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PODCAST!!! Kobe Bryant’s minutes, Taylor Swift’s belly button, Bill Cosby and social media, Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Byron Scott, Chris Kaman, free agency, Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Justine Sacco, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion | 2 comments

Fourteen games into the season, the Lakers are 3-11, with Kobe Bryant clearly gassed and the injury bug continuing to bite. (Poor Xavier Henry.) And as a gander at the schedule reminds, it’s gonna get a lot tougher before it gets even theoretically better.

Um… Happy Thanksgiving? (Unless you’re rooting for the Lakers to keep their lottery pick, in which case, Happy Thanksgiving!)

The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and below is a list of talking points. Among the highlights.

  • Fourteen games into the season, it’s grown clear Kobe Bryant is beyond exhausted upon averaging nearly 36 minutes per game at age 36 on the heels of two significant injuries. Byron Scott’s solution? Keep those minutes as is, but limit Kobe’s practice time. On several counts, this is a terrible approach that also perhaps speaks to the coach’s troubling mentality.
  • Once again, Kobe’s Kontract has become a topic of discussion. We explain why Bryant simultaneously has a point and misses the point while defending his salary.
  • We take a look at some big stories around the NBA. Nike tries to pull a fast one on Allen Iverson. Hornets Forward Jeff Taylor opts not to appeal his 24-game suspension for a domestic abuse incident. Chris Kaman doesn’t believe in Big Foot. (Seriously. He said this.) Can the Clippers and/or Cavaliers right the ship after a sluggish start?
  • In our new “Not Sports Story” segment, we break down Taylor Swift’s mysterious refusal to show her belly button. What’s up with that?
  • We continue with new segments, this one called “Person of Interest.” We take a look at the new-but-old allegations of Bill Cosby and sexual assault, and the way social media now completely dictates what collectively grabs our attention as a society.
  • It’s time for AAK!!! The theme? Thanksgiving! Will the Lakers finish with more wins than guests at the Kamenetzky dinner table on Thursday? Do the K Bros partake in Black Friday?  Which of us is the bigger eater and the bigger drinker during the holiday? How much do Kobe Bryant’s teammates get to eat while celebrating with The Mamba?
  • Finally, a new segment called “Mitch Kupchak explains something.”

Click above to play, or just download the show here. Hope you enjoy it. To subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on TuneIn.com by heading here.

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How media makes playing with Kobe Bryant hard

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis | 9 comments

Everyone knows playing with Kobe Bryant is difficult, but people tend to focus on those things related to his personality and playing style. Kobe demands hard work and total commitment, doesn’t trust easily, has the ball in his hands a lot, and so on.

Noted far less frequently are the ways in which Bryant’s presence over nearly two decades has Kobe-fied the city and media, and how that influences his teammates, both present and potential. Take this exchange with Jeremy Lin, following Tuesday’s loss at home to Phoenix:

The Lakers are a bad team off to a terrible start, and Lin hasn’t looked good (his mini-bounceback Tuesday notwithstanding). They’re all frustrated. But after the game, in which Kobe scored 39 points on 37 shots over 44 minutes – voluminous usage likely annoying teammates on one level or another, even if we all understand why Bryant might feel compelled to take this much on himself – the focus isn’t simply on Kobe. That’s to be expected. It’s about how much Kobe poured into the game. How hard Kobe worked. How Kobe gave it his all.

I wasn’t there, but have heard this done enough to know how common questions like these are, and more importantly, how they sound to the athlete. Allow me to translate:

What is asked: “Jeremy, Kobe played 44 minutes and scored 39 points. He’s 36 years old. What’s it like to see a guy like him give it his all and post big numbers, 19 years into his career?”

What he hears: “Jeremy, Kobe played 44 minutes and scored 39 points. He’s 36 years old. What’s it like to see a guy like him give it his all and post big numbers 19 years into his career because you guys around him are such untalented shitbox slack-asses he has no alternative?”

