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Jeanie Buss: 'Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is...
23 Oct 2014 at 10:15am
Let?s pretend, for a moment, that Kobe Bryant is some wonderful, cheerful, galoot of a man. That he is super swell to work with, and that his on-record tough guy musings spat out in an expletive-laden style that reminds of a 11-year-old who just realized he could use blue words is just a show for the media. Let?s pretend that, behind the scenes, Kobe Bryant is the ideal teammate, and that he?s promised many things to prospective Los Angeles Lakers teammates through the years. Promised that the storied franchise will be theirs, all theirs, once Bryant retires and the salary cap shoots way up upon his retirement. Assured that he?d willingly give up shots and the ball in order to develop a more harmonious partnership with a free agent partner. Or partners. Pointed out that there are still grapes to be eaten in California, and that he?d sacrifice whatever it takes to win, even if that means abandoning the spotlight and ceding the reins of the offense. Let?s just try to live in that world, for a moment. It may take a Brando-like sense of method acting to put yourself in that spot, but give it a try. Now ask yourself, in the face of a kinder and gentler Kobe Bean, does this make Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Pau Gasol, or even LeBron James ?losers? for wanting to play elsewhere? Laker president Jeanie Buss sure seems to think so. From an appearance on ESPN on Thursday : "Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I'm glad they wouldn't come to the team," Buss said during a "SportsCenter" interview Thursday. All of this noise comes on the heels of a much-ballyhooed and much - derided feature from ESPN?s Henry Abbott , who used a retinue of anonymous sources to pin the blame on Kobe Bryant for the Lakers? demise since the championship season of 2010, and the likely nasty two seasons to come in the final two years of Bryant?s ridiculous $48.5 million contract. Buss, like most of us, has made her way through the tome : "I read the story," Buss said Thursday. "I don't agree with any of it. If there is somebody that's on our payroll who is saying things like that, I'll soon get to the bottom of it, and they won't be working for us anymore." As with all things Kobe, and as what should have been the case with the initial ESPN piece, there needs to be a bit of nuance here. Rebuilding through free agency in the modern era, even with one star or near-All-Star (as a diminished Bryant is, post Achilles surgery) already on hand is no way to build a champion. A team needs younger assets, pieces delivered via trade, and role players that are already in-house. Had Bryant put his ego aside and signed for a contract along the lines of what Dirk Nowitzki recently re-signed for (three-years, $25 million for a player that is better than Bryant right now), and if we?re still working under the assumption that free agents would love to play with a Kuddly Kobe, that?s still a massively long shot that the Lakers would be able to cull together a contending roster full of free agents during the last offseason. On top of that, teams just aren?t dumping overpaid-yet-productive players on other teams with cap space via trade these days. The salaries have evened out, and not even the Brooklyn Nets are dealing Deron Williams just for a trade exception. General manager Mitch Kupchak understands this, and while he was well aware that he was basically signing away two years of his life by giving Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension, that?s what you do when you want to keep a job. That?s what you do when you?re mindful of the fact that each potential Bryant partner had plenty of reasons to say ?no? to Los Angeles. All Mitch had to do is look at the list. There are actual people on it, with real names. Dwight Howard? Even with his back worries, he?ll eventually make all the money he can handle, and he left a limping Bryant (who had just torn his Achilles two and a half months prior) to work for a team in Houston with a far younger and healthier shooting guard in James Harden, one that won just as many games as the Bryant-led Lakers the year before. Paul George? He may be from Los Angeles, but the Pacers could offer him far more money than El Lay to stay in Indiana and play for what was then a championship contender. He would have had to wait out his rookie contract, play for less money on a qualifying offer, and explore unrestricted free agency all while hoping that he didn?t suffer a career-altering injury while working his way toward El Segundo. Sadly, George would suffer that sort of injury just a month after he would have purportedly signed with the Lakers. Signed for, again, far less than he?ll make in Indianapolis ? an area he actually likes. Chris Bosh? If anything, he should have taken less money to go to the Houston Rockets, and work in a killer lineup with Howard, Harden and an ostensibly re-signed Chandler Parsons. Instead, he understandably chose to take as much money as possible to stay in Miami, a place his family is just-as understandably comfortable with. He won?t win another championship there, but he wasn?t winning one alongside Kobe either. Pau Gasol? The guy seeks challenges, and we dig that. The idea of he and Joakim Noah flinging the ball around the Chicago frontcourt, working in a multi-cultural city, appealed