Posts Tagged ‘Kobe Bryant

Too much Kobe, too little fight; Valanciunas’ defensive improvements intrigue; Silver lining to DeRozan injury?

- December 1st, 2014

On a lot of nights, the Raptors can sleepwalk though a game early, but still come back to win. On Sunday in Los Angeles, without DeMar DeRozan, and with Kobe Bryant turning in a vintage performance, the challenge was just a little too steep.

- So concerned with Bryant, the Raptors converged on him, which left Lakers wide open all evening and Bryant was in a giving mood with the holiday season approaching. His teammates hit enough shots to get him his 20th triple double of his career – and – a much-needed win after four straight losses.

- Don’t get carried away by Toronto’s fine 25 assists, eight turnover numbers. The Lakers are atrocious defensively, so those stats don’t say much, other than the offence wasn’t the problem for the visitors. L.A. shot 57% in the second quarter and outrebounded the Raptors 14-9. You can’t follow one lazy quarter with another and be in good shape to grab a win.

- Yet, despite shooting 1-for-11 from three in the first half, despite Kobe’s near triple-double, the Raptors were within six points of the Lakers. How? Mostly it was because of a 34-12 points in the paint edge through 24 minutes. The Lakers lack rim protectors and Toronto took advantage.

- The Raptors kept attacking in the third quarter, something that powers their offensive attack and is a huge reason why they rank near the top of the NBA in scoring, and it paid off with 12 trips to the free throw line. With DeRozan sidelined, the rest of the players will have to make a concerted effort to make sure they are aggressive. Kyle Lowry can’t do it for 40 minutes a night, it would be too draining over a long season, but the others need to make sure they get to the line early and often.

- You can argue with some of the fouls – including half of the ones called on James Johnson – but the Raptors didn’t exactly deserve this one. Would the timeout Lowry was asking for after a great defensive play by Jonas Valanciunas stopped Bryant in his tracks have given them a shot? Sure, but those are the breaks. In the end, they had a shot in overtime and they couldn’t make it count. They took the Lakers lightly and paid for it, even though Dwane Casey warned Kobe and his teammates would be a “wounded animal” because of their losing streak.

- Tyler Hansbrough returned and played nine of Toronto’s better minutes. Coincidentally or not, the guy who had taken his minutes while he was out, Chuck Hayes, had perhaps his least effective effort of the year. The Lakers bigs converted far too easily throughout this entire game, though, surprisingly, the Lakers didn’t go to them often enough, considering the success they were having.

- They’ve been working a lot for a while now on Valanciunas’ verticality – going straight up to defend attempts at the rim without fouling – and he’s been far better at it this year. He’s also been better defending the pick-and-roll. Those are two great signs for the Raptors.

- It’s too bad that DeRozan will be out until at least the New Year, but the one positive is this will allow other players to gain some confidence as their roles get expanded and it will also give the Raptors a taste of adversity now that could pay off down the line. If you are rolling and everything seems easy, it is easy to get complacent. Complacency in pro sports means death. This shakes things up a little bit and makes DeRozan’s injury not solely a negative thing (though he’d argue differently).

- The trick now is avoiding a third consecutive loss and preventing doubt from creeping in. With DeMarcus Cousins battling a bad bug, the Raptors will have an advantage, but Sacramento has played well this year. You can bet they won’t take the Kings lightly.

- On the stats front, Toronto still ranks a troubling 30th in assist percentage, though leading the league in turnover percentage helps negate that a bit. The Raptors give up too many assists, only six teams surrender more per game.


















Bulls at Raptors Points Per Game + Thoughts on Kobe Bryant’s injury

- April 13th, 2013

Let’s start with the news of the day, which obviously is Kobe Bryant’s devastating torn Achilles.

Brutal. For Bryant, for the Lakers, for Lakers fans and for basketball fans in general. Instead of slowing down, Bryant inexplicably has had one of his best seasons and for a guy who is probably one of the 10 best ever, that’s saying something. Bryant carried the Lakers in this season of tension, turmoil and the turfing of Mike Brown. He was the reason the team got itself in playoff position. This could be it for Bryant, Isiah Thomas and Memo Okur, among others were never the same after suffering the same injury, but, then again, Bryant is different. Let’s not write him off yet. Few work as hard, few are as dedicated, few care as much about their legacy. He will go out on his own terms and if anybody can get back to 85% of what they were after such an injury, it’s Bryant. #Countonkobe was his hashtag this season, and you can count on Kobe to make a comeback few would be able to. Here’s his Facebook post from 3:30 a.m. Friday night:

“This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I’ve done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??


