Kobe Bryant

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!

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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

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

Since Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s Achilles injury, he has not laid as low as other NBA players with injuries have (a la Derrick Rose). He has become more and more active on Twitter, created an Instagram account, completed numerous interviews with the media, and even went to Brazil to enjoy the FIFA Confederation Cup match between Brazil and Italy. In the past week alone, Bryant has made many headlines with comments about the his injury, his future, and the Lakers future involving Dwight Howard.

Photo Credit: Forbes

When discussing his achilles injury, Bryant spoke about the advice he received from Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham. The two star players have built a great friendship in the time that Beckham has resided within Los Angeles.

“Becks and I have grown to be pretty close since he’s been playing in Los Angeles for [the Galaxy] the last five years,” said Bryant, reported LA Times Writer Eric Pincus. Beckham tore his Achilles in 2010, but was able to make a strong return to the pitch. “He and I talked for quite a bit about his process, and his recovery,” Kobe said. “He hasn’t had any issues with it since. He’s won several championships since the injury, so I’m pretty encouraged by that.” Bryant was injured on April 12 in a win over the Golden State Warriors. He had surgery the following day, with a projected recovery of six to nine months.

Knowing Kobe Bryant the player, he has held onto the notion that he will be ready by opening day of the 2013-2014 NBA season. However, he may not be able to return as soon as he wishes. In order to be sure of a full-strength recovery, Bryant’s opening night may have to be in the months of November or December.

“It’s going well,” he said of his recovery. “I’m pretty much two months out of surgery, and I’m walking” he said. “I can get up on my toes. I’m pleased with how it’s going so far.” Bryant admitted to having some initial doubts about regaining his physical abilities, but now he uses that as fuel for his recovery. “You have to allow yourself to think that, because it keeps you on edge. It keeps you motivated. It keeps you strong,” he said.  “I think for me, once I started hearing everybody else say, ‘Well, maybe this is it.  Maybe this is too much’ — that’s what really gave me the determination to see if I can prove them wrong.” “You want to be able to go out on your own terms. You don’t want to be forced out of the game because of an injury,” he said. “You want to feel like when you’re leaving the game, you’re leaving because you want to.”

In speaking of being able to go out on your own terms, Bryant seems to have an alternative plan to the 1-2 year retirement window that he has publicly discussed. During his trip in Brazil Bryant stated that he believes he could “easily” play double the amount.

Photo Credit: Vibe

If Bryant sticks to that plan the he could potentially retire at the age of thirty-eight. With his high level of dedication, and skill set, he could make a run at a few more championships and surpass Michael Jordan in all-time scoring. Kobe currently sits at 31,617 points for his career and publicly doubts that he will attempt to break any such record. Yet his former coach, Phil Jackson thinks otherwise. ESPNLA’s  Arash Markazi was there to report.

“His goal is another championship,” Jackson said. “He also has a chance to replace Michael Jordan in the all-time scoring list. Those are two goals, with the first one being a championship, that Kobe would like to accomplish.”

Finally, there is the one question that anyone with an association to a certain big man on the Lakers cannot escape. What will become of Dwight Howard and his Lakers future? Reported by LA Times Eric Pincus, Bryant spoke up about how important it is for the Lakers to retain their current version of Superman.

“Those guys are hard to find, they don’t grow on trees,” Bryant said on 710 ESPN Los Angeles. “When you have someone like that with his talent level, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise.”

Bryant is spot on that it’s difficult, in today’s age, to find a big man who can dominate like Howard. Truthfully, when Howard is 100% healthy and focused, there are very few players in the league who can compete with him. Bryant knows this and knows how important Howard is to the Lakers future. He wants Howard to re-sign but he will not court him as much as the media says other players have.

“I’ve spoken to him maybe a couple of weeks ago, just to check in with him,” said Bryant. “I haven’t spoken to him since. I know he’s got a big decision to make and I’m sure he’ll take the visits and talk to the players on the teams he’s considering. We’ll touch base a lot more.” “It’s hard because a lot of times those two things don’t align,” he said. “With the history that this franchise has of having great centers, this would, in my opinion, be the perfect spot for him.”

