up and get a great young player at the top of the draft. And people are going to go “What the [expletive] just happened?”

Presti is the success story of making a team bad to get good. He took over a struggling Sonics team and with top four picks in consecutive years got Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There was certainly good scouting and some luck involved, but Presti played the system and as Seattle moved to Oklahoma City they had a powerhouse.

What Philadelphia did is model that, but take it to the next level — if you’re going to be bad, be very bad. For years. That has led to discussions of tanking in the media and among fans, and with that frustrations among owners at the system. But is throwing out the system really going to solve the problem?

Under the current system, if you have the worst record you have a 25 percent chance at the top pick and can’t fall lower than fourth, and if you are the second or third worst your odds are significantly higher than others down the board. In the new, likely to be approved draft lottery system the four teams with the worst records all have a 12 percent chance at the first pick, fifth is at 11.5 percent, then six at 10 percent, and teams farther down the board have better odds. The team with the worst record could fall to seventh. What that is designed to do is encourage teams not to be Philadelphia bad because you don’t gain any real advantage.

However, the flip side of that is some team that is not that bad (and maybe from a bigger market) can fly up the board more easily.

The nature of basketball as a sport is that if you have the best player you are far more likely win. This is true at every level.

In the NBA, if you don’t have at least one, maybe two of the 10 (give or take) true elite players in the league at the time you are not winning a title. History shows it. The Spurs have Duncan and Parker. The Heat had LeBron James. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant (and before him Magic Johnson and his super team). The Celtics had Kevin Garnett (and before him Larry Bird’s super team). The Bulls had Michael Jordan.

A market like Milwaukee (reportedly now against the reform, with OKC and Philly) or Minnesota or Oklahoma City or Orlando or a number of others are not going to get one of those star players to come there as a free agent. Well, unless they already have one in house. One they drafted. Does LeBron return to Cleveland without Kyrie Irving having been drafted there?

NBA owners can be very short sighted, thinking about how any move impacts them now not down the line — particularly true with franchise values way up like they are now, so the owners know if they cash out they are going to make a boatload of profit. The flood of cash from the new television deal makes that even more true — why worry about the long term if you don’t plan to be in for it?

With that, lottery reform will pass. Easily.

Then watch after the draft lottery next year when a team like the Lakers, Celtics or Knicks jumps way up the board so they can draft a young star and some smaller market owners cry it’s unfair (or rigged).

Has Kobe Bryant cost the Lakers Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and others?

FIBA Semifinals: USA v Puerto Rico

Kobe Bryant knows he’s a superstar.

He has won five championships. He ranks fifth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He trains at a level not even Michael Jordan matched.

The Lakers traded a quality center for him before he ever played beyond high school. They jettisoned Shaquille O’Neal for him. They gave him a huge contract extension without him even having to negotiate for it.

Based on his own talent and the Lakers’ enabling, Kobe has every reason to believe he’s above everyone else.

[ RELATED: Kobe says ESPN voters who ranked him No. 40 in NBA players are ‘idiots’ ]

That’s why he can call out the Lakers’ front office. That’s why he can make the “selfish” demand the Lakers contend the next two seasons, even if their roster is more conducive to rebuilding. That’s why he can call ESPN voters who ranked him No. 40 in the NBA “idiots.”

But that sense of entitlement has become increasingly damaging as Kobe’s production has fallen in recent years. It’s one thing for Kobe to act spoiled when he has Shaq or Gasol helping him win rings.

I don’t know if Kobe could ever do it alone, but now he’ll have to if the Lakers have a chance of winning another title.

Because he keeps alienating everybody.

Henry Abbott of ESPN has written a fantastically detailed article on the ways Kobe serves as a detriment to the Lakers. It includes several stories of players shunning the Lakers, in part, due to Kobe’s presence.

Dwight Howard is one of the most famous examples. Sure, Kobe participated in Howard’s meeting with the Lakers during free agency, but it didn’t exactly go well. Abbott:

Kupchak, Howard’s closest ally on the team, prepped the Lakers’ pitch. One big point: Listen carefully. Another: Dress appropriately. “Our approach,” a Lakers source explained at the time, “is that we are interviewing for the job. We want to show that this is a place his dreams can come true.”

