Thursday, November 20, 2014
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ESPN

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“He is arguably the greatest player in the history of the Lakers’ franchise. He is also destroying it from within.”

It is simple. It is to the point. It is wrong.

On Monday, ESPN published an article online from writer Henry Abbott, who takes aim at Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for being the sole reason the franchise has fallen off the last few seasons.

Let me be clear, when I say wrong, I do not mean the article is full of baseless information. In fact, there are stories in it that would not surprise me to be true. More times than not, Kobe has not exactly been the ideal teammate that players gravitate to nor will he ever pretend to lower expectations for his teammates causing tension along the way. This has been the narrative attributed to Kobe over his entire career. It is nothing new.

Where Abbott is wrong is letting his feelings towards Kobe get in the way of his job as journalist and writer. Instead his personal vendetta turned his opinion article into an unnecessary hack job of one man’s character.

I am not exactly sure when or where Abbott’s animosity towards Kobe began, but it is no secret Abbott is not a Lakers/Kobe guy and it is safe to assume the two do not exchange greeting cards during the holidays. Abbott has written many pieces over the past few years criticizing the shooting guard and it seems to only get more frequent with every passing season. Again, this is nothing new.

The main issue with Abbott’s article is it is completely one-sided. He knew exactly what direction he wanted to go in and used as much negative, second-hand information in his story to add “credibility” to his opinion. I am not sure what happened to the days of credible sources in journalism and it is clear Abbott is not sure either.

Here is a list of Abbott’s sources of information: “Rival GM”, “One long-time agent”, “Another agent with Lakers clients”, “An agent with numerous stars”, “An agent who once had a FA decline a Lakers offer”, “Front office executive from a rival team who knows everyone involved”, “Sources told ESPN Insider Chris Broussard”, “One Lakers source”, “One source in the Lakers circle”, “Source”, “Source with knowledge of the negotiations”, “One rival front office executive”, “Another NBA executive”, “Source close to Lakers decision makers”, “Sources”, and finally a “Lakers insider”.

Abbott’s attempt at bringing up different situations to tear down Kobe is weak at best. There are many different sides of a story and Abbott was motivated to find the side that went against Kobe, while ignoring every other side out there, even if it was reported by the network he is associated with.

It would not be any fun for him if he had to report a positive story Kobe. Kobe is arguably the most unpopular popular player in sports history and as a result a negative story on him will garner more clicks to meet that monthly quota.

Let’s take a look at some of the examples Abbott lays out in his article and put them up to the source test:

Dwight Howard leaving Lakers because of Kobe? Or was Howard upset at how he was treated in LA and wanted to be the man immediately?

To start off, let’s play the unnamed source game: “According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.” - Dave McMenamin, ESPN

Now let’s go with named sources…

Steve Nash: “Dwight had some issues with the season,” Nash said. “I think it kind of basically goes with what he said to the media that he never quite felt embraced in L.A. He never quite felt supported. That’s basically it.” - Dave McMenamin, ESPN

Phil Jackson: And Kobe made a moving speech during the pitch, promising to teach Dwight the secret of winning championships that he’d learned from the best in the game.

If the meeting had ended there, it might have worked. But after the presentation, Dwight asked Kobe what he was planning to do after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Was this going to be his last year? “No,” replied Kobe. “I’m planning to be around for three or four more years.”

At that point, according to others in the room, Dwight’s eyes went blank and he drifted away. In his mind, the game was over. - New York Daily News

Dwight Howard himself: “A lot of people say, ‘Well, if you would’ve waited a couple years, then this could’ve been yours (with the Lakers),’ And I’m like, ‘In a couple years, I’m 30,’” Howard said. “I don’t want to wait. I’ve been in the league 10 years. I don’t want to wait for things to happen. I want to be aggressive, to make things happen. And I’m looking at all these young guys who are just ready, and they’re missing one piece. And I’m like, ‘I could be that piece, and I don’t want to miss my chance.” – Sam Amick, USA Today

How about Ramon Sessions leaving the Lakers because of Kobe?