Nobody outworks Kobe, but Kobe isn’t the only player who works hard. Kobe has a remarkable tolerance for pain, but he’s not the only guy who plays hurt. The implication of questions like the one asked Lin isn’t simply that the other Lakers are failing themselves, their teammates, or the organization, but that they’re failing Kobe. And it’s insulting.

Five games in, the Lakers don’t have a problem with effort, but talent. Guys are doing what they can, they just can’t do enough. Most of the time, someone asks the question and Kobe’s teammate delivers the “right” answer, marveling at Kobe’s work ethic and effort, and the quote is there to fill whatever need. Occasionally, you get a less filtered answer like Lin’s.

This is part of the landscape for potential free agents coming to Los Angeles. Our collective perception of Lakers basketball and how players are supposed to be successful now reflects Kobe’s unique makeup, his accomplishments, and the mythology surrounding him. The annoyances might be minor individually (how I’d classify Tuesday’s postgame exchange) but they do add up, and make playing here less appealing. And for stars, constant comparisons to Kobe can be draining (and they won’t end just because he retires).

At this point, Bryant is a master of media, knowing exactly how to convey any message he feels necessary, whether publicly through Twitter, for example, or behind the scenes. He’s unafraid to play those cards. But the phenomenon I’m noting here isn’t really something he controls or instigates. It’s an evolution. Having someone like him in a city like L.A. on a franchise like the Lakers for so long with so much success can’t help but influence the culture.

But it’s real, and it matters.

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Kobe Bryant, the Lakers, and loyalty

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Opinion | 2 comments

I love my wife.

I’m fortunate, too, to have a strong and (far as I know) happy marriage. Still, because it’s a marriage there are moments of frustration and tension. When they come, I still have no interest in leaving because I love my wife and live a far better life with her than without. But while that is the primary and overwhelming consideration, it’s not the only one. I wouldn’t do anything potentially jeopardizing access to my boys. Pushing 40 and off the market for a decade (sorry ladies), the idea of dating seems foreign and absurd. I don’t want to divide all our stuff in half, not that there’s that much of it. Independence, if I wanted it, comes with real costs.

Which brings me to Kobe Bryant.

Before the legs grew too long, Bryant shot down the (and I use this term in its loosest possible sense) “rumors” of potentially asking — or perhaps demanding — his way out of L.A., ostensibly to escape the brush fire quickly enveloping the 2014-15 season and end his career with a title opportunity.

Via Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

“I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers… I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It’s my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It’s important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis.”

and…

“I’ve enjoyed a great amount of success here. You can’t just enjoy the successful times and then run away from the bad ones. No, I don’t even think about [departing]. I’m a Laker.”

There’s no reason to doubt his sincerity. Kobe should be loyal to the Lakers, supported for nearly two decades with aggressive roster building and about $280 million in salary, with another $25 mil on the way next season. When the Lakers had to choose between him and Shaquille O’Neal, they (rightly) chose Kobe. When Colorado happened, they stood by him. When he demanded trades to far flung former planets, the Lakers attempted to oblige him, but then quietly rode it out and eventually acquired Pau Gasol.

Everybody, from the organization to Bryant to Lakers fans, has been a huge winner in the relationship. It makes total sense for Kobe to stay, even if the team is losing. But his comments don’t provide a full view of the landscape. Bryant obviously understands the optics, and how awful it would look to force his way out after being given a $48.5 million contract before actually playing a game following his Achilles surgery. It’s a deal, after all, contributing to the predicament in which he currently finds himself.

(And no, I do not buy his explanation that the Lakers simply granted him this money. If there was no negotiation, it’s because the Lakers knew the numbers they had to hit to avoid any controversy. Whether they handled it properly is a separate debate.)

And where would he go? Yes, he’s looked good this year and still carries tremendous cache, but Kobe is nonetheless a 36-year old guard coming off two big injuries, with a massive cap number this year and next, for whom the Lakers would demand major assets in return, holding veto power over any deal potentially stripping his new team of too much stuff. For all the talk of New York being an ideal landing spot, with plenty of organizational familiarity in Phil Jackson upstairs and Derek Fisher on the sidelines (plus the sexiness factor of Kobe playing every night at The Garden), I don’t think the Knicks would actually pull the trigger. Phil has a plan. Giving up picks and young talent to have Kobe obliterate $25 million of his cap space next season isn’t part of it.

