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.

Advertisements

#Kobe30k

Kobe Bean Bryant is once in a generation, better yet once in a lifetime type of player. When I will be talking basketball with my future children and grandchildren Kobe will be the emphasis of how great the NBA was back in my good ol’ days. No player has scored at such a successful rate with such fluidity and grace. What I am concerned with is that our generation takes Kobe for granted, and with all the critics and haters they are missing out on true greatness. Kobe has already entered into the top 5 greatest players of all time. On Wednesday December 5th 2012, Kobe became the youngest of only the 5 players in NBA history to score 30,000 career points, and joins Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain to accomplish such a feat. Not only that, but Kobe Bryant is the Lakers all-time franchise leading scorer. That fact alone is simply mind boggling. Kobe Bryant has scored more points in a Lakers uniform than the all-time greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, Shaquille O’neal, James Worthy, and the list goes on.

The most impressive fact is that Kobe Bryant has scored over 30,000 points and counting with 1 team (the Los Angeles Lakers) and has won 5 NBA championships to go along with it. Kobe not only scores at will but he also plays defense. There are a lot of players that are good offensively but they don’t play defense on the other end of the floor. Kobe does everything offensively and defensively. He is a 12 time All defensive team player (9x 1st team All Defensive, 3x 2nd team All Defensive). Kobe Bryant is one of those Hall of Famer legendary players that generations will speak of forever. KB24 is a 2x Finals MVP and a regular season MVP. The craziest fact is that Kobe Bryant has spent half of his life in the NBA playing for the Lakers and has logged in over 43,077 minutes in a total of 1,180 games. Kobe has proven to be the most durable workhorse in the NBA. Kobe is the ultimate warrior, year in year out playing through injuries yet never making excuses just finding a way to win games and contribute for the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant has all the tools one could only dream to possess. He has the unguardable fadeaway jumper, the long range three pointer, the emphatic dunk, and even the baby hook. The problem for every defender is that no matter how good they guard him the Black Mamba still finds a way to score. The greatest thing about Kobe is his mentality to win. No matter the cost, no matter the outcome he wills his team to victory. I have never seen a player who has hit more gametying or gamewinning shots like that of Kobe Bean Bryant. The clutchness of Kobe is sheerly unmatched and his will to win and determination for greatness is unparalleled.

Not only has Kobe reached the elite status of 30,000 points for his career, but he is also playing at the highest level in his 17th season in the NBA at age 34. Kobe has shot the ball extremely well with career high efficiency at 50% while leading the league in scoring at 27.4 points ppg. Kobe is firing on all cylinders and is determined to win his 6th Championship Ring and the Lakers 17th. The Lakers found a gem in 1996 when they traded the Charlotte Hornets in the draft to gain Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac. Kobe, Kareem, Magic, Wilt, West all will be known as Lakers Legends for life. Kobe is surely to be the next statue outside of Staples Center. When it is all said and done Kobe has the chance to become the NBA’s career leading scorer if he keeps at the pace he is now for the next 4-5 years. Regardless if Kobe breaks Kareem’s all-time scoring record of 38,387, Kobe will definitely enter the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.  Much love to KB24.

                                                              -Mamba Out

One down 81 to go

The hype for the new look revamped Lakers was more anticipated than Godzilla hitting the streets of Japan. The Lakers have tons of pressure to not only make the 2013 NBA Finals but to win it. That is what happens when you sign Steve Nash and trade for Dwight Howard. Not only did the Lakers make a splash in the off-season with its new superstar acquisitions but they emptied out the whole Pacific Ocean. The Lakers now have the highest payroll in the NBA with 100 million and expectations are through the roof for this team.

Last night however the Lakers that we thought we would see did not show up. For the first 2 quarters we saw glimpses of the at times dominant high flying OOP universe Lakers, but that was merely a shadow. Am I saying that Lakers fans should already hit the panic button and jump ship? Hell no! I still believe that the Lakers are the most talented team and even the deepest team in the NBA. However there are many things that did concern me about the Lakers opening day lost to the Dirkless Mavs, led by the ancient Vince Carter, Elton Brand, and Shawn Marion (aka the 2006 allstar team).

