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By Sam Smith | 11.10.2014 | 9:06 a.m. CT
I still think the best move for both sides is Kobe Bryant to the Knicks, although the Lakers are now on a one-game winning streak. But, OK, you don’t like that one? And, no, I still cannot see Kobe riding it out for two more years in L.A. no matter what he says. They could get a little better next summer adding a free agent, but this is just the start of a long rebuilding process. So what about joining LeBron? They both need the ball a bit too much. But what sort of ESPN story would that be? There’d never be another NBA team in a highlight the rest of the season. And you know the Lakers would do it. Because it would get them Kyrie Irving, who could really start shooting then. And being the next L.A. star. Irving could go for that. But with Irving’s extension not kicking in until next season, it would take too many players to match Kobe’s salary. So forget that. It’s about young stars with the Lakers, which is why they are where they are. Magic and Worthy, Shaq and Kobe. But as much as Lakers’ fans believe it’s about Kobe, Lakers’ management would have to jump at a chance for a young star to accelerate their rebuilding. Which is why Kobe to the Wizards may be the one. The Wizards have a young, potential star shooting guard in Bradley Beal. You can build with a player like him. Then you give the Lakers Nene and another player since the Wizards have plenty of guys they’re not much using to include in trade. For the Wizards, it’s the chance to take a shot, which they really don’t have now. With the addition of Paul Pierce, the Wizards are about now. Adding someone like Kobe with Pierce, John Wall and Marcin Gortat gives them a shot at the top of the weak East. And how sweet would it be for Kobe to go where Michael Jordan couldn’t win and get somewhere? Kobe’s not getting that sixth title. Maybe besting Jordan that way would appeal to him.
Spurs at a crossroads?
While Jimmy Butler goes to restricted free agency, so does the 2014 Finals MVP, the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. And few consider the Spurs an irresponsible franchise. It’s always about options. It’s an uneven 2-3 start for the Spurs in which they are 18th in field goal defense and 26th in scoring. See, they’re old! Everyone knows not to discount the Spurs. They get a pass on their rest-for-national-TV games as coach Gregg Popovich is fond of making the point to the league if these games are so important don’t make us play them the second of back to backs. The Spurs resting philosophy is accepted because of their success, but you skip too many games it’s difficult to play at a high level regularly. Having gone to consecutive Finals, this seems like it will be a tough season for the Spurs to remain as competitive. And then the big question: Would Duncan and Ginobili retire after this season and make the Spurs a big player in free agency? And if they were, would any big names go there? They may be coming up to their biggest crossroads since the start of David Robinson’s career.
NBA news and notes
It’s not going to get as much discussion during the season, but one of the biggest issues for the Cavs is that both LeBron James and Kevin Love own opt outs after this season. LeBron James basically cannot afford to go anywhere after his return to Cleveland. But watch out for Love. Indications are he will seriously consider the opt out and has his eyes on a return to Los Angeles, where he attended college and where the Lakers long have had him on their free agent wish list ... ESPN analyst George Karl told the Denver Post he believes the Nuggets, off to probably the most disappointing start in the league, are using too many players: “I don’t think he can play three centers, I don’t think he can play that many big guys on the court when your team plays well when it’s fast and small. He has six big guys, and in the game of basketball right now you don’t need six big guys.” Friends say Karl remains anxious to return to coaching and Karl recently said: “I think anyone that comes to talk to me and I have that privilege they’d be able to talk me into it (coaching). I don’t think the worst team in the NBA is that far from the best team.” The Nuggets could use a boost, but, oh yeah, they fired him. Karl has a history as a quick fix coach. You look for teams with unmet expectations and a coach working on several seasons, which might soon include Orlando and New Orleans. And what about Cleveland, where Karl began his coaching career in 1984 and took a 28-win team the previous season to the playoffs for the first time in seven years? ... While Kyrie Irving was getting beaten up for his lack of assists, the Cavs again seem to be having issues with Dion Waiters, who is fast moving into that dangerous “He doesn’t get it” category. The national news was some possible “misunderstanding” when Waiters skipped the national anthem in Utah when he coincidently happened to be benched for Shawn Marion. A columnist for a Cleveland area media wrote Waiters told him he was skipping the music because he was Muslim and practicing his religion. Waiters immediately issued a series of tweets that it was all wrong and a lie and the columnist last week wrote a pretty amazing sort of retraction in which he wrote he misunderstood what Waiters was telling him. Though the Cavs keep working on Waiters to be a catch-and-shoot player, Waiters says he plays best off the dribble. No wonder Luol Deng was shaking his head so much there.
