Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Lakers’ Category

Everybody wants to look good for the playoffs.

kobe-bryant-scoreboard-tribute

Don’t know if you heard, but Kobe Bryant’s epic 2012-13 basketball season came to an end Friday night when he tore his Achilles in a 118-116 win against the Golden State Warriors. I have some thoughts about this, and here they are.

1. In the NBA TV post-game recap of Lakers-Warriors, analyst Steve Smith said the following of the moment of Kobe’s season-ending injury: “When you saw, you knew.”

Nuh-uh. Nope. Maybe when you saw, you knew, Steve Smith, but when I saw, I didn’t know s—. Maybe with another player when I saw, I would know. With Kobe Bean Bryant, I saw, and I thought the same thing I always thought when Kobe went down for any reason during the course of a big game: Whatever. There are just two players in the league that when it looks like they go down with a potentially devastating injury, I automatically hit fast forward on the DV-R because I know it won’t actually mean anything: LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. LeBron never gets injured, and Kobe always gets injured, but stays in the game anyway.

If it was really important, I’d hear something about it later in the game or postgame. But Kobe leaving the game with injury, with just a couple minutes left in the latest in a series of countless consecutive Most Important Lakers Games of the Season? I didn’t believe it for a second. Hell this was the third time in that game that Kobe went down with what potentially looked (for a normal player) to be a devastating injury — first with an awkward landing on his left knee, then one on his right — both times, I did the DV-R fast forward, and both times, Kobe kept on truckin’. Even when he hobbled off the court, with that horrifyingly pained and defeated look on his face, and headed straight for the locker room, I still believed he’d find a way to come back. Kobe always finds a way to come back.

Kobe Bryant didn’t come back in that game. “Sobering” doesn’t come close to describing my emotional response to this. For maybe the first time in my basketball-watching life, I was genuinely fearful, in a way that didn’t really have anything to do with sports.

2. Can you remember the last time such a pivotal in-game moment happened late on a Friday night? I can’t. I don’t think there’s a single time of the week you’d least expect something totally season-altering to happen other than after Midnight on a Friday. There were probably big Laker fans — and though I always root for them, I can’t really consider myself a Laker fan in the true sense — that didn’t even watch the game, and woke up to the news on Saturday morning that for the first time since Hootie and the Blowfish and Alanis Morissette were the most popular musical artists in the world, they were going to have to envision a team, a playoffs, a future without Kobe Bryant. Just thinking about it makes me shiver.

3. The funniest thing about this to me now is how petty all the Lakers mini-squabbles from earlier in the season seem now. Kobe and Dwight not getting along. Mike Brown being replaced with Bernie Bickerstaff being replaced with Mike D’Antoni. Dwight and Pau not properly co-existing on the court. Kobe and Nash not properly co-existing on the court. Should the Lakers go big? Should the Lakers go small? Will the Lakers ever thrive as a Seven Seconds or Less team? Did the Lakers doom themselves by not getting Phil Jackson? When will the Lakers figure it all out? When will the Lakers’ season officially “start” for real?

Kobe Bryant is out for the year, and now absolutely none of this matters.

4. Speaking of petty squabbles, here’s one: the Lakers’ announcing team did an absolutely garbage job capturing the severity of the moment, both before Kobe’s injury, when No. 24 was giving a Herculean performance in a must-win game at home and the best the announcers could offer was “THE MAMBA … IS LOOKING LIKE … THE MAMBA!” and after the injury, seemed to have no idea about the severity of it until he had to trudge his way off the court. Understandable why in preseason the schedule-makers might not have ticketed Warriors-Lakers for national viewing, but man, you wish they could’ve flexed it somehow so that Breen and Van Gundy or Tirico and Hubie could been on the call for such an epochal moment in 21st-century basketball.

5. Inevitably lost in the fallout from this game will be just what an incredible performance it was for Kobe — one that his 34 points (9-21 FG), five boards, four assists, five TOs stat line doesn’t really do justice. Already limping around the court from the first two times he went down in the game — and again, it has to be mentioned how incredible it was that even after those two dingers, it still took the death blow of the torn Achilles to KO him for good — he looked like he might not be able to be effective as anything but a decoy for the final quarter.