It is great from a fan perspective to see Kobe become more and more noticeable in the public eye. He has been a relatively quiet person with his personal life, but with him now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel it is great that he is able to bring fans along for the his final chapter.

What do you think of Kobe’s comments? Should he be more open or stay reserved? Do you agree that Howard is vital to the Lakers future? Express yourself below!

Stay tuned for more news and updates here on LakerNation.com

 

Photocredit: NBA.com

Photocredit: NBA.com

Last week I released a series of poll questions about this off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers.  I asked you, the Laker Nation, to answer them and I’d analyze those answers in the coming week.  Well you guys all answered and this article will detail all the possible scenarios from the most popular answers to each poll question. So here we go!  If you’d like to take a quick look back at all the questions, here’s the link to the article - http://lakernation.com/offseason-poll-questions/

 

Question 1:  Would you like to see the Lakers re-sign Dwight Howard? 843 Total Votes

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

The majority of you said yes, you would like to see him re-signed with 609 “Yes” votes to 234  ”No” votes.

What does this mean? Well unfortunately, it isn’t up to Laker management at this point as the ball is in Dwight’s court (No pun intended).  The majority of you would like to see him stay with the purple and gold with a 5 year max contract.  The Lakers can offer Dwight that extra year and 30 million dollars more than any other of the teams vying for his signature.  However, no one except Dwight knows for sure if that is enough to make him want to stay.  Rumors say he can’t stand D’Antoni and that’s a huge factor in making his ultimate decision. Houston is looking like a viable option for him at this point, and recent news is saying he and Chris Paul are attempting to team up together on one team..  Only time will tell whether Dwight will re-sign with LA or another ball club, and July 1st is the date in which the fire storm hits its climax.

 

Question 2:  Should Chris Paul decide to leave the Clippers, would you want him to sign with the Lakers? 848 Total Votes

The majority of you also said yes you would like to see him sign with the opposite locker room this season and leave the Clippers with 787 “Yes” votes against 61 “No” votes.  Many of you are probably thinking “Of course, who wouldn’t want to see Chris Paul in a Lakers’ jersey?”  Well, there are some issues with him signing

PhotoCredit:Robert Beck:SI

PhotoCredit:Robert Beck:SI

here. First off, Chris would have to “want” to sign with the Lakers, and at this point, I’m not sure why he would.  His Clippers finished with the best record in their franchise history and took the Pacific division crown this season while the Lakers barely made the playoffs.  He, like any other NBA player, wants to win a championship sooner rather than later, and by first glance the Clippers seem to be in the better position.

Another thing is that by signing Chris Paul the Lakers would not be signing Dwight Howard, basically they are both too expensive and the Lakers are already well over the salary cap.  So it’s a choice between a dominant center in Dwight Howard, or one of the most crafty, skilled point guards in Paul.  There is also the problem of having Steve Nash still under contract for 2 more seasons; 9 million dollars coming off the bench isn’t the smartest use of money. The Lakers would more than likely have to trade Nash just a year after trading their draft picks for him, and he won’t be necessarily easy to trade given his age and decreased level of effectiveness shown from this previous season.  It’d be a great upgrade at the point guard position for the Lakera with a player like Paul, leading the offense and keeping up with the young point guards that dominate the league, but the chances are low and he’ll likely re-sign with the Clippers.

 

Question 3:  Should the Lakers trade up in the draft for a better pick?  796 Total Votes

This was a lot closer in votes than the previous two poll questions coming in with 438 “Yes” votes and 358 “No” votes.  Seeing as this goes hand in hand with the following question, I’ll combine the two here.

Question 4:  Who would you like to see traded for the pick? 742 Total Votes

The number one person on the roster that you would like to see traded for a pick was Metta World Peace coming in with 220 votes.  Jodie Meeks came in second place with 155 votes, and third place was Pau Gasol with 138 .  While getting rid of Metta may be a good option as his contract is rather pricey for the player the

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

Lakers are getting, he’s just not worth that much to trade away for a decent pick.

