Star among stars

In a city full of stars and celebrities Kobe Bryant is the biggest star of them all. Even on this Oscar weekend. Kobe Bryant drew a bigger crowd this Saturday, March 1st at the mall. Kobe unveiled his new signature Kobe 9 basketball shoes called the “Elite Masterpiece.” About one thousand or more fans filled the Culver City, Westfield mall to get a glimpse of the 5x Champion of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bean Bryant. Kobe was expected to speak at noon. However he didn’t start speaking until about 2:30. Fans waited patiently for two and a half hours to see the Black Mamba. Finally he arrived and the crowd burst with excitement chanting Kobe, and MVP.

Kobe talked about the Lakers struggles this year and all the haters, and he also said that fans should remember this season because next season the Lakers would be coming back with a vengeance. Kobe uses the negative as fuel for motivation. He also encouraged fans to never give up on their dreams and that nothing can stop them from accomplishing their goals. Kobe recalled a story of when he was in 3rd grade when his counselor asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Kobe said a basketball player of course. The counselor said that he needed to be more realistic. Only 1 in a million make it to the NBA and their are only about 300 players in the NBA. Kobe responded to his teacher that he was 1 of the 300. Thats what Kobe calls #MAMBAmentality. The will and determination to make things happen even when everything looks stacked against you.

“No matter what happens come hell or high water you are gonna do whatever it takes to overcome and win.”

The Lakers are hoping that Kobe can bring that MambaMentality back to the team and reclaim another title. Kobe is chasing his 6th title, and as he always says there is nothing sweeter than winning a ring.

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FARMAR TO THE RESCUE

 

The Lakers turned a meaningless game on Friday into a riveting win. A home game at Staples Center vs the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers at one point trailed by 15 points to the Kings in the second half. The win snapped a 3 game losing streak for the Lakers who now sit at 20-39 for the season and are among the worst teams in the NBA. If the NBA Lottery draft were today the Lakers would have a high probability of having a top 5 pick in the first round. The Kings are not looking good either as they share the same record at 20-39. Both teams are last in the Western Conference.

The Lakers who haven’t played defense all season certainly did not on Friday versus the Kings. The Lakers gave up 122 points but still won the ball game. The Lakers beat the Kings 126-122. The win was fueled by the sharpshooting of Jordan Farmar who scored a career high 30 points and went 8-10 from the 3 point arc. The Lakers also set a team record with 19 three point field goals made as they were 19-27 and shot 70% from beyond the arc. The Lakers as a team shot 60% from the field. Not only did Farmar have the magic touch but so did Jodie Meeks who was perfect from the field at 8-8. Marshon Brooks also had a stellar game as he scored 23 points which was more than the Kings bench. Brooks provided late crucial baskets to put the Kings away with the waning minutes in the fourth quarter. Kent Bazemore called Brooks a young Kobe after his performance on Friday. Bazemore added 12 points on 5-11 shooting. Wesley Johnson had a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Pau Gasol also had a strong game as he scored 22 points 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. This comes after he criticized Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni fired back saying that Lakers players should keep things in house. The irony is that D’Antoni went to the media earlier in the season and threw Pau under the bus.

The Lakers were so much on fire that there lack of defense and turnovers did not keep them from pulling off the comeback win. The Lakers pulled off a miraculous comeback on the shoulders of Farmar, and the late plays of Brooks. In a meaningless game this game was pure up and down back and forth barn burner until the end. The Lakers hope to continue their inspired play as they head out on the road. In a trying and difficult season, these types of wins are memorable and special for the fans. Real Lakers fans stick with their team no matter what. Lakers fans bleed purple and gold.

 

Lakers fans boo Dwight Howard

As expected, Lakers fans booed their one time big man who bolted for the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard. Lakers fans let Dwight have it. Everything from Dwight sucks, Howard sucks, Get out of town, can’t make free throws, Howard heard it all. The fans were raucous in their displeasure for Howard. The game was more about booing Dwight rather than the game itself. 

Nearly from the get go the game was uncompetitive as the Rockets took a 32-22 lead after the first quarter. The Lakers lack of defense helped propel the Rockets to a 64-43 halftime lead. Eventually the Rockets would put the nail in the coffin as they beat the Lakers at Staples Center with a 134-108 win. The boos weren’t enough to stop Howard and the Rockets. Howard finished the game with 20 points and 13 rebounds, James Harden had 29 pts and 11 assists, and Chandler Parsons added 18 pts on 8 of 14 shooting. The Rockets out rebounded the Lakers by 24 at 56 total team rebounds to the Lakers 34.