Still, he managed to hit his last two threes — the second one being a ridiculous pull-up from a couple feet behind the top of the arc, well-contested by the outstretched arm of Harrison Barnes, a life-long Kobe devotee who was just four years old when the future Black Mamba was drafted by the Lakers — and hit two free throws to tie the game back up, before hobbling off the court, leaving his teammates to finish the job. Even Laker haters had to have been rooting for Pau, Dwight and friends to do just that.

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kobe-bryant-single-art

I don’t want to spoil the entire thing for anyone, but there is a must-read piece about Kobe Bryant’s ill-fated rap career on Grantland that you must read. But before you do that, let’s enjoy what may be the two funniest parts of the thing, just because you can imagine the respective mouths that said these things.

First, here’s Kobe Bryant doing what he does best — scolding a teammate for failing during a competition.

After a few rounds, Broady ran out of lyrics and the sparring session wound down. Kobe then chided his teammate. “Yo, you got to be in lyrical fitness, man,” Bryant told Broady, referencing a well-known lyric by the rapper Canibus.

I know the internet uses LOL when anything is even the least bit funny, but I legitimately L’d out L when I read this. Kobe Bryant has always been Kobe Bryant, I guess, even when he was trying to be a rapper. Too good.

Now it’s the Shaq portion of the post, and as you might expect, Shaq talking about rap is actually Shaq rapping about Kobe rapping.

Shaq also took shots at Kobe in 2001. “I’m at All-Star Weekend in D.C. and I ran into Shaq,” Rick Nice says. “He’s wearing a white fur and we’re in the VIP section in the hotel. I am trapped in the corner. He has a radio with CDs and he’s playing the beats and he’s rhyming, freestyling, making s–t up off the top of his head. ‘Something something and I can’t stand Kobe / Something something and I rap better than Kobe / Something something I flip skills better than Kobe / I score more than Kobe.’

After a while, I’m looking at him like, ‘Why are you going so hard at Kobe with these rhymes?’ I didn’t know what to feel. It felt weird. I’m trying to flirt with girls and Shaq had me in a headlock rhyming about Kobe. He said, ‘I got bars. I got bars for Kobe.’ He had this radio that looked little in his hand. He had beat CDs and was changing the CDs and rapping and wouldn’t let you leave until you heard his rap. I was like, ‘Wow, OK.’”

If you’re not already doing it, please imagine Shaquille O’Neal, chilling in a hotel bar while wearing a white fur coat with a tiny portable CD player in his hand, forcing people to listen to him rap about how much better of a rapper he is than another basketball player, who just so happens to be his teammate and archnemesis. This is quite possibly the least hip-hop/most Shaquille O’Neal thing that has ever happened.

So yes, read the whole thing, especially if you want to have your mind blown by people sincerely praising Kobe Bryant’s skills on the mic. But also read it for people laughing about Kobe Bryant’s skills on the mic. It’s the best of both worlds.

metta-world-peace-right-said-fred

Time for a quick pop quiz. I am going to give you a transcription of a Metta World Peace quote with certain details pulled out and you have to let me know what on Earth he’s talking about.

Here is the edited quote, based on a transcription by the Point Forward:

“Well, you know, I’m just too sexy for my cat. I’m too sexy for my cat. My cat. I’m just too sexy for my cat. If I wasn’t as sexy for my cat, [REDACTED]. I’m so sexy, [REDACTED].

Too sexy for my cat, too sexy to wear a sleeve or a bracelet, [REDACTED]. I felt sexy, I felt like my team was working, I felt like we wanted it. We just wanted to come together collectively.

Play hard, do it together. … I’m definitely too sexy for my cat, definitely, we know that. I’m also [REDACTED]. I’m too sexy for the cat.”

Hit the jump for the full quote.

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backwards-shaq-jersey

Notice anything wrong about Shaquille O’Neal’s banner for his recently retired jersey? Like I don’t know, maybe a notched collar at the top that clearly shows us that this is the front of a Lakers jersey, rather than the back where “O’Neal 34″ is supposed to go? Yep, that’s exactly what is wrong.