Meeks is in the same boat as Metta, although he’s younger and a better shooter so he might warrant a slightly better pick.  Pau Gasol coming in at third however may be the most viable and prime option for a good pick.  Pau has a very expensive price tag though as he totes a 19 million dollar salary.  Trading him would likely get the Lakers a decent pick in the first round somewhere, but most teams would have to offer the Lakers at least one other player to accomodate his large salary.  Trading one of your players with a first round pick for Pau Gasol isn’t a trade teams are going to want to make, Pau just isn’t worth that much any more as his numbers have been in steady decline the past couple seasons.

PhotoCredit:IDSports

PhotoCredit:IDSports

However, recent news has surfaced that the Lakers are interested in Peyton Siva, the explosive guard out of the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals.  Siva is projected to go late in the second round, which is completely feasible for the Lakers to trade up for.  Trading for a late second round pick isn’t too difficult for Lakers management to pull off, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to give up one of their starting five either.  Do you guys like the idea of drafting Peyton Siva? Let me know your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

Question 5:  Of these free agents, who would you like to see the Lakers sign? 810 Total Votes

This one was a flat out victory by J.R. Smith receiving 526 total votes, second place sits Nikola Pekovic, the Minnesota big man, with 132 votes, and in third we have Anthony Morrow with 88 votes.  Here’s the thing, as great as it would be for the Lakers to sign a player like J.R. Smith, he’s probably going to be too expensive for them. He’s coming off a $2.8 million dollar salary with New York, and he has a player option in his contract for this upcoming season of which he is likely to opt out of.  Smith has earned himself the sixth man of the year award this past season and because of that he can leave New York and ask for

PhotoCredit:APPhotoFrankFranklinII

PhotoCredit:APPhotoFrankFranklinII

more money elsewhere.  Another possibility is that New York signs him to a new bigger contract, but regardless Smith is looking for a bigger contract and with Los Angeles already well over the cap a signing isn’t likely.

Nikola Pekovic would be somone to look at if Dwight Howard chooses to sign elsewhere.  He could hold down the paint, and eventually become a strong, dominant center in the NBA as a member of the Lakers organization.  We’ll see if Lakers management looks his way should Dwight choose to leave LA.

Then there’s Anthony Morrow, a close friend of Dwight Howard’s and a pretty good shooter.  Morrow’s early years were his best shooting wise and if were to return to that form he’d be a great asset for the shooter deprived Lakers. Not that this would necessarily keep Dwight in LA but having a close friend work along side yourself makes you want to stay put more than if Morrow weren’t there.

 

Question 6:  What would you like to see done with Coach Mike D’Antoni? 836 Total Votes

This was the most one sided poll question yet, and expectantly so. Nearly all of you voted that D’Antoni be fired with 736 votes, and here’s why you’re 100% correct.  Not that this is anything

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

new, but D’Antoni  has a different agenda for the Lakers then they are currently built for.  He wants a quick, run-n-gun style offense, and the Lakers, being the oldest team in the NBA this past season, couldn’t quite keep up as well as he’d hoped.  He was adamant about sticking to his guns, and it wasn’t until the end of the season that things began to click and he decided to use Pau Gasol closer to the basket where he thrives.

Should Dwight Howard choose to re-sign, D’Antoni needs to go.  He doesn’t know how to fully utilize two big men out on the floor and maximize their potential.  He’s not a bad coach by any means, he just doesn’t fit as the missing puzzle piece the Lakers have been searching for since Jackson left. He did well in Phoenix when Steve Nash was there, and that’s why Laker management felt he would thrive with Nash again.  It’s unfortunate if he is to be retained because it will only be to the Lakers’ detriment.  Dwight may also be basing his decision on whether D’Antoni is retained or not, and right now it doesn’t look like Laker management has any plans of getting rid of him.

 

Question 7:  What coach would you rather see if the Lakers are to fire D’Antoni? 837 Total Votes

Since I put the zen master himself as an answer to this question I expected him to get the most votes, and he did with 531 votes.  However in second place came the former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw with 219 votes, currently with the Indiana Pacers.  Now since it is unlikely that Lakers management removes D’Antonifrom his head coaching seat these are merely dreams of hope that the Lakers would hire one of these guys.  Phil Jackson would obviously be the best choice as he has proven his success with the Lakers before.