Particularly since Carmelo Anthony, Kobe, and J.R. Smith don’t make a likely championship trio, even in the East. Phil knows that, and more importantly, so does Kobe. His well-documented hyper-competitiveness notwithstanding, he’d recognize the brand and emotional connection built playing every year of his transcendent career with the same iconic franchise has more value than a very speculative shot at a sixth ring, even in New York.

And if not the Knicks, where? He’s extremely hard to trade, and the only thing more damaging to Kobe’s rep than forcing his way out of Los Angeles would be trying and failing.

For all the chest-puffing, social media driven, “Winning is the only thing” hyper-Lombardi-ism infecting our sports culture, there are still things we value as much as final scores. In different combinations for different situations, fair play, honesty, character, and loyalty all matter. Titles can be tainted should too many of those qualities be compromised in the process. Kobe might want more hardware, but doesn’t need it. Does a sixth ring really help Kobe’s legacy if brought by bailing on the Lakers? Is even a crack at the postseason enough to sacrifice everything else he’s built up?

In the end, the Lakers and Kobe are married to each other,* for better or for… well, this. When the two-year extension was offered and signed, both sides understood what could be coming. There would be attempts to improve the team, but they might not work. Fingers crossed, the Lakers might surprise people. But they might not, and the Lakers could not afford any heroics aimed at saving the end of the Kobe Era at the expense of whatever comes after. Kobe, eyes open, chose, deep continuity and money. The Lakers knew, and did the same. They didn’t offer Bryant that contract purely out of loyalty after years of success, after all. He keeps them relevant and brings income. They made PR calculations, too, particularly in the post-Dwight Howard aftermath.

Doesn’t devalue the loyalty the Lakers and Kobe are showing each other, but nobody should pretend it’s the only thing in play.

Maybe something comes along, changing the calculus for one side or the other. Maybe the perfect opportunity presents itself to give Bryant one last chance at a chip while helping the Lakers rebuild faster after he’s gone. More likely, though — much, much more likely — Bryant stays, ending his career in purple and gold, honored and revered for his accomplishments, just with less glory than everyone would have hoped.

*It can be argued, fairly easily really, a trade demand from Bryant — petitioning for a divorce, to flog the marriage metaphor that much more — does the Lakers a favor, since it takes the blame for ending the Kobe Era in L.A. off their hands. He, by definition, asked for it, and that’s the only way this process could start. But that’s a different discussion. 

 

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Kobe Bryant and control

Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 in Kobe Bryant | 1 comment

***LISTEN TO THE NEW PODCAST HERE***

Before the start of training camp, I wrote for The Cauldron at Medium.com about the need for Kobe Bryant to recognize the limits of his will if he wants to make it through the season successfully. No easy task for the most willful athlete of the last 20 years.

Following Tuesday’s loss to Houston, Kobe Bryant spoke at length about the need to let go of that which can’t be controlled. Some of it was in the context of Julius Randle and his devastating injury, but it’s no less true for everything else that will go on for Bryant and the Lakers this season.

I wrote about it here for SheridanHoops.com.

 

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Podcast! 2014-15 NBA and Lakers Season Preview!

Posted by on Oct 28, 2014 in Jeanie Buss, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Lakers Audio, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Mitch Kupchak, Nick Young, Opinion |

And so it begins!

All that was the preseason is gone, all that will be the regular season lay before us, kicking off Tuesday at Staples when the Lakers face Donatas Motiejunas (and Dwight Howard) and the Houston Rockets. What will the 2014-15 campaign bring, both in L.A. and across the Association? We break it down in our Big Season Preview, while also tackling a few important Lakers-related issues along the way.

