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

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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.

One last look back: Best dunks of All-Star Weekend (VIDEO)

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Defense? That’s one thing that rarely makes an appearance All-Star weekend.

Combine that with the game’s best athletes and what you get are three days of insane dunks.

The NBA put this together, the best dunks of All-Star weekend in Charlotte. Enjoy.

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: ‘Recruiting process is really going alright…I’m trying’

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LeBron James went out of his way to say he was not recruiting guys on his free-agent heavy All-Star Team.

Bradley Beal had no such hesitation, he tried to recruit guys, as he told Chase Huges of NBC Sports Washington.

“The recruiting process is really going alright. It’s going alright. I’m trying,” Beal said. “This is new for me. I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for.”

Beal was too smart to name names — that would have brought a fine from the league — but he said some guys asked if he was happy where he was, while other guys he talked to about the possibilities in Washington.

The problem is while the Wizards will have some cap space after trading Otto Porter and Markieff Morris (and assuming they don’t pick up the option on Jabari Parker) but they will be nowhere near the max cap space needed to land the elite free agents at the All-Star Game (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, etc.). Even the second-tier All-Star free agents such as Khris Middleton will get max offers. Same with players who just missed the game, such as Tobias Harris.

If the Wizards renounce free agents they can get to $9 million in cap space, stretch and waive Ian Mahinmi and they can get to $18 million. That’s the top end. Meaning the Wizards will have room to make moves for good rotation players, but with John Wall‘s supermax extension kicking in at $38 million next season flexibility is limited. Genuine upgrades will be hard to come by.

Predicting what Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld will do next summer is a fool’s errand, but Beal is doing his part to try and bring more talent into Washington.

Kevin Garnett says 2000 Olympic team had $1 million bounty to dunk on Yao Ming

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Team USA earned a Gold Medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, led by Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, and Alonzo Mourning. Lithuania made the Americans work that year, losing by just nine in pool play then by two points in the semi-finals.

That’s not what anyone remembers from those Olympics, they remember Vince Carter doing this to 7-footer Fredric Weiss of France.

Recently Garnett sat down with Dwyane Wade for an interview (which airs on NBA TV today) and he told a fantastic story about that dunk. (Hat tip to Yahoo Sports)

Everything just paused. First of all, people didn’t know, we had a bounty out on Yao Ming. The whole USA team had a bet. We had a million dollar bet on who was going to be the first person to dunk on Yao Ming. None of us did. We all tried to dunk on Yao, but he would block it or we would miss. So, the first thing I thought of when I saw Vince dunk over Frederic was oh s***, you won the million dollars. But then I realized it obviously wasn’t Yao. I pushed Vince, and if you look at the clip, he almost punches me in the face by accident. But my first thought was, oh s***, you won, you got the million.

KG has the best stories.

MSG denies rumor James Dolan looking to sell Knicks

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Rumors that James Dolan is considering selling the Knicks — which elicits a “Hallelujah” chorus from Knicks fans — have been cropping up for a couple of years now. There were rumors he wanted to spin off the Knicks and Rangers into their own company to be sold. That’s just one, there are others — he confirmed he got a feeler $5 billion, but never a firm offer, for the Knicks — and each time he has shot them down.

This is no different.

On his latest Podcast, the Ringer’s Bill Simmons said he had heard that Dolan wanted to focus more on concerts/in-game experiences in Madison Square Garden and that the Knicks were “available.”

The Madison Square Garden Company released this statement (hat tip New York Daily News).

“The story is 100% false. There has been nothing. No discussions. No plans to have discussions – nothing.”

That’s pretty unequivocal.

While Dolan may entertain the idea on some level of selling the Knicks, until he takes concrete steps to do so — not rumors, but actual, documented moves — I’m not buying it. He’s sitting on a gold mine that keeps going up in value, despite how he manages it, so why sell now? Knicks fans that buy this rumor will likely end up like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.