Unfortunately he has said he has no plans on ever returning to coaching and the Lakers last chance to ink the 11 time champion was when they flirted with him

PhotoCredit:JohnWMcDonough:SI

PhotoCredit:JohnWMcDonough:SI

after Mike Brown’s firing.  Shaw is also in talks with multiple teams regarding their head coaching vacancies, most notably the Clippers.  The Lakers are likely to see out Mike D’Antoni’s  current contract because they already owe Mike Brown some money from his early termination and they don’t want to look like they don’t know what they’re doing (Even though it appears Jim Buss doesn’t).  Perhaps D’Antoni has a different game plan for this season, perhaps he wants to use Pau and hopefully Dwight together effectively, and perhaps the Lakers have a great season, perhaps.

 

Question 8:  Who should the Lakers amnesty this season? 823 Total Votes

This was my favorite question based on the answers to it that I really didn’t expect.  In first place came Metta World Peace with 342 votes, which isn’t a huge surprise due to his dwindling performance this past season.  Amnestying him wouldn’t be a terrible option as Peace is likely going to opt into the final year of his contract and he’s due 7.7 million dollars, more than he could get anywhere else at this point in his career.  However I expected you guys to want to amnesty Pau Gasol

because he’s due 19 million, which is a HUGE hindrance to the salary cap room the Lakers have.  Pau actually came in last place with just 65 votes.

Second place went to not amnestying anyone this season with 319 votes.  This was in first place for quite some time until Metta World Peace came in and swooped it, probably because of the way Metta has been tweeting recently.  If you don’t know Metta’s tweets I suggest you follow him, he’s quite the character. I think not using it this season is actually a smart idea because each ball club can only exercise it once between now and the 2015-16 season.  So waiting to see if there is a better chance to use it is a safe and careful plan, which is something the Lakers need at this point in time.

Kobe Bryant was next on the list with 97 votes, now before some of you guys start freaking out over such a ridiculous thought, just think about it.  Bryant is coming off of

PhotoCredit: Noah Graham/Getty Images

PhotoCredit: Noah Graham/Getty Images

a very serious Achilles tendon tear, one which could alter his playing style for the rest of his career.  Here’s what Lakers management can do, they could amnesty Bryant, who could potentially miss a large portion of this current season, and then offer him a contract when he is healthy again, hoping he wouldn’t sign any where else in the meantime.  This would alleviate 30 million dollars on the Lakers books and give them a lot of great options going into this upcoming season. The hard part is amnestying the player who has brought the city 5 more championships and has only ever donned a purple and gold uniform, oh and hoping he doesn’t get bitter about it and sign else where.  Essentially what the Lakers would be doing is dropping the final year of Bryant’s contract, wait until he is fully healthy, then re-sign him to a much cheaper deal, likely in the 17-19 million range.  This option really has a lot of potential to it, but it also is a huge risk that I’m not sure Lakers management would be willing to take.  My guess would be that the Lakers choose not to exercise their amnesty clause this season and they’ll wait for a better opportunity.

 

PhotoCredit:Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Question 9:  Will Kobe Bryant be the same player when he returns from his Achilles tendon tear? 828 Total Votes

No one can really know the answer to this question unless you’re Kobe Bryant himself.  We all have watched Bryant play his heart out every night and know first hand that his work ethic is second to none.  That being said, we can all assu

me Bryant will come back sooner rather than later and playing at the same level he’s shown us all these past 17 seasons.  351 of you felt he’ll be the same player when he returns, 239 said he wouldn’t be, and 238 said he’d be even better than before.  Again, it really is a toss up, and none of us can truly know how Kobe will bounce back after such a detrimentalinjury, but we can make educated guesses based on his history.

 

That’s it for the poll questions everyone, thanks so much for participating and here’s to a successful off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers!  Any questions, comments, or concerns, contact me on Twitter, @GarrettGarcia

 

 

 

PhotoCredit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

PhotoCredit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Well Nation, we’ve reached yet another off-season, one full of a particularly large amount of questions regarding the Lakers’ future.  So I’ve decided to create a series of questions that you, the fans, will answer about the Laker offseason.  Then in a week or so I’ll gather all the answers and write about what would need to happen for each scenario to occur.  Obviously the big ones are about retaining (or losing) Dwight Howard, and what will come of Kobe Bryant after his devastating Achilles tear.  So Nation, here are the questions, the more who answer the more interesting the possible scenarios will be!

