Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Kobe Bryant

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While on his tour in China, Kobe Bryant gave an update to NBA.com’s Jonathan Hartzell on where he is at in his recovery from the ruptured left achilles’ tendon he suffered last April:

“The surgical procedure was different […] and because of that the recovery has been different,” Bryant said in the southern city of Shenzhen. “The normal timetable for recovery from an Achilles, we’ve shattered that. Three-and-a-half months I can already walk just fine, I’m lifting weights with the Achilles just fine and that’s different. So we don’t know what that timetable is going to be. It’s kind of new territory for us all.”’

After years of defying the odds when it comes to injuries, it should come as no surprise to hear this positive news regarding the health of the Lakers superstar, who will be entering his 18th year in the league.

While it’s okay to be optimistic about Kobe’s recovery process, it’s important to remember that we are still three months away from the start of the season and that Kobe is still a long way away from being able to step back onto the court at the level we’ve come to see.

Source: Bryant ‘Shatters’ Recovery Timetable (NBA.com)

UPDATE: Here is a video of Kobe talking about his recovery:

Kobe talks about recovery

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski | USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

You read it right.

Steve Nash is not 100% healthy as of yet but that will not stop him from achieving a childhood dream of his. On Tuesday Nash will be trying out for one of the best soccer, or fútbol, franchises in the world in Inter Milan. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press was first to break the story.

”It’s a dream come true to get a chance to try out, not just to try out but to take the field with Inter Milan, one of the great, storied franchises in professional sports,” Nash said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”I feel like a little kid.”

Nash has always been a huge soccer fan and occasionally jokes about how he would be a great soccer player if he didn’t become as good as he is in basketball. Tuesday he will have the opportunity to show the world the type of player he could be. First, he’ll have to get over his big case of nerves.

”It’s going to be a lot higher than it is playing basketball, for sure,” Nash said. ”I still get nervous for basketball games from time to time. When I get out on the court, I don’t get nervous, but before. To go out there with guys that I look up to and watch play, it’s definitely going to raise the nerves. I’ll be really nervous and really excited.”

As far as his day job goes he still is working to get to 100% health. Everyone knows how injury riddled the Lakers were last season and Nash missed a significant amount of time on the court. Despite that, he has been training hard this off-season and believes that he will have a good year.

”I’ve had a really good summer of training and rehabilitating,” Nash said. ”I’m not 100 percent, but I’m pretty close. Good enough to go out there Tuesday. I’m thrilled I’ve had this time to build myself back up, and I believe I’ll have a great year.”

”We’re all just excited for another opportunity,” Nash said. ”We’ve got some terrific players coming off of difficult seasons. I know Pau Gasol after his injuries, Kobe’s coming off a difficult injury, I was injured for the better part of the season. The three of us are eager to get back out there and there’s other guys, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, who missed a lot of time last year.

Nash did not stop there as his excitement for next season continued to dominate the conversation.

”We’re excited to see what we can make of ourselves. We really are going to try for the second consecutive year to find chemistry and identity, but we’re excited for it, so we’ll see.”

With Nash already coming of an injury plagued year it would be best for him to continue to work out for basketball activities and rest his body. However you cannot blame the guy for wanting to try something that he has always wanted to do and been good at. As long as he makes it through this experience and remains healthy then the fans should have nothing to worry about. If he does happen to succumb to injury, then he will have risked a lot of Lakers hopes for this upcoming season.

Do you believe Nash should tryout for Inter Milan? Why or why not? Would you if you were in his shoes? Let me know below!

 

Steve Nash and others show off their soccer skills!

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Image: Mark J. Terrill | AP

Kobe Bryant is now three months into his rehabilitation process for the torn Achilles tendon he suffered on April 12th.

In the YouTube video above, Heeluxe‘s Dr. Geoffrey Alan Gray provides an in-depth look at Bryant’s injury, and the strenuous rehabilitation process required to get Bryant back into playing form.

Bryant’s initial timetable for his recovery was listed at six-to-nine months, but he may be ahead of schedule.

While vacationing in Italy on Saturday, Bryant had this to say about his rehabilitation:

“I’m here on vacation but I still have to work and improve on recovering from my injury,” said Bryant. “It is difficult because I can’t do much, but I am getting stronger every day and I am hoping to return by November or December.”

Contrary to Bryant’s cautious prediction, Lakers’ executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, recently predicted an even earlier return for the Lakers’ star:

“I would bet a lot of money on him coming back in preseason,” Buss said during a recent broadcast of a Lakers’ Las Vegas Summer League game.

