Friday, November 28, 2014
Blog Page 35

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PhotoCredit: AP Photo

The famous rapper/actor Ice Cube is one with Los Angeles.  Ice Cube was performing at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on the Kings of the Mic tour.  Los Angeles is home to Ice Cube and he too had his own opinion on Dwight Howard packing his bags for Houston.

Needless to say it wasn’t a favorable one.

Ice Cube rants and completely rips Howard stating that he didn’t have what it took to be in Los Angeles, and he wasn’t worthy of being a Laker.  The video is quite explicit so the viewer watch at their own risk.

Do you stand with rapper Ice Cube? Or do you think he’s overreacting?

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Photo Credit: XBOX/Rene Macura
Photo Credit: XBOX/Rene Macura

With Dwight Howard gone, the Lakers’ attention turns to the summer of 2014, when they are flush with cap space. However, they need to fill out a roster this season first!

Currently, the Lakers only have 9 players on the roster: Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol, Ryan Kelly, and Robert Sacre.

Update: the lakers have signed Center Chris Kaman for one year. That fills their need at center, and gives them 10 players on the roster.

They need to sign at least 4 players to hit the minimum of 13.

Last year, the Lakers age and defensive inabilities cost them. They need to stock up on length, speed, and youth, as well as find another center to fill the void Dwight left.

With only the mini-MLE (3 million), and the veterans minimum available to sign players, the Lakers will have to get creative, and find a few diamonds in the rough. They can only offer one year deals, to preserve cap space in 2014. Fortunately, there are quality free agents who may be available for bargain prices, provided they cannot score more lucrative deals elsewhere.

Here is a list of free agents the Lakers can target, and their merits, organized by position.

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages
PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

This has happened before, right?

The Lakers have “lost” superstars before, right? Usually it has happened after they have given so much to the Lakers organization. What I mean by that is all-star appearances, rookie of the year awards, a couple of championships here or there, and maybe even a few years of coaching. Never have they “lost” a superstar during free agency the way they did a few nights ago. The franchise is in a state of disarray.

That’s looking at it from one side of the spectrum. The side I choose to look from is very different.

Dwight Howard never fit in as a Los Angeles Laker. Not from the moment he was traded to the organization, to the Adidas “All In for L.A. commercials”, to when he announced on Twitter that he was going to become a Houston Rocket. His interviews seemed forced, his 1,000 watt smile was never as powerful and commanding as it was in Orlando, and it always seemed that he was making light of whatever situation he was in. Very different from what the Lakers have been used to since the Big Aristotle or Cactus, Superman or… you get it, left town.

When I read Yahoo Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest, and maybe final, story on Dwight Howard announcing that he will become a Houston Rocket and leave the Lakers on July 10th it all came together. The reason why Howard did not fit the franchise is because he wanted it to fit him from day 1. Sorry Dwight, but that is not how things work here.

In late January when the team was in a rut there were reports about how the Lakers had a team meeting in Memphis where everything was aired out so they could all move past their difficulties. That’s not what really happened according to Wojnarowski.

Every time you trash me to teammates, it gets back to me, witnesses said Bryant told Howard in the visiting locker room of the FedEx Forum. Every time you do one of your impersonations when I walk out of the room, I find out. Everything tumbled out of Bryant, one grievance after another, and the Lakers coaches and players sat watching the two biggest personas in the room push closer together, or irreconcilably apart.

Around this time Dwight’s influence was beginning to take over the team and Kobe Bryant was not happy about it. In his mind there was no way that a player who was not dominating like he should csn come into the organization and overtake what he and countless other Lakers legends have built.

“Kobe talked to Dwight in a way that I don’t think anyone one had ever talked to him – not in Orlando, not here, not in his life, I’m betting,” one witness in the room told Yahoo! Sports. “He’s been coddled, and Kobe wasn’t going to coddle him.”