“Sessions has been somewhat evasive as to why, but he has been quoted as saying it was “definitely different” playing with Bryant. Internally, the Lakers were rattled by his departure and came to believe that Kobe was the key. It meant little as a transaction but everything as a sign of how players with options view this team.” – Abbott

Ramon Sessions in 2012, on why he left the Lakers: “It was one of those situations I looked at like, ‘If I do come back what if they trade me?’ ” Sessions said. “There were talks about getting Deron. They always wanted the bigger-named guy. What if I get traded to a team and it’s my contract year? It was one of those things that I can’t say if I opted in, [Nash] wouldn’t have come. They still might have tried to get him. You just never know.” - Yahoo! Sports

Paul George staying with Indiana because of Kobe? 

“Paul George, Angelino through and through, had once been the team’s safest choice. But sources say one reason the two-way star had re-signed with the Pacers in the fall of 2013 instead was that he was turned off by the thought that Bryant would police his efforts.” – Abbott

Paul George response on Twitter:

Kobe must be so influential to the point that a player from another team, who in fact idolized Kobe growing up, evening wearing his number in college and in the NBA, was scared off by playing with him that he was forced to sign a 5-year, $91.57M contract.

And finally Jim Buss, who apparently hates Kobe in a Lakers uniform:

The view in the Lakers’ front office is that any real rebuild will have to wait until after Bryant’s retirement. “This has finally come home,” says a Lakers insider. “Major players don’t want to play with Kobe, and Jimmy is waiting for him to leave. – Abbott

Buss really wanted to Kobe to leave to the point where he gave the veteran a 2-year, $48.5M extension as he recovered from an Achilles heel injury that sometimes ends the careers of athletes. The logical thing would have been for Buss to tell Kobe they were moving forward with the future if he really wanted him to leave. The injury gave him the perfect opportunity to get rid of Kobe. Then again, that is the logical thing to do.

Now I understand unnamed sources are what drives sports stories and the media, but Kobe has been in the league 19 years and you’re telling me Abbott was unable to reach out to any of his ex-teammates? You know players that actually PLAYED with him. Why not ask Pau Gasol why it was so difficult to leave LA for Chicago this past summer? What about Derek Fisher? Rick Fox? Lamar Odom? How about current teammates like Steve Nash?

Or what about Shaquille O’Neal who has been completely open about his relationship with Kobe in the past? Much was made about Kobe running the center out of LA but even Shaq was candid in his reasons:

“It was a money situation, I was getting older,” he continued. “They wanted me to take less money. I wasn’t going to do that, so they traded me to Miami.”

On his relationship with Kobe on the court:

“We didn’t have a bad relationship, because we won three out of four championships,” O’Neal said. “That’s not a bad relationship at all.”

While Abbott was tracking down his anonymous sources, it is hard to believe he could not contact players that would be willing to go on record for his article. Whether the opinion of those teammates would be good or bad, it would provide the piece with far more credibility.  In addition, some of the sources were that of rival teams and agents, who have much to gain from trashing Kobe for individual, client, and franchise gain. As for “sources” inside the Lakers organization, it would be surprising to see if these sources are in fact as close to the situation as portrayed by Abbott.

Is Kobe going to win the award for best teammate? No. Is Kobe difficult to play with? He is. Does Kobe demand the same type of passion and commitment from teammates that he demands from himself? You bet. Certain players can play with Kobe, some cannot and that is what it comes down to.

When it comes to the big name free agents, let’s not ignore the fact the Lakers are consistently over the salary cap and this past off-season was the first time since the 90’s the team had a chance to add large contracts. LeBron James was always going back home to Cleveland and while Carmelo Anthony was intrigued by the Lakers, it was difficult for him to say no to Phil Jackson and $124M. Don’t see how Kobe played a part in either of those situations.

The Lakers being at the bottom of the league at the moment is not about one player. It is about a wide-array of things that Abbott fails to mention.