Would you like to see the Lakers re-sign Dwight Howard?

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Should Chris Paul decide to leave the Clippers, would you want him to sign with the Lakers?

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Should the Lakers trade up in the draft for a better pick?

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If you said yes to the previous question, who would you like to see traded for a pick?

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Of these free agents, who would you like to see the Lakers sign?

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What would you like to see done with coach Mike D'Antoni?

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What coach would you rather see if the Lakers are to fire D'Antoni?

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Who should the Lakers amnesty this season?

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Will Kobe Bryant be the same player when he returns from his Achilles' tendon tear?

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Poll analysis is complete! Check it out HERE to see your answers discussed! Thanks!

 

Recently, some footage has surfaced of Kobe playing in a Gym Rat Midnight Madness High School Showcase in 1995.  The video says 1994, but that year is incorrect.

Keep in mind in 1995 Kobe Bryant was just 17 years old, and the and one reverse layup he completes in the first 10 seconds of the video is quite the difficult feat to accomplish at such an age.  The video later shows Kobe throwing down a between the legs dunk that makes the crowd go wild, just like they do nowadays.

This is a cool find and not something you’ll see every day.  So check it out and show it off to your friends, bragging about how you were the first one to find it.  Also, note Kobe’s jersey number, look familiar?

 

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Hoard are still two of the better players in the NBA regardless of how upsetting their first season together on the court may have been. Today, by way of Lakers.com, Bryant was named to the All-NBA First-Team for a record tying 11th time, tying former teammate Karl Malone, and for the 8th consecutive season.

Bryant was a constant force for the injury-riddled Lakers squad this season as he averaged 27.3 points per game while playing 38.6 minutes every contest. He scored over 2,000 points for the eighth time in his career and became the fourth player in NBA history to do so while being above the age of 34. The other three players who accomplished this milestone are Alex English, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan.

Bryant made the first team by collecting 91 first team votes placing him fourth in first team voting behind Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and unanimous selection, LeBron James. The last player of first-team selection is Tim Duncan who obtained 45 votes.

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/337614669101531136

Dwight Howard, arguably the most sought after free-agent this off-season, made the All-NBA Third-Team. He gained 17 out of the possible 119 first place votes, the highest amount of the third team selection.

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/337614719529664512

Howard only averaged 17 points per game this season but still lead the league with 12.4 rebounds per game. While his numbers were lower than his yearly standards he did announce that he returned 6 months earlier than expected to play for the Lakers this season.

Stay tuned for more news and updates here on LakerNation.com

Last night the San Antonio Spurs handed the Los Angeles Lakers their worst home playoff loss in history.  A 120-89 defeat to a dilapidated Lakers team has left fans and the team in utter disbelief.  With a season filled with such hope prior to its start, this ending is what no fan ever expected.

The injury bug would be an understatement, it was more of an injury plague, and one that affected every single Lakers starter and most of the bench.  No one managed to escape it, and this is just something that comes with being an old team and just never seeming to catch that elusive “break” everyone else seemed to get this season.

Regardless of the injuries and which teams had better luck than the Lakers, they still find themselves in an 0-3 hole against the number two seeded San Antonio Spurs.  In NBA history no team has ever come back from this kind of deficit to win the series, so the future looks bleak for this years Lakers team.  Of course anything is possible in the NBA and maybe this years team could be the first to ever come back from such a hole, or you could be in need of seeking a mental institution that could lock you up alone in a room for being delusional.

After the game on Friday night players were deflated, Lakers players that is, across the building the Spurs were massaging their hands after delivering such a spanking.  These following quotes via the Lakers NBA page:

“We respect these guys, and we’re not trying to give them any momentum whatsoever, Duncan said.”

