NBA finals: Kobe Bryant needs to create shots… but not just for himself

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kobeglare.jpgWe have reached that point in the series.

Faced with a 2-2 series tie after the Celtics’ resiliency was greater than the Lakers’ size and talent advantages, the popular sentiment is turning to “It’s Kobe time.” As we speak, sportswriters across America are preparing their statements about how Kobe Bryant needs to “step up” and “be the man” and all sorts of other things which don’t really take into account the elbow help from the Celtics bigs nor the fact that Bryant has used on average 31.5% of the shots of his team (per HoopData.com).

Now, it’s true that in the two losses for the Lakers, Bryant used 29.5% of the Lakers’ possessions versus 33.5 in the Lakers’ two wins, but we’re not talking a huge gap. Furthermore, Bryant’s Assist Rate (percentage of possessions ending in an assist) is higher in the Lakers’ two wins versus their two losses as well (13.6% in wins) versus 12.2% in losses).

Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo! does his usual brilliant job of bringing nuance and context to what Bryant needs to do, and argues that if the Celtics’ defense is going to neutralize the triangle and reduce the Lakers’ offense to screen and roll for a scorer, that Bryant needs to oblige them. By plugging them over and over.

I’m certainly not arguing that Bryant needs to shy away from the trigger. Far from it. It’s important that Bryant be a scorer. But this Lakers team is really at its best, Bryant, is at his best, when he’s working in at the elbow, and using his wide range of options: post, pull-up, drive and kick, drive and dump-off, drive, and cut. Bryant is one of the best passers in this league when he wants to be. It’s a function of his touch and control. And when he moves, the defense overreacts. In 2008 and 2009, he punished teams that chose to overreact to him by finding his teammates in the truest revelation of his maturity as a player beyond the guy who throws up 35 shots a game.

Can the Lakers win if Bryant goes Contra on the Celtics? Sure. If he’s in that zone, they can double him, triple him, whatever, he’s still going to drop 40. But if he contributes a complete game, not only will he do more damage, but he won’t exhaust himself. The Celtics’ defense can be solved using his scoring ability, but falling into the trap can produce what the C’s want, an inefficient night from Bryant.

Damian Lillard on shot to beat Thunder: ‘That was for Seattle’

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Damian Lillard is a legend in Portland. He’s a legend in Oakland.

And now he’ll be a legend in Seattle.

The Trail Blazers star’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer wave goodbye ended the season for the Thunder, who moved to Oklahoma City from Seattle 12 years ago.

Lillard on Sports Business Radio Podcast:

What can I say? That was for Seattle.

Just when I thought Lillard’s shot and celebration were as cold as could be.

Clippers executive Jerry West: ‘I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one’

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Jerry West played 14 years for the Lakers, making the All-Star game every year and winning a championship in a Hall of Fame career. He coached the Lakers to a few playoff seasons. Then, he ran the Lakers’ front office for 18 years, winning five titles and setting the stage for several more by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Now, West works for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

West on The Dan Patrick Show:

Steve Ballmer has really put together an unbelievably terrific organization. He’s spared no expense. It’s a really fun place to be. There’s not ego-driven at all. It’s just a fun place to be, and he’s got an awful lot of basketball people over there.

He’s just a great owner and one of the nicest men I’ve ever been around in my life. I’ve never seen a person like this with his success. It’s just remarkable how even-keeled he is. If people knew how philanthropic he was. He keeps all that stuff quiet. I guess he’ll get mad at me for mentioning it. But he’s just a remarkable man himself.

People always ask me what he’s like. And I say he’s just like you and I, normal. I’ve never seen – he’s willing to spend on players. He’s willing to spend on personnel within the front office. And as I mentioned before, I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one. That’s for sure.

Maybe West is bitter at the Lakers. Maybe West is just gushing about his current boss, because that’s who pays him now.

But the wider respect held for the Clippers is evident in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George picking them without the team first getting an incumbent star. That says a lot about the organization, one that Ballmer has put his stamp on.

This also feels like a shot at the Lakers, whether or not West intended it. Many consider them to be the NBA’s golden franchise.

But their operations have had no shortage of problems lately.

The Lakers would have a stronger relative case further back, when West worked for them. However, organizations generally run better now. The league is more advanced. Maybe West is considering that.

Biases aside, his endorsement of the Clippers might be accurate.

West also worked for the Grizzlies.

Spencer Dinwiddie: Kyrie Irving tipped me off on his Nets interest in December

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In early December, Spencer Dinwiddie had yet to sign a contract extension with the Nets. Kyrie Irving had recently pledged to re-sign with the Celtics.

But groundwork was already being laid for those two to team up in Brooklyn.

Dinwiddie signed a three-year, $34 million extension later in December. Irving and Kevin Durant joined the Nets this summer.

How did it all come together?

Dinwiddie revealed details of his recruitment of Irving.

Dinwiddie, via The Athletic:

The first time he reached out was probably maybe like December, in terms of just loosely talking about it. Because he’s still obviously super focused on his season and everything. But you could just tell from his conversation that it was a little bit different. It was on his mind. Obviously, free agency was coming up. So, that’s kind of what it was. Just asking a friend about his current situation and what he thought.

Actually, no. It definitely was December. Because he made a comment to me. He was like, “New York might be real fun next year.” Because I hadn’t signed yet. And I was like, “Brother, I don’t know if they’re going to extend me or not.” He was like, “I think New York might be real fun next year.”

At the time, I was like, “You all going to the Knicks. That’s what’s happening. Are you and the monster going to the Knicks?”

That’s when I was first tipped off to the whole thing.

When he made the comment, that’s when I was like, “OK, things have changed.” Obviously at that point in time, it’s too early to be like he’s for sure leaving or he’s this, that or the third. But it’s just like, OK, something happened.

What happened in Boston? That’s the big question Irving has yet to answer.

Irving seemed checked out with the Celtics long before their season ended. It’s fair to question whether he was fully committed to winning with them.

There’s nothing wrong with Irving talking to Dinwiddie about New York as early as December. Irving faced a life-changing choice in free agency. Of course he was going to consider it throughout the season.

But in context of everything else that happened with Irving in Boston, this is more evidence he was pretty set on leaving for a long time.