After the league vetoed the Lakers acquisition of Chris Paul, that can be seen as a good starting point as to when the purple and gold empire began to fall. A Paul trade would have been a precursor to another move that would have brought together Kobe, Paul, and Howard to form one of the more intriguing threesomes in NBA history. It was a typical Lakers plan that would have resulted in yet another dynasty… but it did not happen for “basketball reasons”.

That is no Lakers bias either from my end, it’s a shared sentiment from other reporters such as Eric Pincus:

Instead the Lakers went to plan B, which included trading an unhappy Lamar Odom for a draft pick, sending a bunch of draft picks to the Suns for Steve Nash and still being able to bring Howard in from the Magic.

From there, coaching issues with Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, terrible luck on the injury front, and lack of resources to trade for players (you know the thing the Lakers always have done to bring in talent, not in free agency) to compete in the Western Conference, have all played more of a role to the decline of the Lakers than Kobe has.

To place the blame on one player for the fall of a franchise is irresponsible. It is even more irresponsible to try and pass off an article as “opinion” with “facts” while your sources all hide behind anonymity.

While Abbott can attempt to blame Kobe for the fall of the Lakers, this is a prime example of a problem within media today. More than that, this piece just goes on to further the fall of respectable, honest journalism.

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Everyone’s favorite point guard Smush Parker is at it again, this time in an interview on ESPN’s show Highly Questionable where he ‘reveals’ that Kobe Bryant did not allow Parker to talk to him during practice.

“He told me one day at practice – I tried to talk to him outside of basketball, about football. And he looked at me in practice and was dead serious and said, ‘You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.”

In the video below (starts at 2:58), Parker goes on to discuss the lack of relationship the two had as well as his thoughts on being considered a ‘bad’ player with the Lakers.

Someone should let Parker know that it has been seven years since he last played with the Lakers.

Let it go.

 

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Dwight Howard is a seven-time NBA All-Star. Dwight Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Dwight Howard is five-time All-NBA First Team player. Dwight Howard is not the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.

There have been many superstars throughout the history of the NBA. None of them have been as indecisive and immature as Dwight Howard.

As is often times the case in a results-driven league, Howard’s talent has caused many to dismiss his lack of maturity on the court, his child-like behavior off of it, and his overall lack of self-awareness in his constantly changing mindset.

Howard wanted out of Orlando, then he wanted to opt-in, then he wanted out again. He also only wanted to go to Brooklyn, then he was happy to be a Laker, then he was frustrated, and now according to ESPN, he wants to run away from difficulty again and head to Texas. But not before putting the blame on the Lakers, like he did to the Magic.

Howard’s major problem with the Lakers is the system that coach Mike D’Antoni employs… Howard also does not want to be second fiddle to Bryant for several more seasons.

Dwight is blaming the coach and the system for his shortcomings, this sounds familiar doesn’t it? D’Antoni in no way has done a good job with the Lakers, and his system is very much to blame for the short-comings we saw all season long, but for that to be the reason Howard leaves Los Angeles is ridiculous.

This is especially true when you consider the fact that Howard is looking at Houston as an option. You know, the team who launches three’s at a record-pace and runs exactly none of their offense through the low-post. Yet that system doesn’t seem to be an issue to Dwight.

imagesThe Dallas Mavericks also seem to be an option. A team with an aging star in Dirk Nowitzki that will be Howard’s team to call his very own a year from now. And to a self-centered man like Dwight Howard, being handed the keys to a franchise without delivering any results sounds like the perfect deal.

It’s time for Laker fans to face some realities. Dwight Howard is not the type of player to lead you to a championship, and in a city where success is measured by titles do we really want to hitch our fortunes to him? When someone shows over and over again that they refuse to accept responsibility for their decisions, that they refuse to grow up and act like the professional they are expected to be, they are not the type of player you want leading you into the future.

Do the Lakers as a franchise want to commit over $100 million to someone who has shown no commitment, and to some extent only shown disrespect to the greatest franchise in sports today? Howard’s contract will determine the immediate and long-term future of the Lakers, and could end up being one of the most important decisions the franchise ever makes. Do you really want to risk all of that on someone who you can’t trust to stick to a single decision?

