Dirk: 'Disappointing' Kobe is done for the year

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
MacMahon By Tim MacMahon
DALLAS – “Kobe time,” long a favorite to watch for a certain 7-foot German NBA fan, has been officially canceled for the rest of the season.

Countless times throughout his career, Dirk Nowitzki has arrived at his home after a game at the American Airlines Center, plopped down on the couch and scrolled through the television listings to find the Los Angeles Lakers game in time to watch Kobe Bryant perform in crunch time.

That won’t be possible again until next season. The Lakers announced Monday afternoon that, as expected, Bryant will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

“Disappointing,” Nowitzki said of the news that a serious injury will end Bryant’s season prematurely for the third consecutive campaign. “I think he worked extremely hard to get back to the point where he’s fun to watch again. After an Achilles tear, kind of everybody said they’re not sure if he’s going to come back, and he worked his butt off like he has his entire career and gets to a point where he scores again and is fun to watch. And now another injury happens.

“It’s tough, but he’s a fighter. He’ll probably be back from that as well.”

As Bryant’s body betrays him, it’s hard not to wonder about Nowitzki’s basketball mortality.

They are a couple of NBA legends, separated by four spots on the all-time scoring list and two months of age, who are in their golden years. Bryant is one of only three active players who has logged more career minutes than Nowitzki.

Nowitzki has been fortunate in his fight against Father Time. He’s managed to avoid major injuries throughout his career. The only instance of Nowitzki missing extended time occurred in 2012-13, when he sat out most of the first two months of the season after undergoing relatively minor arthroscopic knee surgery in October.

Nowitzki’s good health isn’t all luck. There’s a lot of work that goes into it – by Nowitzki and the Mavs’ medical and conditioning staffs. The Mavs have made managing his minutes a priority for several years, trimming them under 30 per game this season, significantly fewer than Bryant was logging for the Lakers. Dallas has also managed to reduce the stress of Nowitzki’s minutes, surrounding him with players who are capable of lessening the burden on him, something the Lakers failed to do for Bryant last summer.

And Nowitzki’s game is certainly more suited for success at an advanced age.

“You don’t see Dirk doing a whole lot of reverse jams,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “Dirk doesn’t go up for an alley-oop. He goes up for an alley-under and worries about tripping over the line.

Nevertheless, Bryant’s problems are a painful reminder of how difficult it is for even the greatest to keep going into their mid-30s and beyond.

“You can’t take anything for granted in this league as you get older,” Nowitzki said. “You want to compete every night. You want to have fun doing it. You don’t want to get up every morning and have to fight to go to work, fight to stay out there. That’s not how I ever looked at basketball. As long as I feel good and I don’t have to take a bunch of pills to play … That’s not how I look at the game. It’s supposed to be fun.”

Kind of like sitting on the couch for Kobe time.

Kobe Bryant to have shoulder surgery

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the team said Monday. A timetable for his recovery won't be known until after the procedure.

The Lakers said the surgery will take place Wednesday. ESPN reported Friday that Bryant is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

"Now we know Kobe is probably not going to play [the rest of the season]," Lakers coach Byron Scott said at practice Monday.

It would be the third consecutive season-ending injury for the 36-year-old Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and former league MVP, raising more questions about his future. The 19-year veteran has one year remaining on his contract with the Lakers, during which he is set to be paid $25 million.

After taking the weekend to mull his options after Lakers team doctor Stephen Lombardo found a significant tear in his right shoulder, Bryant met Monday with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, another Lakers doctor, who advised Bryant should have the surgery.

Bryant suffered the injury during last week's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, though sources told ESPN on Friday that he has been dealing with the injury since the preseason.

He played just six games last season as he recovered from Achilles and knee injuries, meaning he will have missed 75 percent of the Lakers' games over the past two seasons.

Bryant played 35 games with the Lakers this season, averaging 22.3 points -- 3.1 points below his career average -- over 34.5 minutes per game. He shot only 37.3 percent from the field, the worst percentage in the last 50 seasons for any player averaging at least 20 points per game.

He also was averaging 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists for the Lakers, who are 12-33 and ahead of only Minnesota in the Western Conference standings.

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Kobe wanted to play with Jordan

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26

Kobe Bryant has long idolized Michael Jordan, the player to whom he has been compared throughout his career. Years ago, he had plans to play alongside his mentor.

According to a Washington Post report on Monday, Bryant more than a decade ago wanted to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and play for Washington Wizards, where Jordan was winding down his career.

"That's true," Bryant told the Post. "A long time ago? Yeah."

Said Bryant, "I've always been very big on having mentors, on having muses, and I've been really, really big on that, being around guys who have done it before and done it at a high level and always tried to pick their brains and always tried to absorb knowledge. Obviously, being in that situation [with the Wizards], it would've helped having to be around him every day and so on."