The areas the Lakers need to tighten up and real quick are free throw shooting, defense, offensive tempo, Princeton offense, and running in transition. The Lakers were abysmal from the free throw line last night at 12-31 for 38%. 12 of 31 is completely unacceptable, it is called a free throw because that’s exactly what it is a FREE throw. This mostly has to do with Dwight Howard who was 3-14 from the line or 21%. The last Laker to shoot a lower free throw percentage (with a minimum of 10 attempts) was Shaq who in 2004 who went 2-13 for 15%. Jordan Hill was also horrendous from the free throw line at 1-6 for 16%. If Dwight Howard alone makes at least 75% of his free throws or better the Lakers win their home opener. I think that with proper coaching Dwight Howard’s free throw percentage will go up but we just have to be patient as fans. The focus for Dwight in practice should be 2-3 hours of repetitive free throw shooting. Once you practice something so long eventually you master it and it will become second nature to him. The reason why Dwight will improve his free throw shooting and not be the next Shaq all comes down to his release. Shaq had no follow through on his shot, he essentially pushed the ball like he was shot-putting a peach into the basket. I don’t think that was Dr Naismith’s original intent for the game of basketball by the way. If Dwight can improve his free throw percent to a mere 75% the Lakers will have a much easier time holding leads and closing out games because than you can’t hack a Dwight. So far it looks like Superman has found his kryptonite and that is Free throw shooting.

What is Mike Brown thinking with this so called Princeton Offense? I could coach this team to a perfect season with all that talent he has been given. Forget the Princeton offense and reacting to what the defense gives you and making your offensive reads off that. Instead keep it simple and run the pick and roll with Nash to Gasol and Howard. The Lakers have the best passing point guard in the game but yet he is limited to coming off ball screens and not handling the ball. I am baffled how Mike Brown thinks that Pau Gasol should run point forward and not Steve Nash. The Lakers should not be running a read and react offense but they should be running an attack pick and roll offense. When the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant is on your team you must know that you always need to attack. Attack the front of the rim and get easy oops and run on the fastbreak with Nash to Howard. I hope by June I am apologizing vehemently to Mike Brown regarding this Princeton offense but for now I think the Lakers should push the offensive tempo and get out on the run and use pick and roll often. For gosh sake even resurrect the Triangle at least Kobe, Metta, and Gasol know how to run that!

The biggest knock I have from last night’s game was the defense or lack of it. There was no ball pressure, no defensive tenacity at all. The Lakers seemed disinterested on that side of the ball and more concerned with trying to know where to be in the new Princeton offense. Defense leads to turnovers and fastbreaks. Mike Brown is acclaimed for being a defensive guru but he clearly hasn’t lived up to his acclaimed title. Last night the Lakers gave up 99 points to a Dirkless Mavs team who had 3 vintage stars in the Protozoa era. It is on the coach to mentally prepare the players to play and sustain defensive pressure and intensity for 48 minutes. Last year the Lakers gave up 95.9 ppg. That definitely does not sound like a defensive genius to me. The Lakers need to honker down on Defense and make sure they are protecting the rim, causing turnovers, and contesting jump shots. There was way too many easy layups and dunks that were just from a lack of defensive effort. Also the pick and roll defense was nonexistent as the Lakers need to do a better job of switching and covering the open man after the screen.

Do I still believe in my Lakers? Yes of course. This new Lakers squad has just been assembled and it will take awhile to gel. They are working out there kinks and it might take a while before there is complete chemistry happening. As Metta said “chemistry is a bad word because it blows things up, I like to use love or togetherness.” The only thing that matters is that the Lakers are clicking and firing on all cylinders in June. The postseason is when the real season begins, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try to perfect your craft in the regular season. Dwight also chimed in “just because we have a talented team it’s just not gonna click. It takes time. Just gotta continue to stay focused.”

The biggest focus for the Lakers is to improve on free throw shooting, make that a priority for Dwight and the bigs; also pick and roll frequently with Nash and the Towers, and to play with defensive intensity and create turnovers forcing bad shots, blocks and getting steals in the open court.

