Archive for the ‘Kobe Bryant’ Category

The 2012-13 NBA season has concluded and the playoffs are on the near horizon.

Here are the Western Conference first round series:

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (8) Houston Rockets

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) LA Lakers

(3) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Golden State Warriors

(4) LA Clippers vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Breakdown and Predictions

(1) Thunder vs (8) Rockets:

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Almost one full year removed from the Thunder’s defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder stand as the top contender and No. 1 seed in the Western Conference entering the 2013 playoffs.

Arguably, the biggest off-season move made in 2012 was the Thunder’s trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets, after failing to reach an agreement to extend the sixth-man-of-the-year’s contract.

Harden has proven himself among the NBA’s elite, ranking fifth in points per game over the season at 25.9. On an interestingly ironic side-note, Harden scored a career-high 46 points against the Thunder Feb. 20th 2013.

The Rockets may need four of those games from Harden in order to pull out a series victory though.

The Thunder won the regular season series against the Rockets 2-1. Without any player capable of shutting down Kevin Durant, Houston will need to score 125 points a game this series to compete. I can see that happening possibly once at home, but that’s it.

Prediction – Thunder win series 4-1

(2) Spurs vs (7) Lakers:

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There’s something about this series that screams “coin toss.”

A month ago, this match-up would likely have been dubbed an “easy sweep” for the Spurs. However, with the Lakers winning five straight games entering the postseason and the Spurs losing seven of their last ten, LA isn’t looking quite as outmatched.

Even without Kobe Bryant (out with Achilles injury), the Lakers have had success shooting the ball and big men, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, have been solid.

The coin flip aspect of this series, I feel, stems from the feeling that both the Spurs’ bad recent play and the Lakers’ stellar recent play are both anomalies, that could swap back at any time.

Only because I think it would be humorous to see the Lakers advance without the help of Kobe Bryant, will I give the Lakers the benefit of the doubt.

Prediction – Lakers win series 4-3

(3) Nuggets vs (6) Warriors:

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With two of the up-and-coming teams in the West, this series between Denver and Golden State may be the most high-flying and action-packed.

Both the Nuggets and Warriors average over 100 points per game. Alternately, they both allow over 100 points per game, so prepare for some classic offensive battles.

Heading the Warriors’ offense will be rising star Stephen Curry, who just broke Ray Allen’s single season 3 point field goal record. Leading Denver will be Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and Corey Brewer.

Denver won the regular season series 3-1 with the lone loss coming on the road 106-105. I anticipate similar results.

Prediction – Denver wins series 4-1

(4) Clippers vs (5) Grizzlies:

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This series is an intriguing one in that the L.A. Clippers are the poster children for in-your-face, highlight-reel style basketball, while the Memphis Grizzlies are the prototype for flying under the radar with consistency and defense.

The Grizzlies are first in the NBA in points allowed at just 89.4 points per game allowed. I doubt the Clippers will worry much as they tend to gravitate towards the high percentage shots (A.K.A. the alley oop)

Memphis has their work cut out for them. We’ll see if they can use their size and defense to slow the game and make the Clippers beat them with range. I expect they will.

Prediction – Clippers win series 4-2

There you have it. Enjoy the Western Conference first round match-ups.

Jazz Lakers

After a heartbreaking loss to cross-town-rival L.A. Clippers, the Lakers are once again on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.

That coveted eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff seedings is now held by the Utah Jazz, after they beat the Golden State Warriors on the road.

The Jazz hold a current half-game lead over the Lakers, which, because the Jazz own the tiebreaker between the two, is actually a 1 1/2 game lead. In other words, the Jazz’s proverbial destiny is in their own hands. Win out, and they’re in.

But, how likely is it that the Jazz win out? Not likely. However, the Lakers schedule is no treat either.

Jazz remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs Oklahoma City

4/12 – vs Minnesota

4/15 – at Minnesota

4/17 – at Memphis

Lakers remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs New Orleans

4/10 – at Portland

4/12 – vs Golden State

4/14 – vs San Antonio

4/17 – vs Houston

Mathematically, the Lakers need to win two more of their remaining games than the Jazz do. (i.e. if the Jazz win three of their four, the Lakers must win all five remaining games)

Looking at the Jazz’s remaining games against the Lakers’ remaining games, it seems highly unlikely that the Lakers get that spot back.

I would bet the Jazz end up winning three of their four games, with the lone loss coming against the Thunder at home.

This puts the Lakers in a terrible spot. Winning all five games is going to be nearly impossible. Nearly.

The two games I can see as the Lakers’ biggest issues are San Antonio and Houston.

The good news for LA is that both of those games are at home and both of those games are the last games of the season, which means both the Spurs and Rockets may be resting starters by then, as both of them have clinched their playoff spots.