I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me…Then again maybe not! It’s 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I’m wide awake. Forgive my Venting but what’s the purpose of social media if I won’t bring it to you Real No Image?? Feels good to vent, let it out. To feel as if THIS is the WORST thing EVER! Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.

One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.

“If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear”. Ive always loved that quote. Thats “mamba mentality” we don’t quit, we don’t cower, we don’t run. We endure and conquer.

I know it’s a long post but I’m Facebook Venting LOL. Maybe now I can actually get some sleep and be excited for surgery tomorrow. First step of a new challenge.

Guess I will be Coach Vino the rest of this season. I have faith in my teammates. They will come thru.

Thank you for all your prayers and support. Much Love Always.

Mamba Out”

Meanwhile, expect the Jazz to pass the Lakers and get into the playoffs, for one last shot before either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson go elsewhere next season. The Jazz likely won’t last long against either Oklahoma City or San Antonio. The Lakers are in trouble. Capped out with no picks coming for years, they might have to take drastic measures. How will this impact Dwight Howard’s future? All questions for another day. The focus is on Kobe Bryant, who still probably finishes fourth or fifth in MVP voting (behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, in some order with Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony).

As for Raptors-Bulls, the rematch:

You knew the Bulls would come out angry after recent poor play. They did and came out strong, taking it to the Raptors early. You didn’t know Rip Hamilton would snap against a team that has a star player he is particularly tight with, fellow UCONN alum Rudy Gay. Though it wasn’t Gay who caught Hamilton’s forearm shiver – that was DeMar DeRozan – it was Gay who seemed amped after it, making some big plays as the Raptors ended up routing the Bulls. Those beaten-down Bulls are exhausted and frustrated. I’m not sure how much they’ll have in the tank for the playoffs. But with Derrick Rose back next season, they’ll be in the hunt for second or third in the East behind Miami.

With no draft pick slotting to blow, the Raptors aren’t doing the usual infuriating Toronto pro team thing of winning meaningless games and screwing up how sizable the talent coming in via the draft can be (a Raptors and Leafs specialty over the past decade). So these recent wins and better play can be seen as positives. The talent seems to be clicking, Kyle Lowry is finally playing closer to himself again and getting results and Gay has found his groove following a troubling stretch. Sure, his shot has gone completely AWOL, but he’s been far better defensively and is finding his teammates in better spots of late. He still needs to look for his own shot more, despite his struggles, but is doing the best job of being aggressive we’ve seen from him since December.

Gay’s been a bit of a monster in six April games, building on his late March revival. The biggest difference has been a significant improvement in his outside shooting. It’s a small sample size, but he is making nearly half of his threes, nearly twice as efficient from deep as he has been most of the season (now, Gay’s not a 47% outside shooter, but he’s definitely not a 27% shooter either. Consider 34-36% a more accurate representation of his abilities).

Another big effort from Quincy Acy who is making the most of these games. Again, Acy showed he belongs in the NBA and that he can be a piece off of the bench next season. I still expect a power forward to be part of the return for Andrea Bargnani, but if not, at least the Raptors know now that Acy provides some depth behind Amir Johnson. Still, the Raptors will need to sign another big if they can’t trade for one either by moving Bargnani or DeMar DeRozan in the summer.

If the Raptors run the table in the final three games, the win total will be 34, two less than this corner predicted, but they would be 9th in the East, which was my call from the start of the year. What an odd route they would have taken to get there.

Assuming the Raptors win at least one of the remaining three games, it looks like Oklahoma City will be receiving the 9th or 10th pick of the draft, barring a Raptors lottery miracle.

Raptors at Lakers Points Per Game: The season summed up in one game; Witnessing Kobe Bryant’s greatness; Play Valanciunas through his mistakes; Not fouling is on the players; Casey not helping his cause

- March 9th, 2013

First, a tip of the cap to Kobe Bryant. Like with LeBron James, we are all witnessing greatness in real time. Forget a drop-off, like Tim Duncan, Bryant has been better this season than he has been in years. Maybe three players in the entire league pull off what Kobe did last night, making ridiculous shots, willing his team to a win. Sure, going away from Landry Fields on him might have hurt – Fields was doing a reasonably solid job on him again – but it’s not like Alan Anderson was doing anything particularly wrong defensively. Kobe just went off and did his thing.