Despite what you may hear, this was not the driving issue as to why Dwight Howard left. He even stated himself that via Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times. The reason why he departed is due to the praise he did not receive in Los Angeles. You know, the type of praise that is given when you do good things like win consistently. If Howard is not adored by everyone then he will not perform like he should. It happened towards the end of his tenure with Orlando and it happened all year in Los Angeles.

“If he missed two big free throws in Orlando, it was forgotten in 30 minutes,” one league official with ties to Howard’s past says. “If he missed them in L.A., they talked about it for a week. With Dwight, he has to be the face of the franchise. Anything less than that, and it would be difficult for him to function at his highest level.”

“The conditions need to be lined up perfectly to get the most out of Dwight,” one team official who has history with Howard told Yahoo! Sports. “When he’s engaged, he can carry a team like few else in the league. Houston is suited for him.”

Now I will give Howard the credit he deserves. He came off of a possible career-ending surgery and still led the league in rebounds. My hat is off to him, no doubt whatsoever. But for the Lakers to essentially beg Howard to stay in Los Angeles is what did not sit well. He is a superstar that yes, could have become the future of the Lakers and the face for years to come, but he is not what or who the Lakers need to move forward.

To become the face of the Lakers franchise you must earn it. Point blank period.

George Mikan earned it. Elgin Baylor earned it. West and Chamberlain earned it. Kareem and Magic earned it. Kobe and Shaq earned it. Kobe and Pau earned it. They did not come into the franchise and expect for everyone to love them. They played through injuries, team chemistry issues, and even management problems all while working hard and eventually becoming champions.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Lakers biggest mistake would have been convincing Howard to stay and he actually did. Do the Lakers need a superstar who needs to be handed everything in order to become great? If he could not take the criticism he was receiving all year long what do you think would have happened after Kobe, Pau, and Nash all retired?

With Dr. Buss’ passing and Jim Buss currently at the helm the Lakers cannot afford too many more mistakes as is. Resigning a superstar who would turn to the culture into a laughing stock would have been a mistake for them.

The Lakers have been through this before. The difference between now and then is that everyone wants results immediately. Give the Lakers time. Yes Kobe is pushing his 18th year in the league, yes Nash is going to be 40, and yes Pau Gasol just had his 33rd birthday but in due time it will be fine. If Baylor, Chamberlain, and West needed time so does this team.

What happened when George Mikan, the franchise’s first legitimate star left the franchise for good? They drafted Elgin Baylor. Two years, and one finals appearance for Elgin, later they drafted Jerry West.

What happened when Elgin was becoming older and the duo could not conquer the Celtics? They traded for Wilt Chamberlain. After Wilt retired in 1973 and Jerry hung up his shoes 19474, who was their savior? At seasons end of 1974 they traded for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Or how about when Kareem could not win a title alone?

In comes Magic. After Kareem retired and Magic states in 1996 that he wants to go out on his own terms, what happened? The Lakers trade for Kobe Bryant on draft day and sign Shaquille O’Neal almost two weeks later. Kobe starts to publicly look elsewhere to finish his career and the Lakers land Pau Gasol.

The Lakers have a clear history of doing whatever needs to be done to improve. Yes it may still sting that Dwight Howard told them no and chose to walk away. Best of luck to him. If he feels Houston is where he will succeed then by all means go. Yes, Jim Buss hired Mike D’Antoni when he could have had Phil Jackson, but don’t forget that he and Mitch pulled the deals to bring in Nash and Howard in the first place.

If there has ever been anything constant within the Lakers organization it has been that they are always a few moves away from being prominent once again. This is just another chapter in the Lakers history book. Rather than become frustrated and spiteful, let us just watch as they plan on making history again.

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kobe-bryant-scoreboard-tributeNow that Dwight Howard has officially left the Lakers and decided to play for the Houston Rockets, it’s time for the Lakers to move away from the past and get focused on the present. The Lakers need to look at this Howard debacle, learn from it, and move on. The sting of Howard’s decision to thumb his nose at the Lakers, and run off to Houston is still very fresh for many.