The bad news, is that the Lakers aren’t exactly the most popular team in the NBA and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that every team remaining on the Lakers’ schedule would love to play the “spoiler” role.

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The Lakers struggles this season have been front page news. How could they not be? With the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the firing and hiring of Head Coaches Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, respectively, this season has commanded nothing short of top attention.

To the surprise of most, the Lakers’ off-season moves to bring in top offensive talent, Nash, and defensive talent, Howard, has not panned out. At least, not as far as wins go.

With a record of 20-26, the Lakers are currently 10th in the Western Conference and four games out of 8th.

No one, besides perhaps the Lakers fanbase, has taken these struggles harder than Kobe Bryant. Makes sense, considering Bryant may be one of the most proud players in the league. He has also seen more victories than most other players too.

It seems Kobe has had to learn a hard lesson; his selfish scorer ways have been not only unnecessary, but seemingly counter-productive. 21 times this season Bryant has scored 30+ points. The Lakers are 7-14 in those games and 13-12 in games when he scores under 30.

Recently, Kobe has taken on the role of not only scorer, but facilitator. Sound familiar?

Michael Jordan was not revolutionary because he could score. Wilt Chamberlain scored. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored. Jordan changed the game by the way he scored, passed AND rebounded, making his teammates better.

Without Phil Jackson around implementing his triangle offense, Kobe has turned over a new leaf, or at least the last four games. Bryant has averaged 11 assists per game the last four games, up from his career 4.7 per game average.

The Lakers record the last four games? 3-1.

Now we’ll see if Kobe can keep it up.

Miami Heat

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Well, it’s happening a lot sooner than I had anticipated.

The national media circuits are beginning to pay positive attention to the Miami Heat. Note: I said Miami Heat, not LeBron James.

ESPN created a monster in producing and airing “The Decision,” the hour-long special in which LeBron James revealed he would be leaving Cleveland after 6 years with no rings.

The weeks leading up to “The Decision” were filled with shameless advertising and hype. News segments were mere rumors and speculation. In one day, LeBron would start out leaning towards New York, by noon it was Chicago or New Jersey, and by the time the actual day came around, most everyone already knew LeBron was going to leave to go to Miami.

All signs pointed to him leaving!

And the Cleveland fans knew it because the media knew it (more or less). Therefore, you saw the Cavs fans making pleas, literally begging LeBron not to go.

All I’m saying is, James’ decision did not shock anyone.

What did shock me was how quickly the media turned its back on its involvement in the whole “Decision” debacle. Sports T.V. shows, sports talk radio hosts, and the overall sports community spent easily the entirety of the next week speaking of nothing besides the Miami Heat and specifically LeBron James.

They gaged the country’s opinion on “The Decision” and when they found it to be overwhelmingly negative, they washed their hands of LeBron, painted a picture of a villainous fiend, and tossed him under the bus.

The regular season talk was focused on different players throughout the year but one theme rang true loudly: The national media have withheld spotlight from James as an individual when it applies to praise for excellent play. Instead, they direct the praise to the Heat as a whole, or to Dwyane Wade.

This is not to say that LeBron is under the radar. The media are more than happy to talk about James’ shortcomings, missed opportunities, etc.

Now that the Heat have shown brightly the first round and beginning of the second round, the national media is catching on to something: This Miami Heat team is good. Very, very good.

In the sports news business, it’s all about being first to break news or being the first to predict the champion. When their horse goes down (i.e. Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, etc) often times, the analysts or radio hosts will simply pick a new team he/she claims to have known all along would win it all.

As a lonely passenger at times on the LeBron bandwagon, it has been, at times, hilarious to watch these analysts pretend other players deserve the MVP, blowing losses out of proportion, and force-feeding the masses inflated and irrelevant stats to dismiss LeBron’s dominance.

I figured it would take more time before the same people who threw James under the bus would crawl back and play nice.

LeBron said way back when this whole media frenzy started getting vicious that he was going to keep track of the nay sayers.

I hope he unleashes on someone to be honest. I hope he throws down on a reporter who ripped James’ integrity during “The Decision” hot bed. I hope he calls one of these smile-fakers out, quoting the outrageous attacks on his leadership qualities, finishing capabilities or work ethic.

There won’t be much left to say when Miami’s “Big 3” are raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

It doesn’t matter what color the uniforms, when LeBron and Kobe are going to be on the court at the same time, it’s the biggest event of the season. The fact that it’s only going to happen twice a year, presumably, until Kobe retires (barring a meeting in the NBA finals), turns the media and fans ravenous.

Discussions of who the better player is between the two, who would you rather have on your team, and endless comparison’s and polls (which I find ridiculous anyway since, clearly, LeBron is the superior player) can be found on every Sportscenter report, sports talk radio, and NBA pre-game interviews.