- Now, on to the Raptors. It’s hyperbole, but late in games, don’t these guys seem a little Washington Generals-esque this season?  Everyone wants to blame the head coach for all of it, but the players deserve blame too. This was (at least) the second time Casey told his guys to foul (Al Jefferson being other big example) and they screwed up, plain and simple. That’s on the players, not the coach. They knew what they had to do, but, inexplicably, didn’t do it. Everyone on the planet knew what was going to happen, who was going to get the ball. 1- You can’t let him even have an opportunity to catch that ball and 2 – if he somehow does, you have to be in a position to foul him before he can get off a shot. Just terrible execution. For the season as a whole, all of the blown fourth quarter leads/late game failures are on both the players and Dwane Casey and his staff.

- Where you can fault the coach fully is the rotation. While Terrence Ross needs run to develop, I fully understand wanting to win this final “statement/relevancy” game and going with Alan Anderson. It is best for the franchise long-term to get Ross out there, but very few coaches, especially ones with only a year remaining on their deal, will ever go with rookies over vets. But … not playing Jonas Valanciunas much (or at all) in fourth quarters is  something I disagree with. I don’t get it at all. Since returning from injury, Valanciunas has been one of the team’s four best players overall and on most individual nights. Going small can work sometimes, but having an athletic, smart, 7-footer who can play beside a 6-foot-10 guy (Amir Johnson) who shares some of those qualities, is a good thing as well. Aaron Gray sets better screens than Valanciunas and has veteran smarts, but he still doesn’t help the team more than he’s out there than Valanciunas, rookie mistakes and all. He’s simply a much better player. Plus he’s the face of the franchise (with Rudy Gay) going forward and needs to be out there as much as possible to prepare for the time where he will be a key player in crunch time at both ends. It’s baffling and unfortunately, because he’s a great guy who coached his ass off last season, it might be one of the main things that catches up with Casey after this season. Yes, you can point to his defensive mistakes but why ignore all of the good things he does that Gray simply isn’t physically capable of doing? Lithuania made the mistake of not throwing him into the fire and the Raptors are doing it as well.

- Something clearly isn’t right with Rudy Gay. He’s far better than what he’s shown. Part of it is forcing things, trying to assert himself as “the man” part of it likely is his sore shoulder, part of it could be adjusting his shot and shooting zones (as he told Michael Grange in a recent interview). Add it all up, and it’s not pretty, especially when the contract is brought into the equation. But, I don’t think Raptor fans need to worry about Gay. He’ll be settled in by the start of next season and will be healthy and much, much more effective. The Gay I’ve been watching since his college game doesn’t shoot airballs and miss as badly as he has. Sure, his basketball IQ isn’t as high as it could be and his shot selection needs to get a lot better, but he’s far better than he’s shown so far.

- I was all but certain, based on everything I’ve heard all year, that Casey and Bryan Colangelo would have their options picked up and given a final chance to show what they can do next season. But, after a dozen or so lost fourth quarters, after the odd rotational decisions and after being unable to connect with most talented player Kyle Lowry (which granted, isn’t the easiest thing to do given how mercurial Lowry is … though franchise has given him the keys and needs him at his best), will MLSE add it all up and cancel out the many positives Casey brings to the table? It was crazy to even suggest such a thing earlier in the year, but, now, my gut says it’s 55% Casey isn’t back to 45% he is. Or, might we see a Maple Leafs scenario where Casey is forced to part with some of his top assistants the way Ron Wilson was in a final attempt to make Wilson work in Toronto (the Leafs made Wilson get rid of his two close friends and top assistants, while then-GM Brian Burke brought in replacements of his choosing … Interestingly, new head coach Randy Carlyle ended up keeping both of the parachuted-in assistants on his staff after replacing Wilson and kept them again this season). The trouble there is Johnny Davis is closest on staff to Lowry and Gay owing to their time together in Memphis so probably not wise to remove him from equation.

- Don’t see how the Raptors will find the money to bring back Anderson next year, and while his offence (when on) and defence will be missed, Landry Fields deserves more run and likely will get it.

- Would like to end with positives after all of that (needed) negativity so here they are”

Again, Rudy Gay is a lot better than he’s shown. No need to panic now. If he’s doing this in December, go ahead and freak out. He’ll likely never be “worth” $18 million a season, but I’d rather overpay a good player than a not-so-good player and Gay is definitely a well above average player. Lowry is too and Valanciunas should be one day and DeRozan can be if he gets his defence up to a league average level and cuts down on his bad shots.