to him. He took less money and moved to a climate that involves tortuous winters, and this is where our doubling down on the idea of Kobe Bryant as a model teammate is starting to crack. LeBron James? Why does he need to play alongside an aging Kobe Bryant (and lord knows who else in L.A.) at this point in his career? Especially when he can go back home to play alongside one of the league?s best point guards, knowing that that Kevin Love deal was already just about signed off on even before James announced his free agent decision. Play at home, make a ton of money, and create perhaps the league?s best roster in a week ? or go play with Kobe? Carmelo Anthony? The Knicks won?t be winning a championship either, but he and his family like New York, and they like making as much money as possible. Anthony, as it has been since his AAU days, also likes being the face of a franchise ? something he was never going to be in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant (the guy that didn?t bother to stay in Los Angeles during the opening of free agent negotiations), of all people, should understand this. Losers, all? If you want to peel back on the idea of Kobe as a model teammate, fine. Carlos Boozer didn?t even choose to play for the Lakers this year, and he lives in Los Angeles. Jeremy Lin was traded there, Jordan Hill had to be overpaid to stay there, and prized free agent signee Ed Davis strangely wasn?t receiving any offers elsewhere. This summer was as big as free agency whiffs come. The Buss family was wrong to offer Kobe Bryant that much money, but the Buss family (that makes their money off of the Los Angeles Lakers, with no other outside revenue streams) was also right not to alienate a fan base that has already bought tickets, and suites, by entering into an unsettling relationship with their appointed Mr. Laker. Kobe Bryant was wrong to take all that money, especially when he bleats on about wanting to win more than anything else while gumming up the team?s cap picture, but he was completely correct in taking as much as he possibly could from a family that has made so much off of him. Mitch Kupchak was wrong to ignore his better basketball instincts in signing off on the deal, but he also likely knew that each free agent turn involves individuals with different agendas, and sometimes the timing isn?t right. Sometimes the timing is right, and for whatever reason you?re allowed to pull in Shaquille O?Neal and Bryant in the same summer, or grab Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the same summer, or deal for a Hall of Famer like Pau Gasol weeks before the trade deadline. Sometimes, a series of individuals all decline ? not en masse, just at various points ? to come to Los Angeles to play with Kobe Bryant. For whatever reasons. And, as always, a bit of nuance needs to be tossed out there. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
Rookie Randle leads Lakers past Blazers 94-86 (The Associated Press)
22 Oct 2014 at 10:08pm
Rookie Julius Randle scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Jeremy Lin added 13 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game Wednesday night. Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson scored 11 points apiece for the Lakers (3-4), who played a solid defensive game and surged in the fourth quarter despite 18 turnovers. Los Angeles won without Kobe Bryant, who sat out to rest.
Kobe shrugs off claims he's to blame for Lakers' decline: 'Things are never a...
22 Oct 2014 at 1:11pm
BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Clippers (Ball Don't Lie)
22 Oct 2014 at 12:25pm
So, now it?s on the players. Currently, Clipper fans don?t have to hate themselves, as they probably did at times, for paying to see a team owned by Donald Sterling. NBA fans, as we often did, don?t have to hate ourselves anymore while enjoying those late night, must-watch Clipper broadcasts on League Pass. The players don?t have to cringe anymore when Sterling goes meandering around the locker room. Doc Rivers won?t have to question his own ethics anymore. It?s over. (Shelly Sterling needs to go, to be sure, but it?s over.) What we have left, finally, is ball. Ball run by the league?s best point guard, one of its best coaches, and one of the NBA?s best players. Plays run by a supporting cast that is to be envied. Work run in the toughest conference in NBA history, one the Los Angeles Clippers have as good a chance as any at getting out of this spring, possibly representing the Western Conference in the 2015 NBA Finals. Such an idea was an uneasy prospect for the NBA and its fans for decades, because even though presenting a Conference championship trophy is a relatively new phenomenon, it would still include one Donald T. Sterling at the other end of the handoff. At the next stage, the thought of Sterling at center court, accepting a Lawrence O?Brien trophy alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers was even more nauseating, but this is what the NBA (and the media that covered it, myself included) allowed. Somehow, Sterling was removed from the league and from the Clippers? media guide with relative alacrity, a credit to both the league?s new commissioner, and common sense. New owner Steve Ballmer works with an open checkbook, and while that won?t do much for the 15 on the roster (Sterling actually did compete and pay fair salaries over the last decade or so), it will do wonders for the