For the Lakers the key contributors offensively were Jodie Meeks, Kendall Marshall, and Wes Johnson. Meeks scored 19 pts, Marshall had another double-double with 20 points and 16 assists, and Wes Johnson scored a team high of 24 points and collected 7 rebounds. 

The key news for the day actually happened before tipoff. Lakers point guard Steve Blake was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Marshon Brooks, and Kent Bazemore. The Laker faithful was pretty upset with this trade because Blake aka the White Mamba or the Blake Mamba had become a fan favorite with his tough play and three point shooting. 

What do the Lakers need to do? Well simple this season is a complete loss in terms of trying to make the playoffs. Even if the Lakers miraculously came back and were a playoff team they would be the number 8th seed. Lets be honest the Lakers wouldn’t have gone far in the playoffs this season even with a healthy roster. This season was all about clearing salary cap space and making room for potential free agents to come to LA. The Lakers best move for this season is to keep doing what they have been doing which is #TEAMTANK. By tanking this season the Lakers are now sitting at a high draft pick for the NBA Lottery. Currently at the moment the Lakers would have the number 5 pick in the NBA Draft. Draft prospects the Lakers could end up with are the highly coveted (Forward) Andrew Wiggins and (Center) Joel Embiid both playing at the University of Kansas. Also Forward Jabari Parker (Duke) could be available, as well as guard Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State University. Dante Exum was in attendance yesterday for the Lakers Rockets game at Staples Center. Exum is an extremely skilled guard from Australia and he has great respect for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Exum has publicly said that he wants to be drafted by the Lakers. 

“Definitely L.A. is one option,” he said. “I’ve been to L.A. many times and I love the city, and it is a great city. If I get the opportunity to go to L.A. and play for the Lakers, I know I’ll have love for the city. And their fans are loyal and they have the rivalry with the Clippers. But just to be in an environment where you have a great player like Kobe, where you have a mentor in a way as a rookie, I think that would be the best option.”

It may look like dark days are here for the Lakers, but the future is bright for the Laker faithful. The Lakers will have lots of cap space this offseason, and can potentially sign Kevin Love in 2015 or any other big time free agent. Even in 2016 free agents like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be available and they could head to the City of Angels. The Lakers have always been able to rebuild. After the departure of Shaquille O’neal in 2004-05 the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs and were a lottery draft team. In the draft the took another big man named Andrew Bynum and although he was injured throughout his career, he was able to help the Lakers win the 2010 NBA Championship against the Boston Celtics and he was an AllStar in 2011. Lets not forget that the Lakers were able to pull off one of the biggest heists of all time trading Kwame Brown, Jarvis Crittendon for Pau Gasol who helped the Lakers win back to back titles and has been Kobe’s wingman. 

The Lakers future looks very bright with a high draft pick that the team can build around as well as signing a big time free agent to assist Kobe Bryant and hopefully bring number 17 title to the Lakers and help Kobe attain his 6th ring. The Lakers might not be good this season, or maybe even next season but after that they will be a team to reckon with. Kobe is all about championships and legacy and so are the Lakers organization. The Lakers pride themselves in winning and they will definitely be back at the top real soon. Image

Seahawks SuperBowl Bound

My preseason picks of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are facing off in SuperBowl 48 this season. The Seahawks who have the number 1 defense will be matched up against the Broncos who have the number 1 offense. That alone should make for some good drama. The two best teams are clearly playing for the right to be named the Super Bowl Champions and hoist up the Vince Lombardi trophy.

For Seattle fans this is history in the making and a dream come true. Seattle sports are known for disappointing fans throughout the years. The city of Seattle had 1 NBA Championship back in 1979 with the Seattle Sonics and even that team has left the city to become the OKC Thunder. The only other championships that are in Seattle are from the WNBA teams the Seattle Storm who won in 2004 and 2010. But lets be honest how many of us watch or even care about the WNBA. The Mariners a team that tied an MLB record for most wins in 2001 with 116 have never even made the World Series.