“We have 81 more games to play and Rome wasn’t built in a day. That’s what somebody told me.” –Superman

All He Does is Lin

Linning, Linsanity, Lincredible, All he does is Lin, Linning Streak, Linfamous, BalLin these are all adjectives used to describe New York Knicks point guard the Asian Sensation Jeremy Lin. Lin has became the new Tim Tebow. The popularity of Lin has grown so fast that he has transformed from the nerdy girl to the popular hott cheerleader. There are some players that are naturally more gifted, more athletic, and just flat out better athletes, but like Tebow, Lin has risen to the occasion and has taken full advantage of maybe his last chance at success. Tebow and Lin are not the best athletes but there is one thing I know for sure is they both know how to win. They may not be the most talented but their hardwork, determination, and will have helped them to win and succeed in the highest level of professional competition. The great thing about Lin as well as Tebow is that they both are humble men and they give credit to their Lord Jesus as well as their teammates and coaches. Give honor to whom honor is due, and that’s exactly what Tebow and Lin express with their play and conduct on and off the field.

After Lin torched by beloved Lakers for 38 points on 10-13 shooting I knew this kid became the real deal. Jeremy is BalLin, in the last 5 games he has averaged 26.8ppg, 8 apg, 4.2rpg, and 2 steals per game. The Asian sensation is on a winning Streak and can’t be stopped. Lin has led the Knicks to a 5 game Linning streak in his first 5 starts of his career as point guard for the New York Knicks. On the biggest stage NY and playing in MSG (Madison Square Garden) Lin has played some of the best basketball of any player this year. To overshadow Kobe Bryant in MSG is Lincredulous that just does NOT happen. Kobe had a great night by all means scoring 34 points and 10 rebounds getting a double-double, but some how Lin blew up to score 38 points and lead his team to a victory in MSG where the Lakers have owned them going 9-0 for the last 5 years. For Jeremy Lin’s first 5 games as a starter he scored 25 against the Nets, 28 vs. the Jazz, 23 and 10 reb against Washington, 38 against the Lakers, and 20 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the absence of Carmelo Anthony (injured groin) and Amare Stoudemire (death of brother) Lin has done the Greg Jennings and put the team on his back doh! Lin has found the right system with Mike D’Antoni, run and gun, pick and roll offense and he has ran with his new opportunity to shine on one of the biggest stages in sports.

Lin has literally blown up the Twitter world as well with his name Trending throughout the day, he has became an overnight sensation, and he now gives hope to all of those Asian kids playing basketball through out the world.  Jeremy Lin’s roots start out as a college player at Harvard University. I know what you’re thinking. Harvard? Yes Harvard. Lin was not recruited heavily out of high school and the only schools that showed interest in him were Harvard and Brown University. Lin chose to attend Harvard without an athletic scholarship and merely as a regular student who also played basketball almost like a walk-on. Most college coaches overlooked Lin and said that he could not play basketball well at a higher level. Former Cornell head coach now at Boston College, Phil Donahue assessed the play of Lin by saying, “But he didn’t look that athletic, and he didn’t shoot it all that well. Even after his freshman year at Harvard, you didn’t give it a second thought that we made a mistake.” The fact is that every major college overlooked Lin. The same thing happened to Lin in the NBA draft. Honestly nobody in their right minds examines the draft board and takes a second look at an Ivy League player from Harvard, especially an Asian point guard. So like his college recruitment no NBA teams thought Lin was worth drafting. In the 2010 NBA draft Jeremy Lin did not hear his name called from the 60 other names.

However Lin was able to get invited to the NBA summer league where he posted decent enough numbers (9.8 pts, 3.2 rpg, 1.8 apg) to capture a contract from the Golden State Warriors. With the Warriors he played in 29 games (no starts) and averaged 2.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg, and 1.4 apg. The Warriors eventually cut Lin after his unimpressive resume at Golden State. The Houston Rockets were up next as they offered Jeremy Lin a contract. The Rockets claimed Lin off waivers and assigned him to their D-league (minors) where he was cut once again to clear room for the signing of 7 foot Center Samuel Dalembert. On December 27th 2011, Lin’s future started to change; he was picked up by the New York Knicks off waivers. If you told me this same Lin would become a starter and average over 26 points per game with the Knicks in 5 starts and score 38 points against the Lakers I would say there is no way in Hell! Hell would literally have to freeze over for this kid to start let alone post 26+ ppg. That is exactly what happened, Hell froze and Linsanity took over. It is Linsane how fast Lin has grown in popularity but it is more Lincredible how fast he has acclimated himself to the pro game in such a short time. His play during his last 5 starts has been nothing short of a Tim Tebow 4th quarter miracle win. For a guy that was not recruited and also undrafted to have this kind of success especially in the NBA is almost unheard of let alone nearly impossible for the fact he is of the Asian decent. We have never seen an Asian point guard play in the NBA let alone score big points and lead his team to consecutive victories. In Lin’s first 4 starts he has scored 109 points which is the most of any player surpassing that of Allen Iverson, Shaq, and Michael Jordan.

