Does Kobe’s explanation for his poor shot selection against the Heat actually make sense?

7 Comments

The Heat’s victory over the Lakers on Thursday was a huge win for them, for a variety of reasons. Miami was getting killed by the national media for being a team that appeared to be coming apart at the seams, and one that couldn’t come through in close games. But the Heat snapped their five-game losing streak in spectacular fashion, taking down a peaking Lakers team that came in riding an eight-game winning streak.

On a night when LeBron James was subpar, Chris Bosh stepped up on the offensive end, and Dwyane Wade simply took the game over for Miami down the stretch.

It was a big, big win for the Heat. Yet all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Kobe Bryant.

The fact that long after the game Bryant took to the court to get in an unusual (and relatively public) late night workout on Miami’s arena floor was cause for plenty of discussion. But of more importance to the game’s final result was the issue of Bryant taking some extremely questionable shots late that ended up costing the Lakers the game.

There were two shots in particular that seemed to cause the most commotion, but the first (and by most accounts, the most egregious) came with the Lakers trailing by two and 1:06 remaining. L.A. had the ball out of bounds, and a fresh 24 on the shot clock. The pass went in to Bryant, and he immediately rose up for a twisting, fading, three-point attempt — again, with a full 24 seconds on the shot clock — and with Wade heavily contesting.

Wade was credited with the block, and the shot fell short into the hands of Ron Artest, who couldn’t convert at the rim. Miami rebounded, and Wade’s driving layup at the other end made it a two-possession game, and the Lakers were effectively finished.

Most watching felt the shot by Bryant was ridiculous and unconscionable given the circumstances. But when you hear him explain his line of thinking to T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times afterward, all of a sudden it doesn’t sound so insane.

“I wasn’t as off balance as you think; take a look at the replay,” he said. “I told Ron [Artest] to put it right there in that spot in the corner so I could raise up and shoot. I didn’t think Wade would expect that.

“The clock doesn’t make a difference; if you can knock it down you take it. We had the rebounding position underneath. My guys knew I was going to take it. It just didn’t go.”

Bryant’s logic here is pretty sound, even if his sense of team basketball or what constitutes a quality shot might not be.

Bryant felt his defender wouldn’t be expecting that shot in that situation, which, had he been right, would have in fact been a significant advantage. Bryant’s assertion that the clock doesn’t matter is the thing that most take issue with, but if you can get a good look at a shot that you’ve been able to knock down consistently (and it’s not a final possession, end-of-game situation), he’s right.

Finally, this wasn’t a wild heave against the wishes of his head coach and teammates. (Well, it might have been, but Bryant said they were expecting it.)  If indeed the Lakers had the advantage in rebounding positioning (which, judging by the fact that the blocked shot landed in the hands of Artest, they did), and his teammates were aware that his launching of that fadeaway three was the plan, then at least the decision to take this kind of shot now makes a little more sense, no?

Maybe. But it was still a terrible shot.

Raptors hire Spurs video coordinator, who just happens to be Kawhi Leonard friend

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jeremy Castleberry played his high school ball in Riverside, California, on the same team as Kawhi Leonard. When Leonard went on to San Diego State for college, Castleberry went too and was a walk-on for that team.

When the Spurs drafted Leonard, it was not long before Castleberry was a video coordinator and on the staff in San Antonio. Now Leonard is a Raptor so… you know what’s coming. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN explained it well.

The Toronto Raptors are hiring San Antonio Spurs staffer Jeremy Castleberry — a close friend of Kawhi Leonard — to a position on their coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.

Castleberry has worked with Leonard as a Spurs staffer and played with Leonard in high school and at San Diego State, where he was a walk-on.

Is this alone going to keep Leonard a Raptor next summer when he’s a free agent? No. But this is how the game is played — make the star player you’re recruiting feel comfortable, wanted, a key part of everything. Bringing in a friend to a new city for him fits right into that plan.