However, I challenge everyone to ask themselves one simple question. How much am I going to miss someone that spent one season wearing the purple and gold? A season that was like a never ending root canal. Let’s face it, after Howard told the world he was going to be a Rocket, wasn’t the air instantly a little bit easier to breathe?

With all the drama stirred up by all the NBA gurus and all their sources telling each one something different, and Twitter exploding by the second with each new report, it became mentally exhausting. The facts are the facts, and the fact is Howard is gone. The other fact is this. The sun came up the next day, and life kept right on going.

With the whole Dwight Howard saga finally behind us, the Lakers can move on with Plan B. Yes, the plan for their future that did not include Dwight Howard. The plan that made concessions for him leaving, and possibly doing part of the season without Kobe while he heals from his achilles injury. Surely, the Lakers brain trust has a plan right? I mean, they would never think for one minute they would not need to exercise some sort of contingency plan would they? Let’s put it this way, if there is a Plan B, I sure would like to start seeing what it is. As most of the free agent dominos have already fallen to other teams, Plan B is still looking a little fuzzy to me.

The Lakers still have pieces in place to stay competitive this upcoming season. Kobe, Gasol, Nash, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill,and Jodie Meeks are certainly not enough to compete for a championship. Provided Kobe comes back, and is able to play at a high level, and the others are able to stay relatively healthy for a full season, and the Lakers pick up some complimentary role players to come off the bench and contribute, the season won’t be the disaster that so many are already predicting it to be. Maybe Ryan Kelly can find instant success, or Robert Sacre shows improvement over last year.

This season is going to be about holding down the fort until the 2014 free agents hit town. Make no mistake, the Lakers will be waving that newly found cap space money around like it is burning a hole in their proverbial pockets. And they will land a big fish and bring them to Hollywood. That scenario will not change.

As I have said before, the Lakers organization is not one that rebuilds, it is one that reloads. The current talent pool for the Lakers could be a lot worse, and the Lakers will make some personnel moves. The upcoming season is littered with question marks, and the results may not be to the liking of many of the Lakers faithful. Anyone that has followed this team should know by now, that the Lakers will stay the course, and they will not let their fans down, they never do.

Here’s the good news. The Lakers foundation may have been shaken a bit with the latest turn of events. But that foundation is built on championship material, and it will remain that way. So they way I see  it,  better to have a Plan B and no Dwight Howard, than to have Dwight Howard and no Plan B.

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Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

The “official word” had yet to be uttered from the horse’s mouth at 2 pm this afternoon, but when evening came, so did the Tweet from Dwight Howard himself.

Last summer, Mitch Kupchak took Howard into his office and pointed across to the retired Laker jerseys hanging on the wall of the team’s practice facility. “One day, I want your jersey to be up there,” the Laker GM said, while Howard covered his mouth in awe. As premature as it may have been at the time, we saw Howard in our imagination, adding himself to the legacy of bigs who have led the franchise to the golden trophy at the end of the season.

We cheered him on as he fought through his recovery from back surgery. We told those who questioned his commitment, that his smile and playful demeanor was a good balance next to Kobe Bryant’s intensity. In the end, however, the lights were still too bright, the challenges too difficult and the responsibility of becoming one of the faces of the most recognizable team in the world was too great a burden to bear.

We saw this coming though, didn’t we? We knew he had a hard time accepting Mike D’Antoni’s system. We knew he didn’t want to play second fiddle to Bryant. We knew he had a penchant for ducking responsibility so he wouldn’t look like the bad guy. We just hoped the Lakers would bring something different, something more out of him, and we hoped he’d give it more than just one injury-riddled season’s try.