After losing to the Chicago Bulls at home, Coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned during his post-game interview that some “guys were crying in the locker room.” Needless to say, the media blew those words up to the point where it was front page news.

The Heat struggled their way to a 5 game losing streak going into this match-up with the Lakers.

Most NBA analysts wrote the Heat off after going winless in 5 straight games. Add in the fact that the Lakers were on an 8 games win streak, and I suppose you could find good justification.

LeBron, as he has in 10 of 16 games against Kobe (including the last 4 straight), walked off the court the victor.

Who’s crying now?

Winning in the NBA, when all is said and done, comes down to really only 2 things; match-ups and depth. I can prove it with a little formula I thought of for the All-Star game. To show a correlation between a team’s representation in the All-Star game and its place in the rankings, I’ve created a simple point system. 5 points per starter a team has and 3 points per reserve. The rankings worked out in this order.

East:

1. Miami Heat – 13 points (2 Starters: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, 1 Reserve: Chris Bosh)

2. Boston Celtics – 12 points (4 Reserves: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen)

3. Atlanta Hawks – 6 points (2 Reserves: Joe Johnson and Al Horford)

4. Chicago Bulls – 5 points (1 Starter: Derek Rose)

– Orlando Magic – 5 points (1 Starter: Dwight Howard)

– New York Knicks – 5 points (1 Starter: Amar’e Stoudemire)

West:

1. LA Lakers – 8 points (1 Starter: Kobe Bryant 1 Reserve: Pau Gasol)

– OK City Thunder – 8 points (1 Starter: Kevin Durant 1 Reserve: Russell Westbrook)

3. San Antonio Spurs – 6 points (2 Reserves: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili)

4. New Orleans Hornets – 5 points (1 Starter: Chris Paul)

5. Denver Nuggets – 5 points (1 Starter: Carmello Anthony)

6. Dallas Mavericks – 3 points (1 Reserve: Dirk Nowitzki)

7. Utah Jazz – 3 points (1 Reserve: Deron Williams)

8. LA Clippers – 3 points (1 Reserve: Blake Griffin)

9. Minnesota Timerwolves – 3 points (1 Reserve: Kevin Love)

First, let’s look at the East. Aside from the fact that the Heat and Celtics are currently 2nd and 1st in the actual current standings, respectively, this point system loosely reflects the standings of the top 6 teams in the Eastern Conference standings to date.

The Western Conference is a little more spread out, talent-wise. The team with the conference’s worst record is even represented with a reserve player (Kevin Love). However, the point rings true as all 3 top teams in the conference, San Antonio, Dallas and Los Angeles are all represented by 2 All-Stars, while the remaining 6 All-Stars are lone team selections.

I’m sure this same formula could be applied when the Lakers were boasting both Kobe and Shaq as All-Star starters back when they were winning 3 titles in a row. Nothing has changed. Only the names and faces.

When you hear LA, NBA, and king, you would sooner think of Kobe Bryant before Blake Griffin. I agree. Kobe has 5 championship rings, all with the LA Lakers. Blake Griffin is playing in his rookie year.

I say King of LA in comparison of course to LeBron James. I wrote an article a week or so ago about which of the two(Griffin or James) had the more impressive highlight reel. Watching Blake Griffin play basketball will remind you of LeBron‘s style. Griffin stands 2 inches taller than LeBron at 6’10” and can jump unlike anyone besides “King James”.

Griffin has averaged 22.8 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game through his first 44 games as a pro. James averaged 20.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG through his rookie year. Granted, LeBron was 18 years old his rookie year, 4 years younger than Griffin this year. Griffin is by far the rookie of the year and possibly even MVP.

LeBron has already seen his numbers take a hit at the cost of playing with 2 other NBA stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It’s unlikely that Kobe will win the MVP this year either as his Lakers have slowed a step or two since last season. Dirk Nowitzki and Derek Rose are competitors for the title thus far as well, but one thing is for sure, Blake Griffin is the real deal and as long as he can stay healthy (he missed his “would be” rookie year in ’09-’10 season with a knee injury), he has the potential to not only win the MVP this season but be dominant in the NBA for a long time.

The could-be “trump card” that Griffin holds over all other MVP candidates this year is that Nowitzki and Rose types all have good to great supporting casts. Griffin, does not. Griffin’s pure talent has earned him his numbers. His play-making and sharp-shooting abilities are phenomenal.

Like LeBron, Griffin uses his size and athleticism to overpower and just plain outwork the opposition.

Griffin deserves all the praise and attention he has received so far and if the Clippers can draft or trade for some promising players, who knows? Maybe the Clippers can become the ’06-’10 Cavaliers of the West