“He’s going to come back when he is right. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season.”

Whatever the case may be, Heeluxe’s Dr. Gray predicts that Bryant could certainly return in time for the start of next season:

“We know from the research that over 92% of all athletes will return to their sports within about six months,” Dr. Gray said. “Is it possible that Kobe Bryant could return in time for the start of the NBA season?”

“Certainly. So if there is ever an athlete that can rehab from a torn Achilles in time for the NBA season start, it’s going to be Kobe Bryant.”

 

* Video created by Heeluxe: masters of foot and shoe science. Follow them on the Web, Facebook and YouTube.

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Image: CHRIS TROTMAN | GETTY IMAGES

According to ESPNLA.com’s Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers are focusing on rebuilding around the two biggest free agents for 2014 – Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Image: Harry How | Getty Images
Image: Harry How | Getty Images

In accordance with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s prediction of a $62.1 million salary cap for the 2014-15 season, the Lakers will theoretically have about $51.5 million in cap space next summer.

Although the reality of pairing James and Anthony together is still a long-shot at this point, the Lakers have made it clear that they plan to try.

The Lakers have positioned themselves into making a realistic run at not just one superstar next summer, but possibly two in the same off-season.

By refusing to commit to any contracts past this upcoming season, the Lakers have maintained maximum flexibility to cash-in on the 2014 free agency frenzy.

A league source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN:

“It’s all wishful thinking at this point,” a league source said. “Teams are doing more wishing than LeBron is wanting right now.

“It’s not about where LeBron wants to go [to win]. He already has two rings. If LeBron moved to Reno, teams would come to him.”

James, who has an opt-out clause for next season, has not made it clear as to whether he plans to exercise his opt-out or not.

It seems that James has learned from his previous “decision” by refusing to discuss his future plans until the time comes.

Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

In addition to James, Anthony also has an early termination option in his contract after this next season.

One source close to Anthony’s situation told ESPN:

“It would make sense for him to exercise the early termination option on his contract after next season to become a free agent and secure either a four- or five-year extension.”

Although the Lakers have tons of cap space next season, there is nothing concrete to sell potential free agents on.

As it currently stands, the Lakers do not even have any current marquee players, like they would have had had Dwight Howard re-signed this off-season.

Not even Kobe Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract, is guaranteed to be in the fold after next year.

Bryant has said recently that he plans to play another two or three more seasons, but would need to take a major pay-cut for the Lakers to maintain enough room to purse two max-level free agents.

Bryant, however, recently told ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin that he intends to be involved in the Lakers’ recruiting efforts for 2014:

“It’s an open conversation, via text and also meeting in person and just picking up the phone and calling,” Bryant said of his involvement. “[The Lakers] have kept me in the loop pretty well.”

With Bryant at the head of the recruiting process, it could bode well for the Lakers’ pursuit of Anthony, in particular.

Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images
Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images

Bryant and Anthony developed a close relationship during their time together in the recent Summer Olympics, and have remained friends since.

The two superstars have also discussed potentially playing together in the past.

It should be interesting to see if the Lakers can in fact lure two max-level free agents next summer, in addition to re-signing Bryant at an affordable price.

The Lakers remain poised to do so, however, with Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre ($915,243) the only players on the books for 2014-15.

According to the ESPNLA.com’s report, the new collective bargaining agreement would allow the Lakers to waive the final year of Nash’s contract, so they could potentially “stretch” his $9.7 million out over three years.

This would mean that only $3.2 million would count against the 2014-15 salary cap, giving the Lakers even more cap flexibility.

As a result of this cap rule, the Lakers could then grant Bryant’s wish and extend his contract for another few seasons at between $10-15 million per season.

Even with Bryant making about $10-15 million per season, the Lakers would still theoretically have enough room to pursue two max-level players.

In addition to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the 2014 free agency class potentially includes Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, and current Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, among others.

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PhotoCredit:JARED WICKERHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Now that Howard has chosen the Houston Rockets over the Lakers reports are coming out with details of his meetings and what Howard’s representatives were saying.  According to sources speaking with ESPN.com Howard was looking for a quick end to Bryant’s reign as the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers.  It was said that Howard would have a difficult time re-signing with the Lakers if Kobe Bryant were to remain there beyond the 13-14 season, his contract year.

Bryant, while recovering from his Achilles’ tear, has found a new fire in his heart to play another three or four seasons in the NBA and this goes directly against Howard’s wanting to become the face of LA, so he bolted.