Though the omens were there long before the end of this past season, the glimmer of hope faded still further from the moment Howard was ejected from Game 4, the Lakers swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. With almost half of his teammates sitting on the sideline in suits, the post-season was Howard’s chance to shine, to lead. Wasn’t that what he wanted? To have the floor to himself? To be the center of the offense and the defense without the shadow of Kobe Bryant looking over his shoulder?

The Spurs were, obviously, a formidable team who made it all the way to the NBA finals, and the Lakers’ chances were no greater than slim in winning that series; but you go down fighting, not getting thrown out of an elimination game two minutes into the third quarter when your team had some sort of chance to avoid getting swept. It was clear as day, though, that ejection: Howard’s white flag, waving in all its shameful glory.

Following another embarrassing exit from contention, a frustrating, annoying, anxious-filled post-season awaited the Los Angeles Lakers; their future lying in the hands of one player. Despite the efforts to show him he was wanted in L.A. (huge city walls and newspapers covered with his countenance and #StayD12 printed below), the desired outcome fell through anyway. Dwight Howard is moving on, and so should we.

Despite what many may accuse, we fans aren’t all speaking from a place of bitterness. The Lakers would indeed have been a better team with Howard in the rotation. There is no denying that. But we wanted Dwight Howard in a Laker uniform because HE WANTS to be in a Laker uniform. To the Laker faithful (fans, players and coaches alike), that purple and gold jersey is more than just a jersey, and any player who can’t or won’t understand that simply shouldn’t stay.

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PhotoCredit:GettyImages

Dwight Howard has finally made his big decision and it’s bad news to four out of the five teams who were trying to get him to wear their jersey.  He told Dallas that they were out of the running first, and shortly thereafter news surfaced that he had chosen to sign with Houston.

dwight-howard-houston-rockets-1

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to many unless you’ve been living on the moon, and even there you’ve probably heard about all of the Dwight drama.  It was basically a done deal that Dwight wanted to go to Houston to play along side the likes of Jeremy Lin and James Harden; a young core of players where Dwight wouldn’t feel the immense pressure to succeed like he would in Staples Center.  The lights of Hollywood were just too big for the NBA’s best center, and so he decided to go to a place where everything wouldn’t be on his shoulders.

All this news according to Sam Amick of USA Today:

 

Now, Howard can’t officially sign the deal until July 10, when the NBA lifts the moratorium, but it’s a done deal that Howard has made up his mind and he wants to take his talents to Texas.  What does this mean for the Lakers?  Well currently Los Angeles is without a decent center, with only Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre on the roster.  Los Angeles has many options to choose from to fix the currently shallow roster and I’m sure Mitch Kupchak is already on the phone making deals and asking questions.

This news of Howard affects the entire league as some players were basing their decisions off of his as to where they would sign.

However, news just surfaced that Howard’s agent has said Howard has NOT made his decision yet on where he plans to play next season.  Regardless of whether he has finalized his decision or not, it’s likely that Houston will be the winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.

Chris Broussard has reported that Dwight’s camp has notified the Los Angeles Lakers that he will not be returning to the team.  Howard is to sign a 4 year 88 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets.

I’ll update this article as more news comes out, so be sure to keep checking back Nation.  Are you glad to see him leave LA?  Would you have preferred to see him stay? Let’s hear your thoughts Nation!

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Update: 12PT Peter Vecsey reports that Dwight has indeed made a decision, and will announce it on twitter, corroborating Carr’s earlier (retracted) report.

It could be that someone wanted Janis to sit on information that was out there, so as not to make Dwight look bad. Or it could all be conjecture.

Updated: Janis Carr says her earlier tweet was “premature.”

According to Janis Carr of the OC Register, Dwight has made a decision. He plans to announce it on Twitter…this weekend.

While Dwight may have made up his mind, noone else has any indication.

Dwight may have made a mistake here – just as LeBron told people ahead of time that he will announce his decision at a certain time in the future, if Dwight asks everyone to “tune in” people probably won’t react well. Especially if he leaves L.A.

