Trans. Dec 19 11:07 ET (Dec 19 11:07 ET ) LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Although Russell Westbrook grew up watching Kobe Bryant sink innumerable enormous shots for the Lakers, the Los Angeles native didn't worry when No. 24 had the ball with the game on the line against his Oklahoma City Thunder.
By Mark Lamport-Stokes LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant has often been a polarizing figure during his illustrious NBA career, criticized by some for being too selfish and not doing enough as a facilitator for his team mates. For his peers, however, Bryant is simply a winner and will do whatever it takes to instill a winning mindset, even though this season has been especially challenging for an injury-hit team decidedly low in overall quality. ...
A look around the league and the web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : WFUV Sports . A needed and detailed list of how well the New York Knicks do in relation to the various types of hats Carmelo Anthony wears to and from a game. PF : Sports Illustrated . A sad but must-read breakdown at how the Milwaukee Bucks have fared with Jabari Parker, and what they’ll do from here on out. SF : SB Nation . Claiming that someone “eviscerated” an entity with a bit, clip or column is a bit clichéd at this point, but … Tom Ziller eviscerated Bleacher Report and Kansas coach Bill Self and their collective anti-mock draft screed. SG : SLAM Online . Matt Bonner is endorsing a (tasty) type of soda pop that I wasn’t aware was even still in business, and he gives a very smart and sensible answer to a question about whether or not we should be promoting the sale of sugary drinks. PG : Grantland . They may have fallen last night to Memphis, but the Golden State Warriors are still glorious on both sides of the ball. Zach Lowe explains why. 6th : Sports Illustrated . Rob Mahoney with a fantastic column on the career of the fantastic Tyson Chandler. 7th : Los Angeles Times . Bill Plaschke on the emergence of the “true Kobe Bryant.” 8th : NBA.com . Some gentlemen with big basketball brains discuss the balance between attempting to achieve a great defense and/or a great offense. 9th : Salt Lake City Hoops . Taking a look at how all the ex-Utah Jazzmen are doing. Like, all of them. This is rather thorough. 10th : Sacramento Bee . Crediting Vivek Ranadive for dealing properly with the media (and by extension, the fans) in the wake of the Michael Malone firing. As we should. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
In the summer of 2013, Dwight Howard turned down a significant amount of guaranteed money and a chance to live in sunny Los Angeles for a gig with the Houston Rockets. In the summer of 2014, several prominent free agents chose to pass on the Lakers’ sizable salary cap space in order to play elsewhere. Pau Gasol turned down more money to work with the team he’d won two championships with in order to move to a cold climate and uncertain (if enticing) rotation in Chicago. Many wondered if the Lakers had to overpay just to keep incumbent big man Jordan Hill. The Lakers will have salary-cap space again this summer, but all signs point to top level free agents heading elsewhere. The underlying rumor here lists that players want nothing to do with playing with Kobe Bryant, for whatever reason. Lakers chairman Jeannie Buss calling those players “losers” certainly doesn’t help . Shots of Kobe’s typical effort in the Lakers practices he takes part in don’t paint the prettiest picture . Kevin Durant, a free agent to be in 2016, however, isn’t having any of that. From a talk with USA Today’s Sam Amick on Tuesday : "Excuse my language, but that's [expletive]," said Durant, who congratulated Bryant via text message after he surpassed Jordan on Sunday. "I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I'd want to play with a guy like that every day. ... [His style] may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff. I think [the accusation] is BS." […] "Just his work ethic, just his demeanor man," Durant said when asked what he admired about Bryant. "He doesn't mind being an [expletive], and he comes to work man. He's intense. He demands a lot out of his teammates, and I've seen that just playing alongside him in the Olympics [in 2012]. He demands a lot out of everybody. He makes them better. Everybody out on the court. You've got to respect that. As a player, I study guys like that. We might not have the same personality, but I think we approach the game the same way and I've learned a lot from just watching him." Here’s where things get dicey. It’s very much possible that free agents would adore playing alongside Bryant. That his verbal lashings and ball domination are exactly what they’re after, and Los Angeles picture-perfect climate and scads of salary-cap space would only make any offer that much sweeter. If Kobe was the sort of sweetheart that in an ideal world Dwight Howard, Gasol, Kevin Love or Kevin Durant would want to play with, however, why doesn’t anyone want to come to or stay in Los Angeles? Take away the rumors about him being a jerk of a teammate, and you’re left with a guy whose game isn’t exactly screaming for a championship partner right now. Kobe might be somehow scoring more than 25 points per game at his advanced age, but he’s also shooting 38 percent from the floor and 27 percent from behind the arc. Anyone with a semblance of basketball knowledge would tell you that it is not ideal to take more than 22 shots a game when you’re working with a 38 percent mark from the field, or chuck five and a half three-pointers per game when you’re making just over a quarter of your threes. Every bit of research backs up the idea that Kobe Bryant is shooting the Lakers out of games, and there’s a reason why this offensive-minded roster is only 17th in offensive rating this year (the defense is another story, a historically deadening story). No, the Lakers were never going to make the playoffs if Bryant were playing ideal basketball on both ends, but they also wouldn’t be turning in games like this if he would kindly realize that his approach just isn’t kosher. Take Kobe out of the equation, and all the Lakers free-agent losses seem sensible. Let’s make every excuse we can for the guy. Dwight Howard left an aging Lakers team with a coach he didn’t like to work for a legendary big man in Kevin McHale, and alongside the NBA’s best shooting guard. If healthy, Pau Gasol’s Chicago Bulls could turn into the league’s deepest team, and a championship contender. Carmelo Anthony likes it in New York, where he’s able to make the absolute most guaranteed money. LeBron James is clearly going to choose Kyrie Irving and the potential for Kevin Love in Cleveland over going to Los Angeles. Kevin Love is not going to leave money on the table , along with Irving and LeBron, to move to his adopted hometown of Los Angeles for good . Kevin Durant? Durant is a free agent in 18 and a half months, and he’ll have his veritable pick of the litter should he deem that Oklahoma City’s title window has been locked shut. The problem with that stink is that Russell Westbrook, currently, is playing the best basketball of anyone in the NBA. There’s always that chance that things could fall apart for Westbrook and the Thunder between now and July 2016 (Russell is still the guy coming off of three knee surgeries), but Durant would have to leave money on the table and Westbrook in his prime to come to Los Angeles to make less money for a rebuilding team. A team that may or may not have Kobe Bryant, also a 2016 free agent, on it. Kobe doesn’t know if he’s playing past his current contract, but while his coach wants him to stick around in order to save his own job, the Lakers probably want him to call it a day. If he dawdles, his massive cap hold could get in the way of the Lakers opening up the entirety of their vault for Durant. And, again, that would mean Kevin Durant would be leaving Russell Westbrook and others in order to join an empty Los Angeles roster. Of course Kevin Durant can talk up how much he’d love to play with Kobe Bryant. He can do it because he’ll never have to play with Kobe Bryant. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops