The Conference Finals are here, and in some ways are more interesting thanks to what happens after them, rather than during. What if Houston, now tied 1-1, goes down quickly from here on? What if the Celtics beat the Cavs (as we both think will happen)? Does that mean LeBron is gone? To Houston? To L.A. ? Could Boston, stacked with too many good players, trade Kyrie?
And what about that Houston/GSW series? Did “adjustments” happen? Or did Houston just do Houston stuff better? Are there any adjustments good enough to get Cleveland through to the Finals?
We kick around all this, plus talk a little Boogie Cousins. Is he doing this free agency thing right?
Those are the big themes this week, with the Finals complete and the Draft a week away.
We start on the Finals, and the fallout from Golden State’s dominant win over Cleveland, despite a historic performance from LeBron James and excellent work from Kyrie Irving. They, like the rest of the league, weren’t close. So what does that mean for the NBA, and specifically rebuilding teams like the Lakers?
From there, we look at the Draft. Plenty of smoke out there indicating the Lakers could pass on Lonzo Ball for Josh Jackson. Should they? What about a trade?
Finally, The Logo is back in Los Angeles, but (at least in the minds of many Lakers fans) working for the wrong squad. How upset should Lakers fans be?
And a reminder — we’ll be hosting ESPNLA’s post-Draft coverage from the facility in El Segundo on Thursday night, starting at 7 pm and running until we’re done. Given how much could be going on that night, we could be in for a long, intriguing show! Hope you can tune in.
It’s been a while, but we’re back in front of the podcast microphones! The NBA draft is a few weeks away, prospects are visiting El Segundo, and the 2014-2015 season is four-seven games away from crowning a champion. (Spoiler alert! It won’t be the Lakers.)
The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a list of talking points can be found below. Among the high points:
OUR TOP STORY: The Lakers own the second overall pick, which provides them a lot of options. They can select a big. They can select a guard. They can select a Porzingas. They can trade the pick. What’s the best route moving foward?
HEADLINES: Lot o’ coaching hires and fires of late. What to make of Scott Skiles, Alvin Gentry and Fred Hoiberg joining, respectively, Orlando, New Orleans and Chicago, along with the Bulls’ dismissal of Tom Thibodeau? And should the Lakers make a play for the newly unemployed Thibs?
OUR ALMOST TOP STORY: For the first time in eons, Kevin Love addressed the media since injuring his shoulder. Amid constant speculation about an impending departure from Cleveland, the power forward maintained his company line of remaining a Cavalier next season. Is he relaying sincere thoughts, or proactively putting an exit strategy in motion?
PERSON OF INTEREST: Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, is the cover story of the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, and will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at next month’s ESPY’s. Both developments, along with Jenner’s very public transgender story, have raised awareness of transgender issues, but the ensuing discussion is inevitably complex, and for many, inevitably confusing.
OUR ALMOST, ALMOST TOP STORY: The NBA Finals are two days away from commencing! The Golden State Warriors are rightly the heavy favorite, but the Cavs have LeBron, which makes all bets feel off. Could LBJ actually lead an upset for the ages?
Kobe Bryant is on the shelf for the rest of the year and his availability and effectiveness for next season are in question… again. After steadfastly projecting what I refer to as “faux competitiveness,” the Lakers front office is staring down another season without a postseason and and a summer of critical importance… again. And these crossroads feature a coach who’s yet to reveal himself as right choice moving forward… again.
The show can be heard by clicking on the module and a list of talking points can be found below. Among the talking points:
Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery for a torn rotator cuff, meaning he’s done for the season. This being his third consecutive season ending injury, it’s fair to wonder whether he’ll call it an early retirement. But if Kobe does return, what can be realistically expected from the superstar guard next season? And either way, how should the Lakers move forward as an organization?
We take a look at the latest headlines. With Brandon Jennings and Kemba Walker injured, is Jeremy Lin suddenly a more valuable trade commodity? J.R. Smith is partying less in Cleveland than in New York. The Warriors reveals Chinese New Years jerseys that are either very classy, totally insulting, or both. The lineups for the All-Star Game’s three-point shooting and dunk contest are pretty damn awesome.
If Lance Armstrong could do it all over again, he’d do it exactly the same. And by “it,” he means “take PED.” What should we make of this rather candid admission?
It’s time for a Super Bowl-themed AAK!!! Who is the ideal halftime performer? Would we rather watch the game at the 50 yard line in person or on a 60-inch screen at a party? Do the K Bros root “Bud” or “Bud Light” in the Bud Bowl?
When Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles last April, I was initially concerned that game against the Warriors could very well be his last. This is a brutal injury for any athlete, much less a 35-year old with the equivalent of about 20 seasons under his belt when you consider playoff mileage. The effects are typically devastating, the rehab is grueling, and few NBA players have been remotely the same afterward. Kobe’s also stated on countless occasions a deep disinterest in performing below his lofty standards. The league is filled with grizzled ballers hanging around in their late 30s because they’re either willing to accept a supporting role on a contending team or simply aren’t ready to abandon the NBA lifestyle. Bryant will never be among them. Once it’s clear he can’t play at a high level, he won’t play at all.
With all these factors potentially stacked against him, the notion of Bryant forced into retirement certainly crossed my mind, and it wasn’t a pleasant thought.
However, there’s also a part of me that would have been okay with this, because Kobe’s last act as a professional basketball player would have been draining two free throws while supported by an Achilles with all the stability of a wet noodle, which to me stands as the greatest accomplishment of his entire career.
Greater than the five titles. Greater than 81 points. Greater than anything else on his first ballot Hall of Fame resume.
Physically and especially mentally, that Kobe managed to summon the strength to sink those free throws is nothing short of amazing. The pain alone would be (quite understandably) enough reason to tap out. Instead, Kobe walked to the line under his own power. And mentally, the task was even more daunting. Kobe knew immediately what just happened, which means his mind must have ventured into a pretty dark place as he stared down an injury capable of forever changing him. With the Lakers’ postseason hopes in the balance, Kobe had already played through a few nasty collisions against Golden State. He was now tasked with sinking a pair of free throws to keep those playoffs hopes alive, all the while knowing there was no prayer of actually participating.
The focus required to simply hold back tears was Herculean. That Kobe actually succeeded under those circumstances was astonishing. I’ve never seen anything like that moment in all my years watching sports, and I’m not sure any other athlete could have met this challenge.