Tune in.

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Photo by Doug Benc | Getty Images
Photo by Doug Benc | Getty Images

On the morning of July 5th, the day Dwight Howard was planning to probably, maybe, make his decision, there are as many questions about the big fella’s plans as answers.

As is typical with D12, reports are all over the place.

He will make his decision Friday! … Or he won’t.

The Lakers have dropped to 4th on his list! … Nah, they’re still “prominent on his mind.”

As if we didn’t know this, Dwight Howard struggles with making big decisions.

July 5th may come and go without a decision from Dwight. Or he’ll choose the Lakers. Or The Rockets. Or the Warriors. Or he’ll go to China. Or maybe Malaysia. He’s not really sure, and neither are you.

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Photo by: Eliaria Andrade/Agencia O Globo
Photo by: Eliaria Andrade/Agencia O Globo
Photo by: Eliaria Andrade/Agencia O Globo

An idol in the eyes of many, Kobe Bryant was once just a fan. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, a shortlist of players to whom he looked up to as an enthusiastic of the game would include Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, among others. But one name on that list would probably surprise the majority of the NBA followers: Oscar Schmidt.

As the son of Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, a former NBA player, Kobe not only was granted the opportunity to breath professional basketball since his very first day on Earth, but also had the chance to live abroad and experience a different culture from an early age. That happened in Italy, where Joe Bryant decided to continue his career after finishing his NBA stint, from 1984 to 1991.

Therefore, a young Kobe, between his 6th and 13th birthdays, accompanied his dad on Italian soil. Naturally, his eyes, always driven for basketball, would not only be focused on what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but would also pay attention to the league taking place at where he lived.

Scouring for gifted scorers who could emulate the dominance of aforementioned NBA legends and fulfill his ever-growing fire for basketball greatness, Kobe’s attention had to, some way or another, rest over the man who used to put up big numbers night and night out in Europe.

The man who scored 13,957 points in 12 seasons in the Italian league, from 1982 to 1993, which was good for an whopping average of 34.6 points per game and seven scoring titles. The man who enjoyed a 28-year career of basketball, from 1974 to 2002, recording 46,727 total points. The man whose surname is not Robertson but, by sharing the same first name, could very well be considered a second coming of the “Big O”. The man called Oscar Schmidt.

That’s why Kobe had to make sure to pay his idol a visit during his trip to Brazil from 20th to 23rd of June. He also felt the need to express once again his admiration for one of the most influential individuals in his childhood dream of playing professional basketball. To the crowd gathered around one of the courts in the Ibirapuera Park, in São Paulo, to take a closer look at the Black Mamba during a sponsor’s event, he stated the following, pointing to Oscar, as reported by ESPN Brasil:

“The number one player to me, my greatest idol, is that guy right there, Oscar.”

Earlier that day, Kobe also remembered his days in Italy.

“I grew up watching him play against my dad”, said Bryant, “I used to call him “La Bomba”. He has always been a legend that I respected and I look forward to meeting him.”

Oscar is widely considered the best player ever to come out of his native country of Brazil. The 6’8 shooting guard and small forward started his career in the cosmopolitan city of São Paulo, where he enjoyed eight years of basketball before signing with the Italian club Caserta, in 1982. His natural knack for scoring earned him the nickname “Mão Santa”, which translates to “Holy Hand”.

In Oscar’s curriculum, his five Olympic participations, being the leading scorer in three of them, including a record of 42.3 points per game in Seoul (1988), stand out as a testament to his longevity and productiveness inside the world of top level international basketball. Therefore, Schmidt was rewarded with the induction to the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2010 and will be part of the 2013 class of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on September, joining former NBA greats such as Jordan, Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell, in a place where Kobe Bryant will also have, at some point in the future, the privilege to call it home.

