Kobe Bryant may have won the battle early, but Chris Paul was the one who won the war.
Bryant finished with an impressive 38 points on 15-of-25 shooting on Friday, none more eye-popping than this steal and powerful breakaway slam dunk over Paul that had Staples Center buzzing in the game’s opening minutes.
In a game filled with highlights, this was the one that stood out on the Lakers side. Although if you asked Bryant about it afterward, he’d likely have said he would have preferred to have a more pedestrian step-back jumper that would have sealed his team’s victory — like the one Paul knocked down with 19 seconds remaining that helped the Clippers hold on.
A shot which, by the way, was converted over Bryant.
Kobe on Kuzma, Ingram, Ball: “Are the three of them better than Anthony Davis? No!”
There are Lakers fans that balked at the idea the franchise would trade their best three young players — Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball — for Anthony Davis. Those fans thought that (plus first round picks and salary filler) was too steep a price.
“Kuzma, Lonzo, Ingram… are the three of them better than Anthony Davis? No! Ciao! Bye! Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the world. Not currently, in history. What are we talking about? If you can trade for Anthony Davis, you do it. If not, alright. We have three players who are very young and work hard. They’re smart and they have to develop. But if you can trade for Anthony Davis… yes!”
Elite talent alone is not enough — a lesson the Lakers brass did not take to heart this season. Stars such as LeBron and Davis (or Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, etc.) can thrive in any system because of their talent, but around them needs to be a system and role players picked to fit said system. Want to run a lot of pick-and-roll and/or isolations? Better get shooters who can knock down kick-out passes. Want to play uptempo? Better get athletes who thrive in that system, and shooters. Back in Kobe’s era, the Lakers were a triangle team but the non-stars fit the system and were good shooters of the era (think Derek Fisher, a guard who fit the triangle well but did not thrive in other systems).
Kobe gets that, but he knows the hardest part of the equation to get is the elite talent because there simply isn’t much of it.
The Lakers should be willing to trade their young players for a talent upgrade, but beyond that they still need an identity and players who fit whatever that identity/system is. Oh, and they need shooters.
With his recent outburst at hecklers in Utah, Russell Westbrook ignited a long-overdue discussion of how fans interact with players during games. The Jazz even recently banned a fan who repeatedly called Westbrook “boy” last year.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated case of that racist language being used toward a player.
The fan was seemingly ejected. The Timberwolves didn’t respond to questions whether he faced additional punishment.
I’m all for good-natured heckling. Racist taunts are completely unacceptable – and maybe still more common than we realized. Because Griffin didn’t get as enraged as Westbrook on video, this got swept under the rug.
It shouldn’t be Griffin’s responsibility to fix this. Teams must do a better job holding accountable fans who cross the line.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen left awkwardly waving to nobody after apparently offending Suns coach Igor Kokoskov (video)
Was Boylen trying to rub in the victory? He pulled his starters during the timeout, giving him plausible deniability. It’d also be reasonable to use the timeout as a teaching opportunity for running an after-timeout play.
But the Suns don’t have to like being used for practice. They’re in the midst of a trying season, especially Kokoskov. His bitterness is understandable.
I don’t think either coach was wrong here. Both were doing what was best for their teams. The Bulls should get experience running situational plays. The Suns should find motivation to no longer get treated like a pushover.
Boylen strayed further from the accepted norms, but I rarely support unwritten rules. If the Suns didn’t like it, they should have done something about it – which they did by fouling to stop Chicago’s play. It was petty, but it was well within their rights. Just like the Bulls were calling timeout.