coaches, employees, scouts, and various other personnel that had to fight for every penny. Fears will be lifted, and the team will be better prepared. Which means, again, that this will be on the players. Contributors like J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes can?t help that they were injured last year, and Rivers couldn?t help his team?s failure to fill that final rotation spot last season, but excuses have to be out the window. Chris Paul?s game figures to age well, but he turns 30 in May. Redick, Jamal Crawford, and Barnes are even older. DeAndre Jordan is in a contract year in anticipation of a summer that will feature scads of teams with maximum cap space. Blake Griffin is very, very good. It has to happen now. The Clippers worked their way into the league?s best offense last season even with again types like Hedo Turkoglu, Antawn Jamison, Stephen Jackson, Sasha Vujacic, and Danny Granger taking up space on the wing. The defense surprisingly held nearly as steady despite the coaching upgrade and influence of Doc Rivers, and Jordan will once again have to turn in a mindful campaign on that end. Griffin needs to continue to surprise offensively, thinking on the fly and not relying on pet moves, and for the second straight season Chris Paul will have to deign to give up the damn ball. Not every score has to come off of one of his assists, or one of his gorgeous floaters or mid-range shots. The trick is that we?re dealing with the Western conference. The Clippers could roar to the top seed, and it wouldn?t (and certainly shouldn?t) be termed an upset if the squad was upended by any number of Western opponents in the second or even first round. The conference is that good, and the quality of play is that high. The only disappointment in last year?s second round ouster at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder was in how the Clippers looked ? clearly, they were ready for the season, and the Sterling saga, to end. It understandably drained them. That was also a second round matchup against a higher seed working with the league?s MVP on its side. Such is life in this conference. A conference that the Clippers could make their own, in 2014-15.
Phoenix survives Lakers in overtime (The Associated Press)
21 Oct 2014 at 10:32pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Isaiah Thomas scored 26 points including the buzzer-beater at the end of regulation and Gerald Green made 10 of his 21 points in overtime as the Suns topped the Lakers 114-108 in Tuesday's preseason game.
The 10-man rotation, starring the case *for* Kobe Bryant (or, at least, that ...
21 Oct 2014 at 2:44pm
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : Silver Screen and Roll . After reading Henry Abbott's ESPN the Magazine piece arguing that Kobe Bryant is the reason for the Los Angeles Lakers' downfall, Drew Garrison presents the counterargument, suggesting that the reasons for the franchise's precipitous recent decline are numerous, varied and not all contained within the Mamba's jaw-jut. A worthwhile hearing for the defense. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] PF : SLAM . Ryan Jones on why LeBron James is the NBA's best player, why ( ownership of the Podoloff aside) there's no real debate on the matter, and how the shifting of James' circumstances as he rejoins a significantly more loaded Cleveland Cavaliers could wind up changing that soon enough. SF : Sports on Earth . Howard Megdal on how ? all the internecine drama , back-room dealings and franchise-jumping aside ? we've still got quite a bit to learn about exactly what kind of NBA head coach Jason Kidd's going to be. SG : ChicagoNow . Yes, Derrick Rose looked great on Monday, but the Chicago Bulls' loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers showed a few persistent and perhaps worrisome questions for Tom Thibodeau's club, according to Doug Thonus. PG : National Post . Eric Koreen floats an idea that Our Fearless Leader has championed in the past : shorten the preseason and make the regular season longer, not in games played, but in dates covered. 6th : A Wolf Among Wolves . William Bohl sees the Minnesota Timberwolves running more sets for midrange jumpers under once-and-future head coach Flip Saunders, and he wonders whether that approach will prove beneficial for a young Wolves roster without very many knockdown shooters. ( Kelly's not real bullish on it , for what it's worth.) 7th : Raptors Republic . Smart stuff from Blake Murphy on the interesting dilemma facing the Toronto Raptors and surprise 2014 first-round draft pick Bruno Caboclo ? how does a team setting its sights on the conference finals find the floor time to develop an incredibly raw player when it doesn't have its own exclusive D-League affiliate? 8th : Detroit Bad Boys . Considering what a more efficient Josh Smith might look like, what Stan Van Gundy's done this preseason to try to conjure such a performance, and whether it's more likely that Smith turns in that brand of play for the Detroit Pistons or gets moved before the February trade deadline. 9th : Posting and Toasting . Derek Fisher says Amar'e Stoudemire ? he of the wine baths of indeterminate medical benefit ? isn't operating under any sort of minute or playing-time restrictions, and the former All-Star big man says he's feeling great. What does this mean for STAT's role on the New York Knicks this year? 10th : Los Angeles Times . Chris Douglas-Roberts is wearing short shorts ? or, at least, the shortest shorts he was able to get from the Los Angeles Clippers ? in hopes that they "will give him the freedom to be an elite perimeter defender." - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Golden State Warriors (Ball Don't Lie)