Oscar’s amazing accomplishments in the Italian League soon caught the attention of the NBA scouts. In 1984, he was drafted in the sixth round by the New Jersey Nets, but refused to play in the United States so he could maintain his amateur status. As an enthusiast of his own country, that decision came along pretty simply to the man born in the north part of Brazil, in the city of Natal. Schmidt recently stated the following in a interview to the Sao Paulo newspaper “Estadao”

“Back in the day, either you played for the national team or you played professionally. I preferred to continue with the Brazilian national team and I don’t regret my decision at all. Three years later, we won the Pan-American Games, inside the United States. It was the most beautiful thing that ever happened in my life. We beat the best team in the World inside their own house.”

Oscar celebrates the 1987 gold medal (Photo Courtesy of UOL)
Oscar celebrates the 1987 gold medal (Photo Courtesy of UOL)

Oscar refers to the final basketball contest in the 1987 Pan American Games, which took place in Indianapolis, Indiana. The American team was already widely considered the best in the world by a huge margin, even though back then they only utilized college players, counting with future NBA talent such as David Robinson, Rex Chapman, Dan Majerle and Danny Manning. And the numbers corrobated that status.

When the Brazilian squad, led by Oscar, beat Team USA on that day, they snapped a 34 win streak by the Americans who had never been beaten before at home. Schmidt, who was limited to 11 points at the end of the first half, exploded with 35 second half points, leading the contest with 46 and boosting his teammates to the gold medal. It is still considered the most significant accomplishment in Brazilian basketball history. By taking place at the 23rd day of August, it also shares the anniversary with Kobe Bryant’s birthday.

After finishing his time in Italy in 1993, Oscar then headed to Spain where he played for three more years until 1995, when he returned to his native Brazil. There he remained for the rest of his career, retiring on 2003. As a 43-year-old, the age of his retirement, he still led the Brazilian national league in scoring, a feat he accomplished every season since 1996.

Kobe and Oscar share the experience of growing up in countries dominated by soccer in Italy and Brazil. Both had to persist in the path less taken when deciding that a ball should be shot at a rim, not towards a goalpost. However, influenced by childhood friends who dreamed about someday representing the Azzurra, Bryant first picture of him as an athlete came as a soccer player, as he revealed to ESPN Brasil when asked if he used to think about playing such sport:

“Absolutely, absolutely!”, said Kobe, “But then I wound up being 6’3 and, you know, I had more talent playing basketball than I did playing soccer. When I first started playing soccer, they just stuck me in the goal because I had these really long arms and long legs, and said ‘Ok kid, just stop whatever ball comes your way”. And that’s what I did, then I started getting better and better, but I was never close to being as good in soccer as I was in basketball”.

When asked who he wanted to be when he started to play basketball, Kobe immediately answered:

“Oscar Schmidt, he was the guy when I grew up [in Italy]. He was [scoring] 35, 40 points every night. The guy was just automatic. I remember just watching him play and saying: “Man, if I could shoot like that with his height, and be able to handle the ball at his size… Him and my father were very similar because they were both very tall and could shoot the ball. I was a really really big fan of Oscar.”

Schmidt, in responde to those words, made sure to express that the feeling is mutual.

“I’m his biggest fan”, Oscar told Globoesporte, “A wonderful athlete who plays for my favorite team since I was a boy. He’s always going to be a little kid to me. He was seven when he used to see me play. He would hit the court during the All-Star Games and it was tough to get him out of there (laughs).” As stated to ESPN Brasil, “It’s a huge honor that the best basketball player has myself as his idol. I’m very happy for that.”

Photo by: Kobe Bryant/Instagram
Photo by: Kobe Bryant/Instagram

2013 marks an year of extremely important surgeries for Oscar and Kobe. While Bryant was forced to go through a procedure to reconstruct his torn achilles tendon, in what was once considered a career-threatening injury, Schmidt has to face something much more terrifying. In 2011, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and suffered a first surgery to remove a second degree tumor, in a scale of one to four. However, another tumor developed in the former athlete’s brain, this time a third-degree one, which required another surgery on April of this year.

