Hannah Foslien/Getty Images Sport
NBA News and Notes - 12.15.14
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
By Sam Smith | 12.15.2014 | 11:50 a.m. CT
Kobe joins elite scoring company
It was another wild Kobe Bryant week from his supposed meltdown about the team with his practice tirade about players being soft to his alleged obsession with Michael Jordan as Bryant Sunday passed Jordan on the all time scoring list. For Jordan fans, There is No Next, as it’s taken Bryant 200 more games and Jordan remains the alltime points per game scoring leader in NBA history. Even ahead of Wilt. Though many attribute to Bryant this void in his career because he cannot surpass Jordan and likely won’t in titles, Bryant dismissed that and I accept his view. Certainly Bryant was inspired by Jordan, which so many have been. And he clearly tried to follow Jordan’s achievements, even seemingly mimicking Jordan’s characteristics. Though that seems customary. When you identify someone who was at the top of your profession, why wouldn’t you try to be like him and do what he does? “It wasn’t a goal that I set out to accomplish,” Bryant told L.A. reporters last week. “Being in that company with Michael and Kareem and the other great scorers, that’s the most fun part. Being a part of that group; being a part of a group that I grew up idolizing and learning from and aspiring to be one day. That’s the true honor.” There’s no doubt Bryant saw Jordan as the ghost to challenge. Phil Jackson talked about it in his latest book, “Eleven Rings.” There was Jordan’s last All-Star game as a Bull in 1998, playing with a bit of the flu and Bryant at 19 in his first such game famously waving Karl Malone out of the post to go back at Jordan. Who does that stuff? That’s the point with Bryant and why even Jordan has said if there were someone like him it would be most in attitude and style like Bryant. That’s where my Bryant story comes in. It was after his court case in Colorado and Bryant was introducing himself to the media. One of his people called me (as I have no people) and said Kobe was meeting with various media types and could we get together for lunch when he was in Chicago. I said I’d have to check with Jordan first. Nah. Anyway, Kobe couldn’t have been nicer, funny, more relaxed than you know him or see him. I asked him about this chasing Jordan. “He’s an urban legend,” Bryant said with a laugh. “It’s like he made every shot. People think he never missed.” Bryant understood. With legends like Jordan you don’t pass them. But great competitors never stop trying. It’s what’s made Bryant so great.
I loved the lesser babka part of Days of Our Knicks last week with the ‘Melo trade stuff and Anthony and Tim Hardaway supposedly ready to take it outside. The reports said the players are upset that last season they switched on defense and now have to play their man straight up and get over screens and after losses Mike Woodson would have voluntary light workouts while Derek Fisher practices regularly and hard. Yeah, better blame Phil Jackson for not getting more out of that group ... Oh, him. Raptors big free agent of a few years ago, Landry Fields, who’d played 22 minutes all season, got his first start since March in the loss to the Cavs. Speaking of early season struggles, whatever happened to Shawn Marion? Some guys who perhaps have surprised have been Darren Collison in Sacramento as a smart replacement for Isaiah Thomas, much traveled Rasual Butler in Washington, Evan Fournier in Orlando, O.J. Mayo bouncing back with the Bucks along with quiet effectiveness from Khris Middleton, Jon Leuer finding a nice spot with a good Grizzlies team and amidst the morass in New York Amar’e Stoudemire showing true professionalism and consistent play when no one believed he could play at all. Credit to him as a guy you’d want to have next season ... The irony of the Lakers’ benching Carlos Boozer for defense—someone get Byron Scott NBA League Pass—was the Lakers had Boozer finishing games, including their Friday win over the Spurs. It seemed an unnecessary step for a poor team as Boozer never has hid what he was and neither has any team. Boozer remained professional about it all, but he did note things were different with the Bulls, where he started for a top five defensive team every season. Said Boozer to Los Angeles media: “We just did it every day. Even if we did it for five minutes, 10 minutes. In Chicago with Thibs, we drilled our defensive rotation every day. In the morning at shootaround, practice day. But every day, we drilled it to make sure we know where we were supposed to be at, what we were going to do". In Los Angeles? “We talk about it a lot,” Boozer said ... Swaggy P—Nick Young—also has to learn Boozerisms. After that three point game winner against the Spurs, he told reporters, “Shout-out to Booz for saying, ‘Hole that!’ For having confidence in me.” It’s Hol-dat!