Speaking of DeRozan, he played a fantastic game. One of the keys was limiting those aforementioned bad shot attempts. Long twos are the worst shots in the game. DeRozan needs to either attempt more threes or take a step in on every jumper. That will help his efficiency greatly. On Friday, DeRozan only took what I would call four “bad” shots and he made three of them. And three of those “bad” shots actually might be “good” shots for DeRozan but bad ones for most other players since he’s hit 52.5% of them (long twos from the left corner) on the season. He’s just 31% on the same shots from the other side of the floor, so those ones need to be avoided at all costs. He is around 30% on corner threes so those should probably be the only threes he takes. If he can focus on where his good shots come from and taking them from there and on becoming even an average defender, the future of the franchise looks a lot more promising. DeRozan has the work ethic and smarts to pull it off, but it is by no means a given.

- Covered Casey, will get to Colangelo next time.

Lakers and Kobe stun Raptors Points Per Game:

- February 13th, 2012

That was one entertaining contest on Sunday, moreso because I wasn’t writing on deadline.

A few Raptor points before I get into some good stuff from the Lakers, who I was assigned to for the day.

- The shooting line for DeMar DeRozan was ugly but he did a lot of good things in other areas. Career high in assists was most notable, obviously, but he also played nice early defence on Kobe Bryant and looked to attack offensively. He had good looks but they weren’t falling. Metta World Peace and Bryant also are much beefier and stronger than DeRozan and they are great defenders who gave him some problems.

- Ed Davis rebounded from an invisible first half to play quite well in the second half. Amir Johnson went from outstanding against Boston to a complete non-factor. Have to give a hand to Jamaal Magloire – as LAkers head coach Mike Brown did – for his performance, which was a major reason why the Raptors came back from an 18-point deficit.

- James Johnson is starting to become a fan favourite for his energy, athleticism and defensive results. While his jumper is coming along, there is still work to do in that regard.

- From where I was sitting Rasual Butler definitely didn’t call time out in time … BUT Dwane Casey definitely did. The refs blew it, despite what the NBA says.

- Not sure I’ve seen Bryant utilize the Dirk-esque one-footed, leg kicking jumper he displayed. Like when Dirk shoots it, it is pretty much money every time.

- A lot of love for Jose Calderon after his career-high 30 points. Pau Gasol says he can do that whenever he wants to if defences aren’t going to challenge his shot. Bryant said he is a big fan of Calderon (hint hint Mitch Kupchak. Unfortunately for Bryant, there doesn’t seem to be a way to bring Calderon to L.A. trade-wise).

Now on to some quotes I couldn’t work in here or here

Kobe Bryant:
“I wasn’t surprised, it was five seconds. I didn’t go to college but I can count.
It’s five seconds, it was good defence on our part.
DeMar? I think the world of him as a player. I’ve seen his game grow tremendously from last year to this one in terms of adding a pull-up jumper to his game. He has a post game as well, but he wasn’t able to show it tonight because we have significantly bigger guards but he can post, he can handle, developed the mid-range jump shot, can obviously finish at the rim so I’m liking what he’s doing.
Olympics. It’s a big Olympics for us. We have an opportunity to kind of cement ourselves as the powerhouse. We won the last Olympics, we won the worlds, winning the Olympics in London will put us back where we belong. (Wear and tear). Not worried. With that team, I’ll just coast. I’m there if they need me. Big shots? That’s what I do. They can do all the heavy lifting.”

Pau Gasol:
“There’s games wehre he is going to take more shots because they are there. If he’s making them, he’ll continue to shoot things if they’re available. He’s not going to force things for you.
We have weapons. We have players that are experienced and have been successful throughout their careers offensively and defensively so that’s the depth and the weapons that we do have and we can go to them at a specific point.”

Metta World Peace:
“Ettore Messina. He’s a great coach. He’ll be a head coach. He reminds me a lot of Phil Jackson. He won championships. How many he win, 20, something stupid like that, it’s ridiculous. I just talk to him about the game. Cool to see European coaches come to the NBA. Changes it up.
(On mega-rich stars like Mike Tyson blowing all their money) “It’s cool. How many people get a chance to fail? Even a guy like Tyson. How many people have a chance to get $300 million and lose it? Not many people have a chance to fail. Not a bad thing, just move on with your life. Do something else, be positive. At least he touched it.

I can’t (score) with this team. Right before I came, I was on Houston, I was averaging 20 in the playoffs or something. I came here it went pffft. People forget, but that’s OK.
I can still put up numbers, there’s just no rhythm now. If I had to score. With Drew getting better, Kobe still playing better.

(On Kobe): “He’s in shape he takes care of his body. Those guys like Kobe, they came and they went. Kobe don’t take nights off, never. I seen him adjust his game sometimes, but no nights off. Maybe he passes more.
I’ve seen potentially more natural scorers, but Kobe got fundamentals. Kobe’s just different. I’ve seen people that were more talented than Kobe, but did they have the fundamentals and the work? He understands the little things the fundamentals, the footwork. It’s like writing a story, the same words over and over again, that’s not going to fly. You’ve got to change it up.
His technique is ridiculous.”

Mike Brown:
“Dwane Casey is a heck of a coach, those guys made a good choice picking him as the head coach. They did a terrific job of mixing in zones and brought us to a standstill a little bit at times.”




Nothing like a Lakers game

- December 19th, 2010

When the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers come to town, everything is a little bit different at the Air Canada Centre.

The crowd is louder and more into the proceedings. There are way more fans of the opponent than usual and every movement  by Kobe Bryant is watched in awe by the purple and gold dotted crowd.

There is no hockey equivalent to a Lakers game at the ACC. Even Sidney Crosby doesn’t provoke this kind of a buzz.

The Lakers carry themselves different than other teams Down early, they don’t care, they know there’s a lot of time to go. While other coaches call timeouts like crazy, Phil Jackson calmly sits and waits, calling time only on rare occasions.

The Lakers are bigger and stronger than almost all opponents and have Bryant, the closest thing we have seen to Michael Jordan, to bail them out when things look bleak. Against the Raptors on Sunday, the points in the paint were 32-16 for Los Angeles at the half.

L.A. has the ultimate luxury. Let Bryant carve opponents, or let the NBA’s biggest group of forward/centres, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum or Ron Artest go to work.

Bynum and Gasol are bigger and quicker than most centres, Artest, along with Lebron James, is the biggest small forward around and Odom has height, athleticism and speed going for him.

If there is one annoying thing about the Lakers and the NBA in general, it is the fact that the team almost always gets the benefit of the doubt from officials. Even benchwarmers like Luke Walton get more leeway on bang-bang plays than do players on other teams. That’s why a charging call on Bryant late in the first half was met by gasps from those on hand. Usually the call would have went the other way.

With  Bynum back in the lineup, the champs are back to full-strength and look as scary as ever. The Raptors won’t see them again until next season.

Carter continues to disappoint

- May 25th, 2010

That Orlando-Boston game Monday night was great entertainment. Back-and-f0rth, hard fouls, determination (aside from one guy that I’ll get too) and even an overtime session. Even the usually insufferable Mark Jackson didn’t grate on me.

These playoffs have been pretty terrible, overall, so it was nice to see. Looks like the Lakers-Suns series is picking up too.

Jeff Van Gundy called out Vince Carter a couple of games ago and thousands of people have been saying it for years. What a waste of talent. Nothing separated Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter talent-wise 10 years ago. Vince could have been just as good. He was a better jump shooter at the time and an even more ridiculous natural athlete. But, he never put in the work and just doesn’t have the mental makeup to take advantage of his gifts. He was atrocious in game 4 Monday. He almost shot the Magic out of the game and he haphazardly fought through screens all game and generall let Paul Pierce have his way with him.

After five years, nobody would have said Pierce would have the better career than Carter, but pretty clearly, he has. It’s a shame for fans of the game that Carter’s will never came close to matching his phsyical gifts. He could have been an all-time great.

It’s ironic that Hedo Turkoglu, a complete flameout in year one in Toronto, yet, is exactly what the Magic is missing right now. Jameer Nelson is the only facilitator on the floor. He can’t do it all himself. When the ball was in Turkoglu’s hands, everybody else looked much better offensively, particularly Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu’s defence wasn’t any worse than Carter’s has been. If I’m both sides, I find a way to send Carter to a third team and return Turkoglu to Orlando for something like Gortat and Bass. It will never happen because Otis Smith badmouthed Turk and who really wants Carter at this point, but it would help both teams a lot.