So too say the least the Seattle Seahawks and the city are hungry for a SuperBowl Championship. Especially after the Superbowl loss in 2006 to the Pittsburgh (we steal) Steelers who clearly were in cahoots with the referees. So the Seahawks are trying to avenge their one and only Superbowl appearance and loss. The Seahawks hope to make this 2013-14 a memorable season and cement their legacy as champions. This Seahawks team is a better team than the one that lost in 2006. This Seahawks team is the complete package. From Russell Wilson commanding the helms at Quarterback to Beastmode Marshawn Lynch creating seismic Beastquake Earthquakes every time he carries the ball. Don’t even get me started about our defense. The Hawks Defense or as they say in Seattle SEAFENCE is the BEST in the league. As Richard Sherman put it so eloquently after the Hawks beat the Niners in the NFC Championship game on Sunday, “Im the Best corner in the league.” It may come across as arrogance but at least he has proven that statement to be true on the field. Shutdown sherman should truly be his name because sticks to his receivers and does not get beat. In fact anytime that Sherman is targeted it is either intercepted, deflected or an incomplete pass. Sherman leads the NFL with the most interceptions in the regular season with 8 INTs. Along with Sherman is All-Pro Earl Thomas. Earl the Pearl makes big play after big play. The Seahawks secondary is impeccable. Along with the corners are the safeties such as Maxwell and Thurmond who are defensive stoppers. The front seven that includes Big Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett who are sack masters and fumble forcers are truly too much too handle. This Seahawks team is so deep at every position. Russell Wilson has all the offensive tools and weapons and uses his accuracy, decision-making, and athleticism to his and the Seahawks advantage. Hardly will you see Russell make an ill-advised pass or inerrant fumble (insert first play of NFC Championship game). With Beastmode Lynch the Skittles remain flying and the Hawks ground and pound game is want keeps the opponents off balance. Once the Seahawks get things rolling on the ground it opens up the passing game and air attack for Russell Wilson. DangeRuss is just as cerebral and smart as Peyton Manning, the scary thing about Russell is he has tremendous speed, accuracy, and always makes the right play. It is a wonder why he was passed up until the 3rd round of the NFL Draft because of his height. Russell has all the intangibles and everything you want in a Quarterback, not too mention he is a fantastic community driven and family man off the field.

Now lets talk Denver. Honestly just like the Niners game, I’m not that scared. Denver is overloaded with talent offensively but defensively they are not as great as the #1 Seahawks defense. Peyton Manning set the offensive passing record with 55 touchdown passes this season. Manning also set the passing record for most yards thrown in a season (surpassing Drew Brees) with 5,477 yards completed. The product of Tennessee was second in QB rating with a 115 percentage and third in completion percentage at 68.3 percent. The Broncos led the NFL in total offensive yards with 7,317 under Manning, averaging 37.9 points per game and gaining an average of 457 yards per game. Basically this all says that the Broncos are really efficient and a high powered offense that like to air it out with Peyton Manning. However we cannot forget the ground game of the Broncos. The Broncos were 15th in the NFL in total rush yards with 1873 average 117 yards per game. So not the greatest of running teams but a middle of the pack type team on the ground. The Seahawks however make there money on the ground as they were number #4 in total rush yards with 2188 and 138.6 rush yards per game. So the two squads play a very different type of game. Manning has many weapons offensively that he likes to target. Not only that but he likes to spread the wealth and the ball can literally be thrown to anyone. Manning targets his deep threat and number #1 receiver Demaryius Thomas, to his slot and speedster Wes Welker, to his big Tight Ends Julian Thomas and Jacob Tamme, to the lengthy Eric Decker. Peyton is very cerebral and audibles at the line changing the play more than most people change lanes in traffic. Manning will try to draw the Seahawks defense offsides and look for holes in the coverage. The key for Seattle to keep their playmakers back in coverage and play tight man to man. The Seahawks secondary which is the best in the league cannot give up the big plays and lose sight of receivers. If the Seahawks are able to shut down the playmakers for the Broncos and get pressure and sack Manning then it should result in a win for Seattle.

Clock management will be key to this Superbowl. Whoever controls the ball and the clock will determine the outcome of this game. If the Seahawks can sustain long run heavy time burning drives that produce seven they will definitely be favored to come out on top. If Manning and the Broncos can do the same and consistently put up touchdowns then the Broncos will have the edge. Like I said clock management and time of possession that produces scores will determine Super Bowl 48. If the Seahawks defense who was a leader in takeaways and defensive scores can fluster and get pressure on Manning then the Hawks will have a clear advantage and make the load on the offense much easier. Turnover Thursday as the Seahawks say at practice will be crucial against a pass heavy offense like the Broncos.

The X factors in this game for Seattle will be the plays of Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse offensively as well as Beastmode and Russell having success in the passing and running game. Defensively Sherman and Thomas will be key as well as Thurmond and Bobby Wagner making key stops. The 12th man will be huge even though the game is played on a neutral site at Metlife Stadium, the fans will bring the intensity for the Seahawks.