The disease is incurable and the only thing a doctor can assure such patient is some sort of life quality while fighting it out through huge quantities of medicine and almost daily sessions of chemotherapy. Still, Oscar endures the process with the same high level of energy that he used to hit the court during his playing days. Even though an enourmous scar, cutting the top of his head from one side to another, reminds him every day that his life hangs by a thread, Schmidt refuses to give up his high-spirited personality. As he told Globoesporte.com:

The majority of people is not able to beat this kind of cancer, but I will. Even if I don’t make it, I’m gonna try to do it in any possible way. This tumor definitely chose the wrong guy. I’m ready for everything. If I have to open up my head 20 times, I will. This is an unbelievable year. The worst and the best news. I’ll be inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame. That’s going to be the biggest victory in my life.

Now able to walk normally as he continues his progress post Achilles surgery, Kobe wasted no time to ask how is Oscar doing in his own recovery. “The first thing he asked me was about how I was doing”, Oscar continued to tell Globoesporte, “I showed him my scar. He was very concerned about my disease. But I’m happy with this meeting. I came here because of him.”

After that brief but joyful encounter, Kobe and Oscar will now continue their own paths. Bryant will focus on getting into playing shape once again, as he seeks his sixth ring with the same intensity and desire that fueled his first championship. Schmidt will continue his successful career as a lecturer whilst fighting his brain cancer. But both know that their roads will always be connected.

In every basket by Kobe, a reminiscence of his childhood times when he learned how to play the game that he loved while watching Oscar perform.

In every basket by Kobe, a spark of energy to further strengthen Oscar’s will to live.

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PhotoCredit: http://basketballplayerzz.blogspot.com/
Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

As we all do from time to time, we like to take a peek at ourselves in the mirror. Whether it’s just a quick peek, or a long lasting gaze, we still look. It’s not because we have forgotten what we look like, but rather because we just want to make sure nothing drastic has changed. It’s all about cosmetics. How we look, ultimately drives our emotions about how we feel about ourselves.

The mirror is an object that reflects light in a way that preserves much of its original quality. If what we see looks good to us, no sense changing what is working. If the reflection bouncing back toward our face is not what we had in mind, then we are motivated to do something about it, and quick.

The Lakers have been looking into their mirror ever since they got swept out of the playoffs by the Spurs. The reflections they have been seeing have probably been changing about as rapidly as Dwight Howard has been meeting with other teams he would  like to play for. The mere mention of Howard’s name, and the distinct possibility his zip code could be changing real soon, is enough to make the Lakers start thinking about how to start making themselves look better.

Let’s not forget about the fact Earl Clark has an opportunity to sign elsewhere and get his payday. The Cleveland Cavaliers have already begun the process of  visualizing what they would look like with him in their front court. Chris Duhon is no longer a Laker, and there is a real strong probability that Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, and Antawn Jamison will be jettisoned as well. Ryan Kelly was drafted, and who knows which free agents will find themselves in Hollywood for the upcoming season.

Whatever happens from here on out, one thing is apparent. Whatever those quality images preserved by the mirror from last years team were, they are becoming blurred. Only time will tell if the Lakers remain content with what they see, or become disenchanted with their looks, and decide to change their self image for the better.

Many have said the Lakers organization has always been one of reloading, not rebuilding. Translated, they have always made the necessary personnel moves to stay within reach of an NBA title. I have no reason to believe they will change their strategy. So, as the Lakers stand in front of the mirror, what do they see? A bright, shiny reflection, with a hope of better things to come? Or does the mirror have a slight crack in it? Perhaps foreshadowing trials and tribulations ahead?

As they say, “the mirror doesn’t lie”.

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Photo Credit: TheTruthSports.com
Photo Credit: TheTruthSports.com

Former Rockets C Hakeem Olajuwon was interviewed by ThePostGame and discussed the meeting with Dwight in Los Angeles.