The league's best point guard?
The Bulls are in Atlanta Monday and somebody ought to stay with Kyle Korver. The former Bull looked like he’d won Saturday’s game with a well guarded three from about 28 feet with three seconds left. He’s on an amazing tear shooting 54.9 percent on threes with by far the most attempts among the top 10. A doting family guy, Korver doesn’t like to spend All-Star weekend away from home, but it’s really no actual three-point contest if he’s not involved ... Should be interesting when the Bulls are in Washington next week. John Wall has been having an All-Star season and clearly remains upset being left off the USA Basketball team last summer. He told CSN Washington he’s the league’s best point guard and then had a big defensive game in Friday’s win over the Clippers, forcing Chris Paul into six turnovers. "They (teammates) feel like I can be the best point guard in this league,” Wall said. “Most point guards in this league, they're the head of the snake on their teams. Teams are going to go as far as they go.” Should be a good matchup with Derrick Rose, who got one of those spots. According to a stat created by ESPN, real plus/minus, Wall has the best defensive impact against point guards this season. Elfrid Payton is second, so I’m withholding judgment ... Good one from Paul Pierce after the Wizards win over the Clippers and his old coach, Doc Rivers: “We gave them a taste of that East Coast basketball tonight.” ... Nice comments from former Magic backup center Marcin Gortat to the Washington Post on his team and contract. Gortat tells team media staff he’ll do anything for the team given how nice they have been to him with his deal. “Listen, you get paid $12 million a year, there is no way you can have a bad day,” Gortat said. “There are so many people having problems in the world. What it is your problem? Coming to practice and work out for two, three hours? Is this your problem? I mean, come on, man, let’s be honest. You know what I’m saying? There shouldn’t be any problems if you set up things in your private life and family environment the right way, then you don’t have problems with your team and your team is winning. Life is beautiful. What else do you need?
NBA news & notes
He’s not quite the Ben Gordon dueling Ray Allen in the 2009 playoffs, but the former Bull rookie Sixth Man of the Year has made a nice comeback with Orlando. While Tobias Harris hit the buzzer game winner Saturday to beat Atlanta and is going to be in the Most Improved conversation, Gordon had 12 points in 13 minutes, is shooting a career best 47 percent and averaging 7.5 points in just 16 minutes ... You were probably wondering after 20 games how come no coach had been fired yet. It probably wasn’t the reason the Kings fired Mike Malone Sunday, but it couldn’t have helped the way he had Rudy Gay dribbling around at the end of every game ... Having a nice comeback in the D-league is the much traveled Joe Alexander, a one time Bucks lottery pick and briefly-a-Bull ... Marc Gasol is often mentioned as the big center free agent of the summer. But it could be a big man summer with DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez, Tyson Chandler and Roy Hibbert potential free agents. Along with former Bull Omer Asik. Can the Pelicans risk losing him as he takes so much pressure off Anthony Davis and hope to retain Davis down the road? ... Leader for MVP after the first 20 games? You wouldn’t be wrong to go with James Harden, leading the league in scoring and carrying the Rockets despite multiple injuries, including Dwight Howard. Harden’s probably been the game’s best closer this season with his uncanny ability without great explosiveness to get to the basket and draw fouls.
The Pacers, in trying to get through their tough luck season, benched Solomon Hill and Donald Sloan for C.J. Watson and Rodney Stuckey for a while before more injuries. Good thing for the Bulls later this month as Hill and Sloan dominated them in the Pacers win in November ... When the Cavs survived a Kyrie Irving injury scare last week Cavs coach David Blatt told reporters, “Nadezhda umirayet posledney.” It’s Russian for, “Hope dies last.” The fancy Russian stuff—Yes, we know you coached in Europe—may not help with LeBron, however ... Playing time has become a discussion in Cleveland as James sat out with knee soreness after playing at least 40 minutes in nine games. Last season he played at least 40 in 22 games ... With Tyreke Evans’ big game in the Pelicans win over the Cavs Friday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer computed 11 players, including Kirk Hinrich, getting or matching their season high in points against the Cavs ... Comedian Hannibal Buress snuck into the Cavs’ post game coaches’ conference in New Orleans (it’s Mardi Gras all year there) and asked Blatt, “Coach, even though you guys lost the game, is there still a part of you that thinks, ‘Hey man, it’s just a game. Life is pretty chill otherwise?’”