“How can it be Kobe’s team and Dwight’s team?” one source said. “It was about the passing of the torch.”

Here’s the part where it gets gutsy.  Howard’s camp reportedly asked the Lakers if they were considering using their amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant, seeing that his return to basketball was up in the air due to his devastating injury.  It seems quite audacious to ask such a question, in other words, are you willing to throw out Bryant, arguably the best Laker ever, for Howard who hasn’t really proven his worth up until this point.  Of course the Lakers said this wasn’t up for discussion and the end of Bryant’s tenure with the Lakers would be up to Bryant himself, you don’t just

PhotoCredit:AP/Sue Ogrocki
PhotoCredit:AP/Sue Ogrocki

throw in the towel on someone of his caliber.

It had even been discussed that Howard, when in talks with Chris Paul about teaming up, said that they both could play in LA for either the Lakers or the Clippers.  This would mean however, trading Nash and Gasol to make room for both their salaries, oh and they’d still be amnestying Bryant. Immediately this plan was off the table for the Lakers as they don’t see this as a viable option going forward.

Howard wanted the transfer of power sooner rather than later, and Kobe, now wanting to play three more seasons, was the biggest obstacle in his way.  Here’s what Howard had to say regarding his latest decision in free agency.

“I just really think the timing in L.A., it wasn’t right for me,” Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin on Friday. “Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That’s not saying that L.A. is a bad place, but I just think it’s all about timing and fit when you’re talking about basketball. You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life.”

This actually makes a whole lot of sense when you look at it from Howard’s perspective, should this have happened a couple years ago or a few years into the future Howard may have re-signed with LA as the timing would have been more appropriate.  With Bryant still leading the team for three more seasons likely and Howard wanting to be the franchise player now, the puzzle pieces just didn’t fit into place.

Howard also wants it to be known that D’Antoni wasn’t the sole reason for his departure.

“I think that we had our moments, but I think that his style was a little bit different than what I was accustomed to,” Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com of D’Antoni. “But I don’t want to blame any of that on the coach as the reason why I’m leaving.”

Overall Howard wanted the Lakers to be his own, he wanted to call the shots, have the offense run through him, and be the face of LA.  Kobe Bryant still being there however, impeded that vision of Howards, ultimately leading him to sign with a Rockets team that was much more amenable to his needs.  I find it interesting that his camp actually was thinking the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant for Howard to take the reigns in the least organic way possible.  You can’t force things like this, they just happen with time and that’s how championship teams are built. Dwight Howard’s time in Los Angeles was running out from the second he stepped foot into Staples’ Center, and it clearly just wasn’t meant to be.

How do you feel about Howard’s camp asking if the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant, audacious? Acceptable? Rude? Let’s hear it Nation!

 

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Credit: Getty Images

The city of Los Angeles, home of beautiful weather, women and glamour. Home of the greatest organization in sports, The Los Angeles Lakers, but more importantly, the greatest fans. What makes the Lakers and their fans so unique is they mirror one another. They represent L.A., in many ways. The streets of Los Angeles are rough. It’s about taking care of business and being loyal to one another. The fans represent a ride or die mentality for the Lakers organization, and the players of L.A. do the same.

Being a Laker comes with many great advantages, things like playing for an amazing organization that has a history of winning, and playing alongside one of the (if not the) best to do it in Kobe Bryant and of course the fame of Hollywood. More importantly when you put on that Purple and Gold Armor as Kobe would say, you represent this city. As a Laker you represent toughness and feistiness, you are professional and always hungry just like the city. Our players and fans take on personalities of Ice Cube, Jack Nicholson and many more. Ice Cube represents the West Coast and living in hard times earlier in his life, he’s tough and always wants the Lakers to win. Jack on the other hand is calm cool man, but when a play goes wrong or the referee misses a call he loses it, ready to throw a tantrum, and Laker fans out here, we just love it.

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Credit: Getty Images

I say these things to remind us, who we are and what we represent as fans. We look at the past and current players starting off with Shaq. Shaq jokes around and always smiles but when it came to his play on the court he was dominant and just unstoppable, putting up 40 pts and 20 rebound playoff performances.

We look at Derek Fisher not the biggest or fastest but has the heart of a lion and the nuts of an elephant, I’m pretty sure everyone remembers the play between him and Luis Scola, were he just lit him up and dropped on the floor.