As the Lakers’ contingent settled into the conference room’s ergonomic chairs, it was clear that two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, in a nice crisp shirt, listening attentively, was running Kupchak’s game plan. But Bryant showed up, according to a person in the room, in “hoops shorts, a T-shirt and a gold chain.” He had also packed an attitude.

When Howard asked why his teammates let the injured center take all the flak when the Lakers’ season went south, Nash said he didn’t know that Howard had felt that way and that had he known, he would have acted differently. Bryant, on the other hand, offered a crash course in developing thick skin and a mini lecture on learning how to win. Sources told ESPN Insider Chris Broussard that Bryant’s lecture was “a complete turnoff” for Howard.

Apparently, Kobe didn’t learn much from that. Even when he flew back to Los Angeles this summer for Carmelo Anthony’s free-agent meeting, Kobe wasn’t prepared. Abbott:

And the particular way that recruitment was botched — Bryant made news by flying home from Europe, but somehow wires got crossed and he missed the meeting anyway — reminded Lakers insiders of the manner in which he nearly alienated Steve Nash in 2012. In the days before LA acquired Nash, sources say, the point guard wanted to hear from Bryant that the Lakers’ star was amenable to having Nash control the ball much of the time — a key tenet of the D’Antoni offense from the Suns days. When Lakers brass asked Bryant to call Nash, Bryant failed to do so, saying he preferred that Nash call him. The pettiness took days to resolve and nearly scuttled the deal.

The Lakers got Nash, though he has been too old to help much. Paul George, though, is definitely not too old. Still, Kobe’s presence interfered. Abbott:

Paul George, Angelino through and through, had once been the team’s safest choice. But sources say one reason the two-way star had re-signed with the Pacers in the fall of 2013 instead was that he was turned off by the thought that Bryant would police his efforts.

There are other examples – including Ramon Sessions – in Abbott’s article, which also contains plenty of quotes from anonymous executives and agents painting an unfavorable picture of Kobe’s people skills. It’s worth reading.

To be fair, I think some of the criticism is overblown. George, for example, would have been a restricted free agent, and the Pacers paid him more than the Lakers could have. Blaming Kobe’s presence might be an easy cover for taking the money, the most common reason players sign somewhere but one that gets poor PR.

[ RELATED: Kobe would take Iggy Azalea over Nick Young ]

There are also always agendas from anonymous sources, and I’m sure Kobe has rubbed some the wrong way. This is an easy time to kick him while he’s down.

Some players (like Darius Morris) fondly recall their time playing with Kobe. Others (like Smush Parker) do not.

The view of Kobe is clearly mixed.

However, to anyone who claims Abbott is out to get Kobe and looked only for sources who had an axe to grind, I’m certain that’s not the case. It’s far more likely Abbott holds his opinion of Kobe because of what he’s learned talking to people.

Abbott’s article provides excellent insight into why some people perceive Kobe the way they do. Whether or not you agree, it’s worth reading.

Lakers waive Jeremy Tyler, who’s China-bound

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day

In addition to 13 players with guaranteed contracts, the Lakers had six players with unguaranteed contracts.

One of them, Ronnie Price, has the endorsements of Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott and seems likely to make the team (despite throwing a shoe at Andre Iguodala).

That still left one roster spot available between Jeremy Tyler, Wayne Ellington, Keith Appling, Jabari Brown and Roscoe Smith.

It’s not going to Tyler.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Knicks planned to waive Tyler this summer, but they traded him to the Kings, who cut him. Tyler – who famously left high school after his junior year to turn pro – clearly needs a lot of work to become NBA-ready. At 23, he won’t get back into the league based on potential. He must prove he can produce at this level.

For the Lakers this season, it’s probably Ellington or bust. He’s played 26.8 minutes per game in the preseason, second on the team only to Price. It seems the Lakers are trying to determine whether keeping those players outweighs the flexibility of an open roster spot.

My guess is the Lakers keep both into regular season.