For the Broncos, the X factors are Decker, Welker, Tamme, and of course Peyton. Defensively if the Broncos can get pressure on Russell and limit Lynch to under 100 yards then they will be successful.

Predictions: The Seahawks over the Broncos 20-13. Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman co-MVPs. Marshawn Lynch Beastmode with 148 yards and a touchdown. Seattle will be bringing home their first Super Bowl in Franchise history. Party in the Rain.   Image

Playoff Push (Kobe Time)

                The Lakers have finally started to click and chemistry has developed. These are not the same roll over and kick me dead, diva, drama filled Lakers that started the season. The new and improved Lakers are all about just playing basketball and winning games. No more distractions and finger pointing. After the Memphis loss on January 23rd the team called a players only meeting, and since that point there has been a 180 degree turnaround. These were the same Lakers who were 7 games under .500 at 17-24 and looked like a beaten down dead horse. Well something sparked after that meeting, and everybody turned the focus and intensity up.

Since January 23rd the Lakers have gone 17-8 and currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot over the Utah Jazz by ½ a game. At the moment the Lakers are standing at 34-32 and they have reached above .500 for the first time since November 20th when they were 6-4. The Lakers now control their own destiny simply by winning games. It also has been a tremendous help to the Lakers that the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Utah Jazz have all been struggling mightily and have been dropping games as well. If the Lakers keep winning and the Jazz, Warriors, and Rockets keep free falling then the Lakers could possibly earn a 6th spot in the Western Conference seeding.

            What is the reason that this ship we know as the Lakeshow has changed its course? Well I will spell it out for you with four letters, K-O-B-E. Kobe Bryant has singlehandedly sparked and led the Lakers to successive wins since the All-star game. Since the All-star break, Kobe has been scoring 30.8ppg, 7.3 apg, and 6.6 rpg while shooting near 50%. Kobe will do literally anything it takes to win. Whether that be the role of facilitating and dishing assists to teammates or taking the ball to the rack himself, Kobe taken it upon himself to will this Lakers squad to victory and has determined that this Lakers team will make the playoffs by any means necessary (insert Malcolm X quote here). The resiliency of Kobe has been imprinted onto his teammates and this Lakers team will not give up. The Lakers have had 2 back to back comeback wins in March vs. the New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors. In both of those games the Lakers were down by 20 points or more and rallied back to win the game in the fourth quarter. Kobe scored 42 points 12 assists and 7 rebounds against the Hornets to overcome a 25 point deficit and win the game. The very next night Kobe put up almost identical numbers with 41, 12, and 6. In the Toronto game Kobe hit a game-tying fade-away three to send the game into overtime. From there Kobe displayed his dominance as the Lakers won 118-116 in overtime. Not only is scoring at such a high rate and efficiency but he is also guarding the elite opposing guards in the game, did I mention that Kobe is doing all this at age 34 in his 17th year. Hence the name Kobe has adopted is Vino because his game is like a fine wine that gets only better with age.

            The next reason the Lakers have been playing better basketball is that everyone has accepted their roles. Steve Nash has become a spot up and perimeter shooter, Dwight Howard has become a defensive anchor and rebounder, and Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks have been playing much better coming off the bench. Dwight Howard has been playing much better as of late and it looks like he is getting healthier as he is more active in the paint and on the glass. Since the allstar game Dwight Howard has flipped a switch. Not only does he look healthier and stronger but his play has undoubtedly improved. Post All-star break Dwight is averaging 17ppg, 15rpg, and 2.5 bpg. In his return to Orlando, Howard had a monster game with 39 points, and shot 25-39 from the free throw line, he also had 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. The only other player to put 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks against the Magic is the Diesel Shaquille O’neal. The biggest improvement for Howard is that he is now contesting and altering shots as well as grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds more aggressively. Howard has stopped complaining like a whiny baby and he is now just focused on playing ball and winning. He says that his mindset shifted during the All-star break. Dwight realized that he was fortunate to play with one of the all-time greats in Kobe Bryant and this is his chance to compete for a championship. Howard also said that he has changed his diet and cut out all unnecessary sugars such as skittles and candy bars as well as getting better conditioning in the weight room to help with his improving back.

            With the team much improving and chemistry starting to flow it looks like the Lakers are making a nice run for a playoff push in the Western Conference. Injuries have really slowed this Lakers team down with all their stars missing time from Nash’s lengthy period of time out, to a recovering Dwight Howard playing with a surgically repaired back and torn labrum, and Pau Gasol who is expected to return after missing 6-8 weeks with Plantar Fascia. When everything seems to be going right, some sort of adversity happens again. Kobe last night in a close loss to the Atlanta Hawks, was undercut and suffered a sprained ankle by Dantay Jones which was a clear foul and a chance for the Lakers to tie the game at 94 and to send it into overtime. The X-rays were negative and Kobe is listed out as indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain. The Lakers are estimating that he will most likely not play at least the next 2 games. However we are taking about the Black Mamba who is the ultimate warrior and plays through every sort of pain and injury imaginable, so you never know. One thing that is for certain is that the Lakers must continue to control their own destiny from here on out by winning as many games as possible. These Lakers cannot afford to play under .500 ball. Every game matters from here. All Lakers fans everywhere are praying for a speedy and healthy recovery for Kobe Bryant so that the Lakers will make the playoffs and have at least a chance to compete for a title.

Magic Mamba

People often say that Kobe Bryant does not share the ball enough. Well in the last six games Kobe is averaging Magic Johnson type numbers in terms of assists with 10apg. The Lakers have won five of their last six games as the Black Mamba has turned into the Magic Mamba. This new look Lakers team has looked very exiting these last 6 games with excellent ball movement spearheaded by #24 himself. Kobe came up one short (with 14assists) in back to back games versus Utah and OKC both constituting wins. His career high in assists was set back on February 12, 2002 with 15.

The fact however is that Kobe now is instilling trust and confidence in his teammates. This whole season Kobe Bryant has had to bail out the Lakers and will the team to victories because nobody else was stepping up. Kobe’s “Magic” Johnson type numbers have soared recently because his teammates are now actually making their shots and converting on their field goal opportunities. Kobe has consistently been sharing the ball even prior to this last assist heavy stretch. For this season Kobe is already above his career assist average of 4.7apg with 5.4apg. So to say that Kobe Bryant has just started passing the ball is wildly inaccurate and off kilter.

Kobe has been sharing the basketball and is actively trying to get other teammates involved. The difference these last 6 games have been his teammates actually making shots when Kobe has passed it to them hence the hike in the assists per game. Yes Kobe is shooting less shots but that is because his teammates are starting to make more of their own. Over the last six games Kobe is averaging 14 field goal attempts per game and is scoring 17ppg with 7.6rpg. In this stretch Kobe has averaged numbers rivaling the Big O Oscar Robertson and Earvin Magic Johnson. These stats are point guard like numbers not shooting guard numbers. Not only has Kobe been actively finding his teammates for open shots but he has sacrificed his own game for the sake of his team. Kobe lead the league in scoring with almost 30ppg going into this six game stretch and now has fell to 3rd in the NBA in scoring at 27.7 ppg.

The most unselfish act I have ever seen from any player in any sport came from the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant on Friday’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kobe had a wide open fastbreak dunk with nobody even remotely in sight, but Kobe flipped the ball to his pal Pau Gasol and unselfishly gave the big man a two handed slam to boost his confidence. What Kobe did for Gasol was beyond just a regular assist, it was an act of belief. He showed Gasol with his actions that he believes that #16 is still one of the best big men of the NBA and that even in this tough patch D’Antoni making Pau “ride the pine,” that Kobe Bryant still has his back. Another example of instilling confidence in his team was in the same game, Kobe drove into the lane then kicked the ball out to the artist formerly known as Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace for three, then Metta missed it and Kobe had the audacity to pass it to him again. This time Metta drained the trey and was smiling ear to ear. This is the sort of leadership and trust that Kobe has taken upon himself to elevate his team to start winning games and become actively involved in all aspects of the game. Since guys feel confidence offensively they have became more engaged defensively.

After the Lakers had a players meeting in Memphis, they have come together as a collective group to play team basketball. The team went from a get mine mentality to an all for one mentality. These Lakers now play for each other and it stems from the top down with the alpha dog Kobe Bryant leading the charge. Kobe has showed a willingness and trust in his teammates believing in them even when they might not have belief in themselves. When asked if the Lakers talked about Kobe becoming more of a play-maker and facilitator, Kobe said it just happened. He didn’t discuss it with anyone; he just took it upon himself to do what he thought would help the team win games. Will Kobe remain as the great play-maker and facilitator? Well as long as the Lakers keep winning games he will. All that matters to KB24 is wins. At this stage of his career Kobe Bryant could care less about his personal numbers and more about the team winning and hopefully making the playoffs with championship aspirations. As for now the Lakers are taking it one game at a time.