Among the talking points:

  • Headlines! Slow going on contract negotiations for Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard. NBA owners reject lottery reform. Where do the Lakers land on SI.com’s entertainment index?
  • The end of Steve Nash.
  • Preseason wrap up. Where did the Lakers look encouraging, where were they discouraging, and can anyone around here play point guard for more than 20 minutes without hurting himself?
  • Jeanie Buss defends Kobe and the franchise.
  • 2014-15 NBA and Lakers Season Preview. Who wins the East? The West? The Larry O? All the major awards, plus over/under predictions on Lakers victories, MPG and games played for Kobe Bryant.
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Steve Nash is done

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Lakers Analysis, Steve Nash | 3 comments

In sports, The End of Things is almost never pretty. Circumstances – whether a star’s team fading from championship relevance or the unrelenting economics of roster maintenance forcing him into a strange, uncomfortable, and likely regrettable jersey for the last season or two – frequently betray the ideal. More often, though, The End is demanded by something as personal and fundamental as the athlete’s body. The foundation, given enough time and opportunity, always crumbles. So it is for Steve Nash. The long, frustrating chain of events that began knocking legs with Damian Lillard in Nash’s first road game as a Laker has ended here, with the Lakers announcing Thursday Nash won’t play at all this season, ending both his time in purple and gold, and presumably his NBA career.

Even if’s not exactly surprising – given an over/under of 30 games played for Nash this season, I suspect most fans would have taken the under – it’s still disappointing. Nash was never going to be able to win the crowd in L.A. given the total failure of his time in purple and gold, but at the very least he could have exited the game on something resembling his own terms, paying off not only a life’s worth of training and dedication but the grueling effort put in over the last two seasons trying to get his body right.

Lakers fans could have seen glimpses of that alternate universe in which the freak chain reaction from Nash’s initial injury never happened. In that world, he may not be MVP, but still has control over his artistry. You could bring your kids to see him play, telling them to watch the way he changes speeds, how his eyes are always up, how he never gives up his dribble, and how one little guy can control the actions of nine larger men. And they would understand. That guy makes basketball more fun, and it sucks he won’t be around.

Professionally, few guys were more candid about his situation than Nash. He spoke openly about everything keeping him going, from the love of the game to the money, strong enough to express vulnerability without embarrassment. Rare qualities I’ll miss. But while the news is disappointing today, it’s less depressing than 82 games worth of “Can he play tonight?”

For the Lakers, a healthy Nash would have been a boost to their playoff hopes, but since a healthy Nash was always a long shot, the news doesn’t have a lot of practical impact. It probably nets out as a positive, really. Byron Scott won’t have to deal with the headaches caused by Nash coming in and out of the lineup. Jeremy Lin won’t be yanked around, and in the meantime will have the opportunity to play huge minutes, potentially boosting his trade value. Jordan Clarkson will get more time on the floor. Should they be granted a disabled player exception, the Lakers might be able to find another piece they can use for the rebuild. (Think modestly, though. The rules are pretty restrictive.) If Nash retires, it opens up space to take a flier on a younger player. (For a full overview of how this could all play out, Eric Pincus of the LAT, like Clarissa, explains it all.)

It’s hard to reverse engineer the what if’s had the Lakers not made the Nash trade, or granted him the contract, or if Nash had fallen on his sword last season and taken a medical retirement. Interesting questions to ask, with no obvious answers.* We do know the end has come – grand, sad, disappointing failure for the Lakers and Nash – and are again reminded how unforgiving professional sports can be, particularly for those wrestling for control of their final days as a participant.

Hopefully it’s the last one Lakers fans get this year.

*That said, I still believe the logic of the trade was sound. Yes, there was always a chance he’d get hurt, but Nash hadn’t missed many games in the seasons leading to the trade and the injury ending his career was a freaky thing even those predicting doom couldn’t see coming. It’s like a doctor saying his patient has a 75 percent chance of dying from cancer within a year, and two months later the guy gets hit by a bus. Yes, the patient is dead, but the doctor can’t chalk one up to his forecasting skills. 

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