We look at Ron Artest A.K.A Metta World Peace, if their was ever a rumble on the court he was there for his teammates and helped us in game 7 with great Defense and clutch shooting. Todays players, Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the most professional, passionate leaders in Lakers history that never backs down from a challenge.

Los Angeles Lakers Victory Parade
Credit: Getty Images

L.A citizens wake up, work the 9 to 5, grind everyday and when all hope seems lost, they still keep working hard and find a way to get the job done. If the Lakers were down 8 with two minutes left, Kobe and his teammates will find a way to bring us back to win the game. L.A fans and L.A players mirror each other, they are one.

Dwight Howard did not represent LA and who we are. He is extremely talented and is arguably the best center in the league. He is NOT an L.A player, Dwight did not represent this city and our characteristics. He lacked the grittiness, toughness and hunger of the city. Like Tupac said “ To Live and Die in LA it’s the place to be,” We never needed Dwight or needed to beg him, it should have been an honor for him to come back and play. Los Angeles Lakers fans and organization, do not forget who we are, where we come from and what we represent. This is Los Angeles, it doesn’t get better than this. We must remain strong and stay true to ourselves.

Sincerely,

- Just One Of Many Hardworking Los Angeles Citizens and Die Hard Laker Fan. Go Lakers.

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Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

According to the OC Register’s Kevin Ding, the Lakers plan on using their one-time amnesty provision on small forward Metta World Peace:

This comes as little surprise, considering the Lakers’ current financial situation for next season.

With the new “repeater luxury tax” penalizing tax-paying teams, the Lakers’ decision to amnesty World Peace is purely financial.

Even with Dwight Howard bolting to Houston and the inevitable use of the amnesty clause, saving the Lakers about $14.355 million in payroll, the Lakers will still be over the 2013-14 NBA salary cap.

As reported today, the Lakers have agreed to use their taxpayer’s mid-level exception in signing free agent center Chris Kaman, which leaves them with only veteran minimum contracts to fill out the rest of the roster.

One option in filling World Peace’s void is simply moving Kobe Bryant to the small forward position.

The Lakers, however, have also been rumored as having interest in a few free agent wing players.

Stay tuned for official word on the Lakers using their amnesty provision, as the NBA amnesty period runs from July 11 through July 17 of this year.

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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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.

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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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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: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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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

As NBA teams begin their free agent processes across the country, no bigger spotlight remains than the one on center Dwight Howard.

With the likes of Houston, Dallas, Golden State, Atlanta and of course, the Lakers, competing for his services, Howard remains poised to choose his own career path.

According to ESPNLA.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin, Howard remains firm in his claim that this upcoming decision “has to be wholeheartedly his decision and his alone.”

Only one of those teams mentioned, however, can give Howard the type of legacy any NBA center would dream of.

From George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Shaquille O’Neal, Howard has the opportunity to become the next great big man in line.

A brand new, rather emotional video compilation created by Samuel Limon “theperson18” and his partner John Ramirez, illustrates the incredible potential Howard has if he remains a Los Angeles Laker.

The YouTube video, titled “Dwight Howard: A Destined Legacy“, documents the sheer magnitude of Howard’s impending free agent decision, and the potential legacy he could leave as the Lakers’ next franchise player.

This past NBA season, filled with disappointment and frustration, leaves the Lakers’ fan base questioning the direction of the Lakers this off-season.

Now, with a full Lakers season under Howard’s belt, the onus falls on the front office to bring back the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

It is no secret that the Lakers’ fan base remains split on whether Howard is the true long-term answer for the franchise. Howard’s emotional demeanor paired with his jovial attitude has led to this discord among fans.

But, after battling through a surgically repaired back and a torn labrum this past season, Howard has proved that he is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to pursue a championship.

In the video compilation, Kobe Bryant provided support for Howard:

“I think Los Angeles is the perfect spot for [Howard],” Bryant said in the video, “to assert himself, to kind of put his foot down and have his career really take off.”

The support also radiates from former Lakers legend Magic Johnson:

“His personality fits LA. This guy has a chance to take LA over,” Johnson explained, “Kobe Bryant is the ultimate closer. Kobe Bryant only wants to win. That’s who you should want to play with. That’s who you should want to be paired with. Kobe Bryant needs [Howard], and [Howard] needs Kobe Bryant.”

As Dwight Howard prepares for his free agent meeting with the Lakers’ contingent on Tuesday, be sure to give the above video a look.

Howard’s decision is sure to shape the direction of the Lakers’ franchise for years to come.