Los Angeles has been spoiled with Kobe Bryant for the last decade and a half. Bryant is a superstar who takes challenges head on, who enjoys overcoming difficulty and who only wants to win. Howard is the complete opposite of that. He runs from challenges and criticism. Howard wants nothing but adulation from his fan base, regardless of the results he brings.

Dwight Howard wants all the praise that comes with being a franchise player, while playing like a secondary All-Star and acting like a child who is never at fault.

Even if he regains his pre-injury form, Howard will never be the type of player to lead you to a championship. The Lakers should let this spoiled brat tuck his tail and run to Texas.

Good riddance.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie and Laker Nation contributor. You can follow him on Twitter at @ItsBelal_A

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PhotoCredit: BleacherReport.com
PhotoCredit: BleacherReport.com

Tired of hearing about the Dwightmare that seems to take a new turn every day?  Yeah, me too.  With the latest turn of events we see that Dwight Howard reportedly has said that he plans to play in Brooklyn next season.  This coming from a source close to ESPN basketball insider, Stephen A. Smith.  Here’s what the source said via BleacherReport:

A source close to the situation found that the Los Angeles Lakers center recently told Rudy Gay, “on the court,” that he made a mistake by getting traded to the Toronto Raptors.

D12 allegedly went on to say that the swingman “should have waited” until next year, when the two stars could have wound up in Brooklyn together.”

Notice the fact that the report says that Dwight spoke to Rudy Gay “on the court” regarding Brooklyn.  The Lakers haven’t played either The Grizzlies or The Raptors since the trade that sent Gay to Toronto went down.  This leads to questions of credibility about the source that gave out this kind of information.  Is it just another story to fire up the rumor mill? Does it have any clout in the sports world whatsoever?  These are questions that lead me to believe that these reports are highly exaggerated or fabricated entirely.

This was also taken from the BleacherReport article regarding Howard wanting to go to The Nets:

Ryan Ruocco, Smith’s co-host on the radio program, asked if Dwight was “delusional” by thinking he is still going to wind up in Brooklyn. Smith confirmed that D12 truly believes he will be a Net and that the star center thinks he can make something happen to get there in the near future.

It’s because of stories like this that make me nervous about where Dwight will be at the start of next season.  Whether or not the report is true about Dwight speaking to Gay on the court, it doesn’t cover up the fact that Dwight may very well have his sights set on Brooklyn and not Los Angeles.

PhotoCredit: BleacherReport.com
PhotoCredit: BleacherReport.com

That February 21st trade deadline is coming in hot, and who knows what moves (if any) Mitch Kupchak is going to make.  I feel if the Los Angeles front office isn’t at least 80% sure Dwight Howard will resign with The Lakers we need to trade him. The worst possible scenario would be Dwight leaving to free agency and Los Angeles getting absolutely nothing but the door shutting behind Dwight as he leaves Staples Center. However, it’s still unlikely that Mitch will make a move even if Dwight wants to leave due to the foot injury to Pau Gasol.  Gasol is still up to 7 weeks from returning to the lineup, and LA can’t afford to be without a big man until then.  The Lakers front office would have to trade Dwight for another big man such as Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets in order for a trade to work without leaving The Lakers in a situation where they lack a front court entirely.

Personally, I hope Dwight Howard stays with Los Angeles; sure he’s not been the power house Dwight Howard we all knew, but he has the potential to be. Once all this hype over The Lakers dissipates and Dwight continues to heal and move forward from his back injury last April, he’ll come back to being more of his former dominating self. One thing Dwight needs to know is that when Kobe Bryant retires (unfortunately, he has to at some point), Dwight will become the centerpiece of

PhotoCredit:Noah Graham:NBAE:Getty Images
PhotoCredit:Noah Graham:NBAE:Getty Images

Los Angeles, it will become his team.  Kobe could play a few more years should he so choose, but if The Mamba sticks to his guns he plans on calling it quits at age 35.  His 35th birthday would land right before the start of the next and possibly final season for Kobe Bryant.