21 Oct 2014 at 11:05am
The Golden State Warriors cannot be criticized for lacking ambition. Mark Jackson led the franchise to the playoffs in two consecutive seasons (out of his three total), a feat that made him their most successful head coach since the first Don Nelson era. His reward was a speedy dismissal. For whatever tensions existed between Jackson and his bosses ? and there were many , to the point where a disaster may have loomed ? it is fairly apparent that the people in charge of the Warriors expect to challenge for titles, not to lose out on homecourt advantage in the first round and take one playoff series every couple years. Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber want one of the league's preeminent franchises. The question isn't only if they have the roster to get them there, but whether they have hired the right man for the job. Former Phoenix Suns general manager, TNT commentator, and golfing buddy Steve Kerr has no coaching experience of any kind, just like Jackson when he was hired in 2011. Yet there's no guarantee that the Warriors will get lucky twice, even if Kerr has a sterling reputation and has said all the right things so far. The Warriors have taken a gamble, again, and Kerr may not connect with his players as well as Jackson did in his three seasons with the club. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] However, Kerr and his staff (which includes Alvin Gentry, his coach in Phoenix) can improve the team in other ways. It will take some work to match last season's third-ranked defense (by points allowed per possession), but there is a clear opportunity to best a No. 12 offense that belied Golden State's reputation as an especially potent group. While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson strengthened their status as the best outside-shooting duo in the NBA, the offense as a whole often became stagnant and went away from its strengths, especially when eschewing the pick-and-roll. With versatile players like Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Draymond Green, and Andrew Bogut in the lineup, there's no glaring reason why Golden State can't become a better offensive team. Failure to do so would be the clearest sign that Kerr did not have a particularly impressive first season in Oakland. Then again, it's not entirely clear how Kerr and the franchise will define success. Is it enough for him to set the team on a course toward achieving the results that Jackson didn't, or will he need to exceed them now? It's not necessarily prudent to set such rigid standards before the team even plays a regular-season game. Nevertheless, controversial coaching changes require fairly exacting analysis. The outcome of such gambles reflect upon the franchise well beyond win-loss record. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: A coach pit himself and his team against the world, winning a few battles and losing the war. Did the summer help at all? The answer to this question depends largely on your belief in Kerr and his abilities relative to those of Jackson. As previously noted, those opinions will vary and can't be discussed with any certainty for at least a few months. If we stick to the roster, then the Warriors should be a little better. For one thing, they lost only Jermaine O'Neal, a quality reserve big man who missed several months and may be of limited use at 36 years old. They added Shaun Livingston as a much-needed backup point guard who can defend bigger guards when teamed with Curry; Brandon Rush, who performed well with Golden State as a reserve wing in 2011-12; and Leandro Barbosa, unlikely to match his years in Phoenix but still a speedy guard with explosive tendencies. Plus, reserve center Festus Ezeli returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Go-to offseason acquisition: Livingston is still iffy for opening night , but when he's in the lineup he will give the Warriors options that they lacked last season. Though not the world's most adept floor leader, Livingston can contribute in many areas (8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes per game for the Brooklyn Nets in 2013-14) while freeing up other members of the team to excel. The Warriors lacked playmakers other than Curry and Iguodala, and they figure to be heavily dependent on those two for the same qualities this year. But Livingston provides some cover for a team that can use the help.
Kobe returns for uncertain season with Lakers (The Associated Press)
21 Oct 2014 at 10:39am
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Byron Scott realizes he got his dream coaching job at a time when the Los Angeles Lakers are much closer to their absolute worst than their hallowed best.
Anthony has high hopes for Phil Jackson's Knicks (The Associated Press)
21 Oct 2014 at 7:33am
NEW YORK (AP) -- Phil Jackson made two big signings since becoming Knicks president, and Carmelo Anthony seems thrilled with both.
With Rose back, Bulls set sights on Eastern title (The Associated Press)
21 Oct 2014 at 12:38am
CHICAGO (AP) -- Derrick Rose is back, and the Chicago Bulls are relevant again.

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