The smart money is still on Leonard bolting next summer to go to Los Angeles, but if the Raptors are able to change his mind — ala Paul George — it will not be one big thing but a thousand little ones. And a lot of wins. But hiring Castleberry is a start.

Brandon Jennings signs to play in Russia next season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brandon Jennings has just never been the same since his 2015 torn Achilles. He hasn’t shot over 40 percent from the floor for a season since then, he hasn’t moved well defensivly, and he had a PER of 19.3 the season it was torn and it’s never been above 13.7 for a season since then. In the past couple of seasons he has played in the G-League and China, and he played 14 games at the end of the season for the Bucks last campaign.

This summer, there were no offers. He is now headed to Russia, according to multiple reports, including EuroHoops.net. He will play for Zenit St Petersburg.

He’s only 28 years old, there is time for him find a way to make his game fit into the NBA landscape again. He’s just not there yet, and maybe the opportunity in Russia will lead him there. If not, he’s still getting paid to play at a high level.

Some owners reportedly want access to mental health files of players

Getty Images
2 Comments

If you read one thing NBA related today, it should be the first installment of Jackie MacMullan’s brilliant series at ESPN on the mental health of players and staffs in the NBA, and how the league is handling it. MacMullan not only got Kevin Love and Paul Pierce to open up about their challenges, but she also got into the challenges the league faces in confronting this issue head-on.

One such challenge: Owners wanting access to players mental health “files.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players union executive director Michelle Roberts and their respective teams are reportedly working on a new mental health policy for the league. Privacy is going to be a big part of that. From MacMullan:

Yet there remain many obstacles to confront, chief among them the stigma attached to mental health that prompts many players to suffer in silence. The union also insists that mental health treatment be confidential, but some NBA owners, who in some cases are paying their players hundreds of millions of dollars, want access to the files of their “investments.” That is not, however, the league’s position. “The NBA fully supports protecting the confidentiality of players’ mental health information and, accordingly, committed to the players association that any mental health program we undertake would do so,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass says.

Confidentiality, says Love, has to be non-negotiable. Without it, he says, he never would have become comfortable enough to announce from that All-Star dais that he was seeking treatment.

Those files must be private. This is different from a torn knee ligament or sprained ankle (and on those we have HIPPA laws for good reason). For one, this is something more unpredictable in treating. Second, it comes back to the stigma of mental health issues and how the information about them might be used.

That stigma still exists, both in society and the NBA — McMullan gets into the players and their wives talking behind Love’s back All-Star weekend, and the players currently seeking treatment who do not want it public. The “real men don’t talk about this” mentality is everywhere, but it has fertile ground in professional sports locker rooms where players see themselves as invincible.

That mentality, that stigma will be the hardest thing to change in altering the culture of mental health issues in the NBA. There are no easy answers here. Does anyone think the owners who want access to those files wouldn’t use against the player in negotiations (never underestimate an owner’s effort to gain leverage)?

The players’ union will not allow that in whatever the framework is for the leagues’ new mental health policy. Nor should they.

Love, DeMar DeRozan, Royce White and others broke barriers stepping forward into the spotlight to discuss their challenges. But there are a lot of barriers still up, and a lot of work for both the NBA and society to do on this front. And privacy must be part of that.

Rebuilding Hawks add depth by signing Daniel Hamilton, Alex Poythress.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ATLANTA (AP) — The rebuilding Atlanta Hawks have added depth by signing guard-forward Daniel Hamilton and forward Alex Poythress.

Poythress was signed to a two-way contract, so the former Kentucky player will split his time with the Hawks’ G League Erie team.

Hamilton is on a fully guaranteed one-year contract after impressing the Hawks playing for the Thunder Summer League team. He averaged 2 points in six games with Oklahoma City last season while on a two-way contract with the Thunder. He spent most of the season with the G League Oklahoma City Blue.

Poythress averaged 1 point in 25 games with Indiana last season. He began the season on a two-way contract.