For reference:

normal-lakers-shaq-jersey

As you can see, that little horizontal notch proves that the Lakers definitely created a banner that put Shaq’s name and number on the front of a Lakers jersey. What’s more unclear is whether or not every other wrinkly retired jersey is the same thing — since the old Lakers uniforms had a scoop neck collar, all those Wests, Jabbars and Chamberlains very well could be frontsy-backsies. It’s impossible to know.

What we do know, however, is that Shaquille O’Neal will be honored forever and ever with a banner of a retired jersey that would have to be sold at TJ Maxx because someone accidentally printed the back on the front. Pretty weird.

UPDATE: Ball Don’t Lie’s Dan Devine heard from a Lakers rep:

Lakers spokesman tells BDL that the last-name-on-front Shaq jersey raised Tuesday “was an error + will be corrected …”

“… as soon as we can get a new jersey for the wall made up.” Replacement hopefully ready in one week, but could be a couple.

So yeah, whoops.

dwight-howard-shaquille-oneal-cavs

There’s no reason to get in to the storied Shaquille O’Neal-Dwight Howard feud because we all know what’s happened betwixt the two. Basically, Dwight wants to be Shaq without anyone calling him on it and Shaq wants to agree with him that Dwight could never be as good as he was and that he invented the Superman nickname/persona. Even if that sentence isn’t entirely accurate, I think it sums up the general sentiments pretty well.

Except never mind, because that’s all a fallacy. The only reason Shaq ever said anything bad about Dwight Howard is because he wants Dwight to be great because he loves Dwight. At least that’s what Shaq says. From the Los Angeles Times:

“I love Dwight and I see his potential. Hopefully when I say these things he gets mad,” O’Neal said in an interview. “Just think about it. At the dunk contest, he dunked on that thing when it was 15 feet. Remember that? OK, so why can’t you back people down [in the post]? Because if you think I didn’t play against great centers, he’s not playing against nobody, you know what I mean?

“So he should be able to back people down and jump-hook them to death. That’s why I envision in him as a player.” [...]

“Same thing Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] did to me, the same thing Wilt [Chamberlain] did to me,” O’Neal said. “I can remember one time reading an article and I’m averaging 37 [points] in the playoffs and we lose and somebody asks Kareem, ‘Hey, what do you think about Shaq? He’s a great player.’ And Kareem says, ‘Yeah, he’s OK, but he hasn’t won any championships.’ I didn’t respond, I didn’t cry, I just stepped up and got to the next level. So I’m always going to stay on [Howard] because I actually see him being one of the best Lakers ever if he steps up.”

First things first, Shaquille O’Neal never averaged 37 points per game during the playoffs in any season of his career. But I think we’ve all learned to accept that any stat Shaq gives about his own career is going to be made-up. Had to mention it, but it’s part of the game at this point, so whatever.

Second things second, this feels like equal parts “being nice” and “covering your tracks so that you’re on the right side of history” from Shaq. I’m sure Shaq does think a lot of what he has said about Dwight should serve as motivation, but it also feels like he’s kind of just saying this now because he wants to be able to have a small piece of whatever legacy Dwight leaves in Los Angeles. I mean, what is motivating about saying that Dwight is worse than Robin Lopez? Or even Brook Lopez? That’s just Shaq saying stuff to make people notice what he said; it doesn’t have anything to do with making Dwight Howard a better basketball player.

So yeah, I guess Shaquille O’Neal is a big Dwight Howard fan now. And I’m sure this has nothing to do with Shaq getting his number retired at the Staples Center tonight. And I’m sure Shaq won’t use this as an excuse to keep trashing Dwight Howard whenever he wants since he’s only doing it to make Dwight better. I’m sure all those things are just as true as the time he averaged 37 a game in the playoffs.

You know, just one of those classic conspiracies where David Stern vetoes a trade for the league’s best point guard which causes the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to complain his way out of the city which leads to an undermanned team being outclassed and eliminated from the playoffs then somehow snagging one of their biggest rivals in a trade before shipping out the second-best center in the league — who is secretly so injured he won’t play the following season — in a trade that lands them the best center in the league who is both coming off an injury and seemingly 78 percent the player he was before back surgery which causes the team to struggle through injuries to every one of their rotation players while needing every bit of “help” along the way to secure the eighth playoff seed in their conference despite having the highest payroll in the entire league. Pretty run of the mill, really. Glad someone finally noticed.

(via Reddit)