 

* Video created by Going Beyond, a videography company started in Santa Barbara, California.

Follow Going Beyond & Samuel Limon on TwitterYouTube and Instagram.

Follow LakerNation opinion columnist Alex Lambeth on Twitter. E-mail him at alex.lambeth@lakernation.com.

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Now that the NBA Finals have ended, the basketball world’s attention shifts to the off-season. Beginning with the NBA Draft yesterday and continuing with the beginning of free agency next week, the next three months will shape how the 2013-2014 NBA season goes down.

There might not be a team with a more uncertain future heading into the off-season than the Lakers. Will Dwight stay or will he go? (Here’s my opinion from yesterday in case you missed it)

Do you upgrade an aging roster? Stick to what you have? Get rid of everyone? What exactly should the Lakers do?

Let’s take a look at three options Los Angeles really has this off-season, and which is going to be best for the franchise.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

Re-sign and Build Around Dwight

The most obvious solution would be to go all in and put everything you have to bringing Howard back to Los Angeles. While injuries caused a dip in his production this season, there is no doubt Dwight is a top ten talent in the NBA and the best center in the league when healthy. Howard is a game-changer, especially on the defensive end of the court. With a player like that in the fold, you have a solid core for the next 5-10 years that you can build around.

With gobs of cap space coming in the summer of 2014, and a very impressive list of free agents, the Lakers could secure Howard and be back in contention within a year.

That is of course if the big man wants to be back in the Purple and Gold. Reports have recently surfaced that the Lakers are a long-shot to bring him back. According to ESPN:

Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skillset, one source said.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

Sign-and-trade Dwight for Depth

So if there’s no bringing him back, what can the Lakers do? Another idea that has been thrown around lately has been the concept of sign-and-trading Dwight to a team of his choosing to bring back some assets in return. While Howard would obviously have to agree to sign with the team he is going to, getting something in return is better than allowing Dwight to walk for nothing. (Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers can send a player out in a sign-and-trade, they just can’t bring a player in via sign-and-trade.)

With reports that Chris Paul and Howard want to form their own super team, the most talked about sign-and-trade has D12 going to the Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin. Which sounds like a decent deal, except for the fact that the Lakers don’t want to send Howard to their rivals (if you can even call them that) down the hall, and the contract owed Griffin is going to become increasingly tough to justify if all he ever does is dunk and make Kia commercials.

If the Lakers are going to move Howard they need to take advantage of this opportunity and bring in a young talent that can help transform the franchise. A trade that gets the Lakers younger and more talented in exchange for Dwight would be the main objective of the franchise.

So what trade accomplishes these goals? That’s easy. A three-way trade between the Lakers, Clippers, and… (drumroll please) the T’Wolves! Minnesota happens to have a very talented young power forward who most people (Minny included), don’t expect to stick around past his opt-out after this season. A trade sending Dwight to the Clippers, Blake Griffin to the Wolves and Bledsoe and All-Star Kevin Love to the Lakers makes sense for all involved.

Paul and Howard get to team up in Clipper uniforms, Ricky Rubio gets the perfect alley-oop target, and the Lakers get two young, dynamic players to upgrade their roster. Which sounds like the perfect trade, meaning it will be almost impossible to pull off.

Andrew Wiggins 2

Blow it Up and Start Over

So if Dwight doesn’t want to come back, and the Lakers can’t get the right assets in return with a sign-and-trade, what option lies behind the proverbial door number three?

Blow it all up and rebuild. Let Dwight walk. Trade Pau. Amnesty Metta. Don’t bring Kobe back to play this year. Tank, tank, tank, tank, tank. (Then fire D’Antoni, I beg of you.)

If we’ve learned anything from the OKC’s and Spurs of the league, it’s that drafting talent is as important as signing talent. Unless you have Lebron James, you just can’t win in the league today without cheap, young talent.

In Los Angeles, it’s title or bust every season for the Lakers. And with a championship looking less and less likely next season, blowing it up for a franchise-changing lottery pick (Andrew Wiggins anyone?) could be the best route to take.

With ridiculous amounts of cap space next summer, the Lakers could potentially have a great, young talent on a rookie contract and two or three max players in the starting line-up with him. Doesn’t that seem like the best option towards a quick rebuild back into title contention?

The Lakers have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. Will they look for instant gratification again, or decide to finally bite the bullet and rebuild for the future? Either way, you can guarantee it will be an interesting summer in Laker Land.

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

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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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