Olajuwon says that he felt very confident that the Rockets gave Dwight the best situation to win championships, and is 85% sure that Dwight will pick to play in Houston.

Dwight has a great relationship with Olajuwon and has spent time over previous summers working on his post game with him.

It has been mentioned that if Dwight does choose Houston, Olajuwon would be involved as his personal coach.

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo Credit: NBA
Photo Credit: NBA

In the Lakers pitch meeting to Dwight Howard yesterday, Kobe did not seek to placate Howard. He challenged him.

According to Adrian Wojnaroski of Yahoo Sports, Kobe offered his knowledge and mentorship as a pitch to Dwight.

“‘You need to learn how it’s done first, and I can teach you here,’ Bryant told Howard.”

Kobe told dwight he had learned from former champions, and he could teach Dwight as he had learned from others.

“Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, insisted he wouldn’t retreat in pushing Howard every day, that as much as the Lakers needed Howard, Howard needed Bryant and the Lakers, too.

‘Instead of trying to do things your way, just listen and learn and tweak it, so it fits you,’ Bryant told him.”

Kobe was himself during the Lakers’ pitch to Dwight, part of the “honest” meeting the Lakers had with the free agent star.

In the past, Kobe’s pitch to Dwight as a sidekick turned Dwight off. Now, Kobe and the Lakers have to hope that Bryant’s offer to be a mentor to Howard will draw him back, and that Dwight will accept Kobe’s challenge.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Dwight Howard

The Lakers met with Dwight Howard on Tuesday at 2pm for just under two hours.

After the meeting, Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash spoke to reporters.

Mike D’Antoni said “keep your fingers crossed.”

Steve Nash said the meeting was productive, and that they discussed building on last season.

According to Yahoo Sports, Kobe talked to Dwight about winning (as if he would say anything else).

Dwight has yet to make a decision, stating merely that the meetings went great.

Mitch Kupchak has released the following statement regarding the meeting.

“Jim Buss, Mike D’Antoni, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Tim Harris and I, along with representatives from our partners at Time Warner Cable SportsNet and AEG, met this afternoon for approximately two hours with Dwight Howard and his representatives Dan Fegan and Happy Walters. At the meeting, we told him how important he is to the Lakers team, franchise, fans and community, and why we feel this is the best place for him to continue his career. We are hopeful that Dwight decides to remain a Laker.”

Dwight currently has no more meetings scheduled. The Lakers, and his other suitors, are presumably waiting on a decision from Howard.

Dwight is planning to take a few days to consider his options, and then will make his decision.

Dwight has said that he would like to make a decision by July 10th, the first day he can officially sign a contract.

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PhotoCredit:GettyImages
PhotoCredit:GettyImages
PhotoCredit:GettyImages

When Bryant went down with his Achilles tear at the end of last season, no one knew what type of player he would return as, but everyone knew he’d return.  Turns out, Kobe says the Achilles has fueled him to play at least three more seasons in the NBA.  Here’s what he had to say via Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell:

I feel pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years. I feel like how I was playing last year – I know I’ll be healthy and I’ll be ready to go this year – I know what I can bring. And I think I can easily do that for another three years. I think the (Achilles) injury has something to do with it. It really increased the drive. And probably San Antonio getting so close to winning No. 5, probably hurt me a little bit too. I want to make sure I push the ring count out a little further. It was really, really close there. They played phenomenally well. But it’s a testament to what skill can do. To what us old guys can do if you play together, if you play with one mind and one purpose you can accomplish great things. It was inspirational for me and hopefully inspirational for the city of Los Angeles and this organization of what we can do, how this tide can change fairly quickly and we’ll be looking at a parade.”

You can also watch the interview with Bryant here.

It’s pretty clear that Bryant wants to win that sixth ring to further cement his legacy in basketball history and he feels good enough now to give it another go.

 

 

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.