Pistons go big for boards
Nets coach Lionel Hollins is your tough guy motivator, more the in-your-face NFL guy. All of Brook Lopez’ coaches have tried different methods to heighten his aggression. Hollins offered a new one, suggesting after Nikola Pekovic banged around Lopez that Lopez might have some problems if he were in prison. Said Hollins: “The guy whipped him, it happens. I’m always saying that there’s always a badder man than you in the prison.” ... The RealGM website reported last week John Lucas III, according to sources, which sounded like his agent, hopes to land with the Bulls later this season. Lucas’ agent, Bernie Lee, was quoted saying ”John owes a tremendous amount of his value in the NBA to the opportunity Chicago's front office gave him there initially. Over time, it's become clear that Gar Forman has a unique ability to find value in obscure places. He signed John out of China, and he might be the best in the NBA at this. In some ways John was at the beginning of this (landing small guards).” Lucas had an interesting summer in a Bulls alumni group, traded twice together with Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas. Lucas was later waived by Boston, picked up by Washington and then waived again. Murphy is in the D-league and Thomas is with the 76ers and facing surgery ... The Bulls host the Pistons Monday and Josh Smith must be relieved to be on the road. A longtime Atlanta tradition of booing Smith when he readies to shoot has been picked up in Detroit, basically unprecedented in NBA history. Smith has accommodated the fans shooting 32 percent and 0-9 on threes before Sunday, when he was six of 14 and made his first three. The Pistons have gone back to their jumbo lineup with Smith at small forward and are sixth in rebounding; the Bulls are tied for 18th ... Hornets coach Steve Clifford told the Charlotte Observer he had yet to play former lottery pick Bismack Biyombo because, well, he’s bad (Biyombo did play three scoreless minutes Sunday). Said Clifford, a coach Scott Skiles could appreciate: “In the preseason he just didn’t play very well. When he has the right energy level and thinking defense and rebounding...” Biyombo said, “It could possibly be right.” Clifford also sent to the end of the bench team veteran Gerald Henderson, who has a player option after this season and should be an interesting trade candidate this season. Rookie P.J. Hairston moved ahead.
On Gordon, Davis, Ariza, and Jackson
And we thought NFL players committed the dumbest penalties. Eric Gordon almost cost the Pelicans Saturday’s game in San Antonio when he fouled Danny Green behind the three point line with six seconds left by kicking him in the foot while Gordon was laying on the floor. Green made all three for the one-point lead before Anthony Davis made a runner for the winner. Gordon is shooting 27 percent and 17 percent on threes as that $15 million opt in for next season looks a lot better to the chagrin of the Pelicans. Davis is now fifth in scoring and first in blocks and steals and figures to win the next 15 player of the week awards ... The Bulls’ Aaron Brooks is fifth in the league in three point shooting at 58 percent. Trevor Ariza is the league leader in attempts at 48 and still shooting 48 percent. Chandler who? The Wizards, meanwhile, took a step back losing Ariza for Pierce ... It’s always interesting to see the character—or characters—come out when the stars disappear. So in Oklahoma City without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, who we think is a guard and not a baseball player, also is heading into restricted free agency seeking a max contract. Maybe it is better to repeal the ceilings. Let the five guys in the league who deserve max contracts get as much as they can and stop paying mediocre players "max" money. Jackson’s a backup gunner who teammates often roll their eyes watching dribble around. Though he did have a strong finish in the Thunder’s Sunday win over the Kings even shooting six of 19. Without the big guys and with a decimated roster, he’s averaging about 20 points, but below 40 percent shooting overall and below 30 percent on threes. Then when questioned about maybe being selfish, he cleverly said he doesn’t play for the fans, anyway. Kevin, come back soon!
6th man starts
Doc Rivers in a sort of desperation state already inserted Jamal Crawford into the starting lineup to shake up his indifferent Clippers team that got an urgent win over Portland. Yes, they already had a team meeting. But how far can you go starting Crawford, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul? Should give Taj Gibson a boost for Sixth Man of the Year, however. Not much for stopping anyone ... It is a pleasure, though, to watch so many of these Western Conference games as with so many good teams and everyone knowing 50 wins still may not get you into the playoffs, no one’s giving up early season games and it’s great for viewers ... Well, maybe not them all. The Jazz has some intriguing young players, but they basically ask Gordon Hayward to make every play ... The Lakers are 30th in the league in points allowed and 28th in opponent shooting. So what to do? Blame Carlos Boozer. Coach Byron Scott told L.A. reporters: “It starts on the defensive end. He has to do a better job against pick-and-roll defense and has to do a better job on guys who are trying to post him up.” C’mon, hasn’t he watched any TV the last four years? Boozer doesn’t do that; never has. That’s why Tom Thibodeau is so good. He designed a defense to accommodate the weak defenders, which every team has. The mediocre coaches point fingers. Boozer is averaging 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in about 26 minutes per game. By the way, the Clippers are the worst in the league in opponent shooting—meaning, yes the worst defense—and the Cavs 29th.