Can Dwight wait that long? Does he even want to be King in LA?  More questions about the Dwightmare continue to circulate and won’t likely cease until Dwight lands somewhere and inks a long-term contract.  I want to hear what you think, where do you think Dwight will end up after this season?   I suppose only time can truly tell.

Where do you want to see Dwight Howard play next season?

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Trust Isuues
Photo Credit: In Flex We Trust

As Drake once said the number one problem with relationships today are trust issues. Usually someone has their phone locked, tweets blocked, or just do not want to tell their partner how they feel in fear of being the bad guy (or girl). On Monday, Lakers star center Dwight Howard sat down in an exclusive interview with ESPN broadcast journalist Stephen A. Smith to discuss all-things Lakers and his role in the team’s future plans:

In a one-on-one interview, Dwight Howard swore he’s committed to the Lakers — for this season. That he wants to remain a Laker — for this season. That he’s happier with Kobe Bryant now, more so than he was before, although he said there’s still room for their relationship to get better.

“I’m learning from Kobe,” Howard told me on Monday. “I’m watching how he works, how he operates, what he knows and feels about this organization. Things continue to get better every day. But there’s always room for growth.”

Let’s just say Dwight is trying not to be the bad guy in this relationship:

Howard is free to trust everyone or no one. Free to dictate his own terms. That means his own system, arguably his own coach, and definitely which franchise to choose between the Lakers, Mavs and Hawks, just to name a few.

“I’ve trusted enough people in my career,” Howard deadpanned. “Now it’s time for me to trust myself. I’ve given and given. I’ve thought about everyone else. Now it’s time for me to think about me.”

Throughout the article Stephen A. brings up the point that the Lakers do not have time to waste with Dwight. On July 1st he becomes a restricted free agent and is free to roam to any team he wants to. The problem with that scenario is that Dwight is the Lakers future: for better or for worse:

He never swore his allegiance to the Purple and Gold. He never said he wanted to be a Laker for life. Dwight Howard never displayed affection for the pantheon of Lakers big men serving as his predecessors — just that he wanted to one day be as iconic as they are.

This is the best the Los Angeles Lakers can hope for from D-Howard at the moment. That he’s great. Committed to excellence.

And so it is precisely for that reason that, as we sit here today, with the Lakers visiting the Nets in Brooklyn and an injured Howard on the sideline, GM Mitch Kupchak should make sure to visit his Nets counterpart, Billy King, for the sole purpose of attempting to trade L.A.’s resident big man.

Quick, fast and in a hurry!

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak recently stated that:

“We will not trade Dwight Howard,” Kupchak told Newsday last month. “We have no intention of making a trade. It’s unlikely that we’ll make any trade with any of our principal players.”

Yet Smith stuck to his guns about his feelings on the statement:

Such proclamations do not make the Lakers look smart, or like an organization with a clue about what is in the heart and mind of Howard.

Trade him for some combination involving Nets center Brook Lopez. Trade him for multiple pieces involving Hawks forward Josh Smith — who desperately wants out of Atlanta — and other respectable parts.

Dwight even touched upon how he and, power forward, Pau Gasol can be effective together on the court despite what may be said:

Howard also said he believes he and Pau Gasol should play together, even though coach Mike D’Antoni has them playing apart.

What part of all this are the Lakers finding difficult to comprehend?

Somebody help me out here, please!

Stephen A. Smith makes very valid points. Losing Dwight could derail the Lakers for a number of years. They essentially gave up draft picks to bring him here as he is the present and the future of the organization.

The Lakers do need to find out what exactly Dwight’s thoughts are because there is no future if he decides to leave Los Angeles during free agency. With an aged point guard in Steve Nash, a disgruntled but valuable player in Gasol, and a hall-of-famer in the twilight of his career named Kobe Bryant the Lakers have no time to waste.

To say that this season has been been more frustrating than exciting would be an understatement. Everyone had high hopes once the trades were made however we all have been left looking confused rather than looking like Confucius. Call me crazy, but I still do believe that with Bryant’s willingness to become a play maker, rather than his usual scoring self, the Lakers can still make a title-run. Yet it will take less #countonKobe and more #countonDwight to make it there.

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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.