The Scoop:Kobe mentioned he'd never go 0-for-9 like Deron did in Game 2, and he'd go 0-of-30 before he'd do that. Williams missed 18 games last season and his troublesome ankles make him a risky pick in fantasy drafts. Although, he shot the ball well in 2013-14 and he should run the offense a lot more with Paul Pierce out of town.
Kobe Bryant will never be traded. Never be traded again , we mean, as our grandparents will tell us tale of the Charlotte Hornets dealing a 17-year old Kobester for something called a “Vlade Divac” just hours after he was drafted in the summer of 1996, but Bryant will not be traded again. Not only does he have a no-trade clause that he’d have to waive in any such maneuver, but the Los Angeles Lakers kind of like their arena the way it is. Full of fans and not under constant threat of siege by Laker Nation. They also kind of like Kobe, and for good reason. He’s been an integral part of five championships, he’s been a proud Laker and compelling television watch, and despite some backhanded free agent visits in 2004 and 2007 trade demands, his relationship with the team’s front office and ownership has been relatively calm. He’ll be well compensated – at $23.5 million this season and $25 million the next – to finish his career as a Laker, even if the team is more or less out of playoff contention in the loaded Western conference. Still … what if the team attempted to trade Bryant, and what if Kobe complied? It’s August, so we’re allowed to wonder about such things. Would any team deal for Bryant? “Nah,” says the NBA. “Nah.” From Chris Ballard’s fantastic Sports Illustrated profile on the legend : His confidence is as admirable as it is predictable. And yet on paper the Lakers look an awful lot like a lottery team that is overly reliant on one aging star. There is not much hope on the horizon, either. Seven months after he ruptured his left Achilles tendon—and three weeks before he fractured his left kneecap—Bryant signed a $48.5 million, two-year deal. The contract, widely derided as the worst in the game, makes Bryant nearly impossible to move, even were the Lakers to try. Asked about Kobe’s value on the market, one GM answers definitively: “Zero. Look at that number. Who takes him?” This is by design, of course. It ensures that Bryant accomplishes something very few pro athletes have: playing an entire career with one team. Bryant’s plan is to retire in two years, though he says he reserves the right to change his mind. Thus one of the game’s greatest players and one of its two fiercest competitors—Michael Jordan being the other—will likely exit the league laboring for an undermanned squad in a stacked conference. It seems wrong. Never the type for farewell tours, Bryant bristles at the idea of parading from arena to arena, receiving parting gifts and teary-eyed salutes. “No, no, no, no, I’m good,” he says, waving his hands. “If you booed me for 18, 19 years, boo me for the 20th. That’s the game, man.” That’s the borderline psychotic [stuff] that has kept Kobe Bryant going for years. Nobody, outside of Sacramento, Portland, Utah and (rightfully) Denver outright boos Kobe. There are bandwagon Laker freaks in every city, though the numbers on that bandwagon have dimmed a bit since the Lakers’ last championship in 2010 – I wonder which version of Cavalier jersey they bought this summer? If anything, Kobe doesn’t want the free motorcycle or specialized plaque before a road game because he wants to glare at whatever half-baked free agent Mitch Kupchak is able to sign in the summer of 2015 during the pregame huddle. The idea of a Jordan comparison? The undermanned squad? The undignified entrance? Yeah, it’s all there. Jordan was playing for a million a year in his final two seasons with Washington, with all of that money going to charity , so the financials don’t exactly line up. What does (sadly) align well is the idea that Bryant and Jordan’s winter years – with all the locker room bluster, in-practice shoutfests, and pump-faking attempts at ending it right – will end in a blaze of mediocrity. Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers, in something that seemed like the right idea at the time, pushed all of their chips into the table during the summer of 2012 as it dealt draft picks and cap space away for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Then, in realizing that no real 20-something free agent star was probably going to pair with Kobe (after all, Howard just left millions on the table to play with James freakin’ Harden), the team decided that the next few seasons were going to act as one highly paid farewell tour. Even if Kobe doesn’t want the halftime ceremony, and prefers the boos to anything else. Los Angeles, if this were 2005, has some assets in place. In the form of Jordan Hill, Steve Nash, and Jeremy Lin, the team has over $21.2 million expiring contracts to work with in trades during this upcoming season. Hill is technically a team option for 2015-16, and as such he’d have to agree to a trade, but why wouldn’t he agree to a deal that would send him to a contending team that could use his services beyond this wasted season? On top of that, while Hill has his faults, if he blossoms in a Mike D’Antoni-less system, he may very well be worth the $9 million (in that team option) he can make in 2015-16. Lin’s technical (non-salary cap) $15 million payout will be mostly picked up by the Lakers by February, which could make him more attractive. A deal involving Nash would be borderline cruel, but that’s how this business works sometimes. The Lakers could (kinda, maybe) put something together for 2015-16 or beyond. They probably won’t be able to, though. Expiring contracts aren’t worth nearly as much anymore, and with Kevin Love (wink wink, under the table under the table) likely already sticking with Cleveland beyond 2015 , the pickings aren’t great. The Lakers may have received a first-rounder from Houston in the Lin deal, but if certain won/loss record aspects build up against them they may not be able to trade their own first-round pick until 2020. There’s not a lot here. Outside of Bryant. And nobody wants Kobe, at least at that price. Kobe Bryant should be fine, in his final two seasons. The leg fracture from last year is a worry, there isn’t much NBA precedent for incurring or returning from that injury, but even if the Achilles tear mixes with age to render him 80 percent of what he was in the spring of 2013 (a reasonable expectation), he’ll still be pretty darn good. His team can’t expect to be, that roster is just too miserable defensively (Nash, Boozer, Kobe, no center, Nick Young) to rely on anything consistent to come to fruition. No, what the Lakers have signed up for is the Kobe Bryant Farewell Show. With options, of course, in the form of those expiring deals and cap room next summer. By and large, though, this is an entertainment division with a general manager that realized that his back was up against it, paying Kobe money from 2014 through 2016 to augment what he should have made years ago in the NBA’s private and collectively bargained league. Bryant understands as much, regarding the supposed “maximum” salaries of superstars : Bryant believes that players like himself and LeBron James are underpaid, compared to what they would be worth on the free market (he told friends he thinks James would be worth roughly $75 million on an open market). With his last contract, he felt it was important to demonstrate to younger players that you should never take less than you’re worth. When I asked if he was taking a stand of sorts, this was his response: “If you’re talking just from a business perspective, yeah,” Bryant said. “Because the NBA is a obviously a big business and teams generate a lot of revenue, and even more because of the new contracts they have in place since the last lockout.” Similarly, Bryant bristles at the idea that NBA players should accept less than fair value in order to have a better chance of winning. “As athletes, especially as public figures, you get the pressure of playing for the love of the game, they always throw that around all the time,” said Bryant. “Of course you play for the love of the game! But do owners buy teams for the love of the game?” Bryant i
As the summer wears on, with training camps and preseason play still off in (what feels like) the distant future, we turn our attention to the past. Join us as we while away a few late-summer moments recalling some of the most scintillating slams of yesteryear, the most thunderous throwdowns ever to sear themselves into our memories. This is Dunk History . Today, Kelly Dwyer takes a look at Randy Brown's throwdown over the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a time, young cats and kittens, when you had to work for this. I understand this will come off as a “walk-two-miles-in-the-snow-to-go-to-school” story, but I’m actually of a generation that did leave me (in the vaunted winter of 1988) left to walk two miles to school just to learn how to write in cursive – so I’m allowed to write with this furrowed brow. I’m also of a generation that left me, in the days before DVRs and League Pass, to tape every NBA game you could come across. With actual tapes. Oxide be damned, "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" episodes be saved, Marc Maron appearances on actual television shows (instead of tiny podcast downloads) to be respected. On one night, I nearly missed it. It was my mom’s night. My father is a chef, and six nights out of seven he prepped a fantastically brilliant dinner for us all. One night out of seven, though, he left the cooking to mom, no matter how late she came home from her work at a corporate gig with responsibilities that I still don’t fully grasp to this day. That back and forth between big business and misunderstood genius will never make sense to me, but what I did get out of it was solid-enough ground beef tacos from mom’s handiwork, spicy-enough chicken enchiladas, or, in this case, fantastic baked mostaccioli. Mostaccioli that I almost missed. It was 1996, DVRs did not exist and this 16-year-old was out of VHS tapes. It wasn’t so much that I needed to see Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Shaquille O’Neal and this cat named “Kobe Bryant” play, it was that I need to tape every basketball game available to me because I don’t know why but let’s just tape every game to re-watch over and over during the summer and not ask questions because it might pay off later. My thoughts were almost entirely composed of run-on sentences back then. So, yeah, I should have had a license by then, but some things came up. I did manage to run down a few blocks to Osco to buy my usual brand of three-deep VHS tapes, and rush back to plop this brand of analog goodness into the machine. The machine produced a rough night out, initially. That Tuesday featured the NBA’s best defensive team giving up 72 damn halftime points to the damned Lakers, distracting me from junior-year homework that has absolutely no impact on my current profession (don’t do drugs or homework, kids) and wondering if I should renounce my profound love for one Nick Van Exel. Toni Kukoc started to get warm after that, though: He started to bring the Bulls back from 22, from 15, from whatever. Dude didn’t even start, didn’t matter – Shaq, NVE, Eddie Jones and Jerome Kersey were the future of the NBA, and I was just some hopeless cat with a Robert Gordon haircut that was a few months removed from writing about basketball on the Internet (what a stupid endeavor!). Every loping lefty toss-in seemed to fly in the face of a Lakers team that expected differently by the first quarter. It was Michael Jordan who was supposed to lead a comeback. It was Dennis Rodman who was supposed to bury his face in Shaq’s left arm. It was Scottie Pippen who was supposed to get lucky. It was anyone but Toni Kukoc, that goofball that shouldn’t matter. Then it was Randy Brown, the only member of my hometown team who was actually from my hometown, that … (You’ll have to excuse me.) (I miss my hometown, and I miss players like Randy Brown. Guys who can’t shoot to save their lives, but will never, ever, allow you to get past them on the other end.) (This is what Chicago is all about. Watch.) It’s a last-second spring, when nobody is expecting it. It’s a last push toward 21 by two, when the sun is going down and we don’t know if the lights are going to turn on. It’s a plunk right at the rim, because you can’t trust this backboard. It’s a left hand, when everyone expects a right hand and for Jane Byrne to clear the streets of snow and Harold Washington to make it past his second term. Michael Jordan dunked on Patrick Ewing a few times, Scottie Pippen did the same , Joakim Noah made me yell louder than I’ve ever yelled watching a sporting event while taking down Paul Pierce. I’m lucky. I’ve been able to grow up rooting for players that I love, teams I adore, and outfits that make me proud of my hometown. I also have the greatest job in the world, my world at least, and I’ll never forget that. Part of that job means watching basketball on a Tuesday in December, when the rest of the sporting world doesn’t care as much, and when the stakes seem to be low. Sometimes, though, there are people who care quite a bit. These people encourage followers who run down to a drugstore to buy VHS tapes, fans who turn an obsession into a living. And in a game with 252 combined points , one dunk will remind you of the two points that keep you coming back. - - - - - - - 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
The Scoop:Kobe's goal this season is to become a more efficient player and is using fellow 36-year-old, Pierce, as a case study. Even though Pierce saw his stats dip last season, he was still able to post his best shooting and scoring efficiency numbers since 2010-11. While Bryant's Achilles tear from 2013 makes him a risky fantasy pick, the Black Mamba could end up being a steal if he falls on draft day.