Lin’s upside and potential is great, and I do think he can flat out ball, he has the shot and the quickness as well as the decision making to be a great point guard in this league. The fact is that he has only played 5 games and all without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Do I think his numbers will increase when both Melo and Amare get back? Absolutely. How could they not? Amare and Melo are both superstars who demand the ball to be in their hands. Melo needs to dominate the ball by bringing it up and driving to the hoop. Melo creates his own shots, and Amare needs his touches as well. The concern is more for how will Melo and Lin play together. No question that Lin can run the pick and roll with Amare all day or feed the big man down low like the glory days of D’Antoni’ Suns with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. But the fact is Carmelo demands the ball in his hands and he is not the player to have a shot created for him. Carmelo will not come off of down screens and catch and shoot. That is not who he is. Instead Melo is a point forward similar to Lebron and he loves to dribble drive and penetrate to the hoop. So how can a scoring yet unselfish point guard like Lin and Carmelo exist? Virtually they cannot. The only solution would be for Melo not to bring up the ball and not have as many touches in the game. For Melo and Lin and the Knicks to be effective, Melo needs to learn to play without the ball and post up as well as roll off back screens created for him like Ray Allen does in Boston. I think Melo and Lin will be most effective if Melo can learn the post up like Kobe Bryant did a few years back and score on smaller defenders without bringing the ball up in the front court. Melo can utilize that turn around jumper with his post game or take it strong to the rack. That is the only way that Melo and Lin can survive together. Then again you forget about Amare Stoudemire. Amare needs the ball in the post as well. So it is inevitable that Lin’s numbers especially points will drop down. I think that when the big 3 (Amare, Lin, and Melo) and Chandler are all on the court at the same time that Lin will increase in assists but his points will take a severe hit. Forecasting Lin to be averaging 12ppg with 9apg and 5rp. Still good numbers but a significant decrease from his 26 ppg right now.

Lin is very fortunate and he reiterates the fact in his interviews as he thanks God for his new found opportunity with the Knicks. J-Lin has found the perfect system with D’Antoni that fits him exactly. The pick and roll offense along with the run and gun nature high tempo is exactly the type of offense that has helped Jeremy succeed. If Lin was in a different system lets say the half-court set he might not have the same results that he has now. It truly has been Linsanity the way he has played these last 5 games but when you hear people say that he is better than Kobe you must tell them to pump their breaks. Kobe Bryant is an all-time great, 5x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2x Scoring Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 1 regular season MVP; and Jeremy Lin essentially has only had 5 career starts but put up some impressive numbers. Jeremy Lin’s career is so short you cannot compare him really to anybody. Yes he is really good, but no, he is not anything near the level of greatness of Kobe Bryant. To say that Jeremy Lin upstaged Kobe is ridiculous. He scored more than Kobe at MSG which nobody does, but it is also 1 game and in that same game Kobe had no help from Bynum and his bench was non-existent yet Kobe still scored 34 points and 10 boards. So please no more comparisons between Lin and Kobe or Lin and any other player. Let Lin be Lin. Lin is a unique talent to the NBA and he is something the NBA has never seen before. He is an Asian American point guard leading the Knicks in scoring and wins.

Will the Linning Streak continue? Will Linsanity remain? I think so, but when Melo and Amare come back Lin’s points will drop quite a bit but his well rounded game will stay in tact. The good thing about Lin is that he is unselfish and does not need to score unlike his teammates Carmelo and Amare. Lin will be a true point guard and as he will facilitate to Melo and his bigs (Amare & Chandler). All I can say so far is that what Jeremy has done in his first 5 starts is truly Linsanity!