What does Kobe Bryant expect from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum?

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Kobe Bryant has just about had it with his teammates not showing up, and that’s pretty evident. When he refused to quit and played well with gastroenteritis in Game 6 and his teammates no-showed, you knew there would be consequences. Bryant has come too far and done too much to get that kind of performance from the supporting cast.

And talking to the L.A. Times about Metta World Peace, Bryant let it be known his feelings right now for the rest of the team.

“I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he’s known for,” Bryant told reporters after Game 6, a troubling 113-96 loss. “He’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with that sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I’m looking forward to having that by my side again.”

via Metta World Peace satisfied with conditioning heading into Game 7 – latimes.com.

Ouch.

For his part, Pau Gasol did not take on the responsibility or accept fault. He pretty much just said “Whatever.”

“It’s a comment. It’s an opinion,” Gasol said. “A lot of times opinions are determined by the timing of things. Obviously we’re all happy to get Metta back tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll be a big contrbibutor. I’m glad Kobe relies on him that much.”

via Metta World Peace satisfied with conditioning heading into Game 7 – latimes.com.

Oh, dear.

That’s just awkward.

Look, Gasol’s going to have to live with this. He sulked in Memphis when he wasn’t winning, got gifted to L.A. in a lopsided trade (it working out for Memphis is inconsequential in relation to where the trade stood at the time) and won two titles. He won two titles because of Bryant’s fire and indomitable will, so he’s going to have to live with some vitriol when he fails as spectacularly as he has in this series. It’s a veteran team, you’re supposed to be able to rely on Gasol’s experience in a series like this, and instead, for a second straight year, he’s no-showed.

But what’s maybe most interesting from Bryant is the following quote:

“My type of competitiveness and energy level is not something I expect every guy to have,” Bryant said. “That’s not to say that they don’t have it; it’s just that Metta’s intensity is similar to my own. It’s a simple as that.”

via Metta World Peace satisfied with conditioning heading into Game 7 – latimes.com.

This is pretty amazing revisionist history from Bryant, who has questioned MWP’s performance and commitment throughout his time in L.A. as well, but more important is the first part. The question of whether Bryant really expects everyone to be at his level. For his part, I think he’s being honest. I think if players were to match his intensity, he’d simply become more intense. For Bryant it’s never been about being the best, it’s about beating other people. And there’s a difference there. He’s not just competing against every other team in the league, against his critics, against Michael Jordan, he’s competing against his teammates for who is the most driven on his own team. He wants them to be committed, just maybe not equally so.

But what he doesn’t want is for them to be lazy.

And yeah, Gasol is a target here, but a question has to be asked. Why is Bryant not dragging Andrew Bynum by his earlobe into huddles? Why is he not screaming and glaring at Bynum like he did for so many years to Lamar Odom? Why is he not demanding the same of Bynum he demands of so many? He doesn’t take shots at Bynum, he just says he plans on talking to him. I understand that not every player responds the same way, but Bryant’s never cared about that before. Why is Andrew Bynum different? It’s bizarre to see Bryant giving Bynum the same kid gloves treatment the Lakers organization does. And if he wants to channel his anger somewhere, that’s the first place it needs to go.

 

 

 

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

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It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

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That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.