Well that’s a nice way to talk about embarrassing a storied franchise like the Lakers, a team not used to being a seventh seeded playoff team let alone losing by 31 points at home.

Coach D’Antoni weighed in as well,

“The first half, we gave everything we had, and it obviously wasn’t enough,” Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I thought our guys played as hard as they can play.”

PhotoCredit:Harry How/Getty Images

PhotoCredit:Harry How/Getty Images

It’s almost sad to hear something like this, with as depleted as the Lakers were last night, and clearly they were, they still tried as hard as they could and that resulted in a 31 point defeat. Wow.

At least Howard hasn’t given up hope, even if everyone else likely has,

“It’s been a very tough year, but we’re not going to make any excuses, and we’re not going to quit,” Howard said.

Honestly, what is he supposed to say?  We’re done, we have no shot, let’s just throw in the towel and go home?  So his statement doesn’t carry much weight, but at least he said it, that’s what counts.

However Ginobili didn’t quite hold back with his statements,

“We saw the opportunity because of their injuries and the lack of length of the bench and the depth of the bench. We really punished them.”

Punished is a great word for what they did to the Lakers last night, truly couldn’t have said it any better myself.  He didn’t sugar coat his commentary and he shouldn’t have, although I’ll bet him and the rest of the Spurs are still bitter from the 2004 and 2008 playoffs, in which LA got the better end of those series’.

So, after such a loss the Lakers didn’t only lose the game and likely the series but they lost their luster and overall shine they used to produce for the Laker faithful.  I don’t remember watching a Laker playoff series quite as bad as this one, where it’s really just not competitive.  Even getting swept by Dallas in 2011 was more competitive than this, and at least it wasn’t in the first round.  The Lakers are known for putting on a show with an extremely high entertainment value, and last night that just wasn’t the case.  Even in losses the Lakers managed to fight to the end and keep it interesting with that allure that hovered over Los Angeles like a halo.

I know they’re injured but the product on the floor was just not something to be very proud of or worthy of remembrance.  The fans boo’d midway through the second quarter and by the end of the game were chanting “We want Phil”, and at this point the chance of the Lakers getting PJ back is about as good as winning this series.  The funny thing is that it’s not even all D’Antoni’s fault, the man never got a chance to have his whole team at his disposal, and that’s difficult for any coach, even Phil Jackson.

As negative as this article may sound, I’d like to point out a few bright spots or silver linings from last nights trouncing.  Andrew Goudelock deserves to be

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

considered for a roster spot next season, he played great last night and showed he deserves to be given a chance.  Same goes for Darius Morris as he played great as well and stepped up when his moment came. Pau Gasol also posted only the seventh Laker playoff triple double ever, congratulations to the big man for going out there and competing in every aspect of the game.  Dwight had good numbers too, putting up 25 and 11 but they could’ve been better for somebody of his caliber.  The guys went out and competed, it just wasn’t nearly enough.

Bottom line is the Lakers are done for this season, not much dispute there. Whether they fold on Sunday night or extend it back to San Antonio, the season is over and can go down as a colossal failure.  Last nights loss was but a microcosm of the entire season.  With a starting line up consisting of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard nobody anticipated it all going down this way, no one saw the team personifying the Hindenburg disaster.  Set your sights on next year Laker Nation, changes will be made, injuries will heal, and the Los Angeles Lakers will be in top form to compete for an NBA Championship, mark my words.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski | USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski | USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another myriad of injuries for the Los Angeles Lakers.

After yet another grueling loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2, the Lakers returned to Los Angeles today in danger of losing three more key players to injury.

According to the Lakers’ official Twitter account, Steve Blake is ‘out indefinitely’ with a moderate strain of his right hamstring:

After re-aggravating previous hip and back injuries in the second half of Wednesday’s game, Steve Nash is now ‘doubtful’ for Game 3:

Guard Jodie Meeks, who did not play in Game 2, will have an MRI this afternoon on his sprained left ankle. His status for Game 3 is also ‘doubtful’:

With Kobe Bryant out until next season, and this recent wave of injuries, the Lakers’ guard rotation may now be down to just Chris DuhonDarius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

Stay tuned for any more injury updates as they roll in.

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