A Bryant-Jordan scenario as teammates all fell apart when then-Wizards owner Abe Pollin parted ways with Jordan in 2003, a year before Bryant became a free agent.

"We would've put together a great team and we would've won championships," Bryant told The Post.

Bryant also said a key reason he wanted to leave L.A. was his well-known feud with then-teammate Shaquille O'Neal, a three-time Finals MVP from 2000-02.

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McHale on Kobe: 'It happens to everybody'

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
LOS ANGELES -- Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale says he has loads of respect for Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

But McHale didn't seem so sure the 36-year-old Bryant would be able to rebound from another potential season-ending injury, this time a torn rotator cuff in Bryant's right shoulder suffered last week in a loss at New Orleans.

"Eventually, this catches up to you, man," McHale said Sunday before the Rockets beat the Lakers 99-87 at Staples Center. "Kobe's a great player, but I've seen other great players. When your time's up, your time's up, man. It's too bad, but it happens to everybody.

"I wish him all the best. I've always admired him. I think he's a hell of a competitor, but everything comes to an end. In my case, my body just said, 'You weren't playing anymore,' and I said, 'OK.' "

Bryant was expected to decide as early as Monday whether to have shoulder surgery. If it causes him to miss the rest of the season, it will mark his third straight season ended early by injuries. Achilles and knee injuries ended his previous two seasons prematurely.

After benching, Lin just happy to play again

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
LOS ANGELES -- Jeremy Lin was just happy to be out there again.

"I'm thankful I played," the Los Angeles Lakers reserve point guard said Sunday after a 99-87 loss to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.

"A DNP will change your perspective on things."

Lin was referring to Friday, when he was a DNP-CD (did not play - coach's decision) in a road loss to the San Antonio Spurs, his first healthy scratch since Feb. 2, 2012, even before "Linsanity."

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Harry How/Getty ImagesJeremy Lin had 14 points and six assists Sunday against the Rockets in his first game since being benched.
He entered Sunday's game late in the first quarter to cheers from the fans and finished with 14 points in 28 minutes against the Rockets, making just 2-of-9 shots but sinking 10-of-14 from the free-throw line. He added six assists against his former team.

Both before the game and after, Lin reflected on his roller-coaster season and more.

"In terms of my career, the only thing that's really been consistent is the amount of inconsistency that I've had in my life," Lin said. "I've gone from getting cut to the D-League to starting to playing heavy minutes -- a different role every week, it seems like. I've just got to keep trying to stay aggressive when I get out there -- if I get out there."

His healthy scratch in San Antonio was disheartening, of course.

"I'm human," he said. "I've got emotions, too. I show up and do my best to play and work hard and stuff, but it definitely hurts. It's discouraging sometimes. It's disappointing. All those emotions."

Lin and Lakers coach Byron Scott chatted Sunday morning about Lin's role, and it was the same message Scott has said all season: He wants consistency.

"The effort has been great," Scott said. "That hasn't been a problem with Jeremy. It's just a matter of being consistent each and every night, trying to get into a flow each and every night. That's what we talked about again today."

Lin has gone up and down more than an elevator since joining the Lakers.

He has been a constant target of praise and criticism from Scott and Kobe Bryant.

He has been moved from the starting unit to the bench.

He has gone from second-string point guard to third-string point guard, behind Ronnie Price and rookie Jordan Clarkson

And he has gone from playing heavy minutes to not playing at all, such as Friday.

"The only thing that you can really get used to is the fact that you don't know what's coming next," Lin said. "That's kind of been true this whole season."

None of it is fun, mind you, and Lin hasn't looked happy much if at all this season, even though he has done his best to present himself as upbeat.

Is Lin trying to use his minutes to make his case that he deserves more?

"No, we've been down this road before," he said with a laugh. "[Sunday night], I was just enjoying the game."

He repeated that message a few times.

"I was out there having fun just attacking and really just enjoying the experience of getting to play team basketball -- try to get everybody involved and do the best we can," he said. "It was fun. Losing is not fun, but just playing again is fun."

And that's what the season has been reduced to for Jeremy Lin.

He's just trying to have fun in a situation, and in a season, that is anything but fun.

Nick Young benched, avoids media

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25

LOS ANGELES -- Nick Young was a no-show in the second half for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center, benched by coach Byron Scott after struggling in the first half.

The Lakers' reserve guard was then a no-show after the Lakers' 99-87 loss to Houston, leaving without speaking to reporters after going scoreless for the first time for the Lakers in eight minutes of playing time -- his fewest as a Laker.

It was an unusual move for the jovial Young in avoiding the media after the game, as "Swaggy P" relishes the chance to provide colorful quotes.

Either way, Scott said he wasn't happy with Young's effort.

"It looked to me that he didn't want to be here," Scott said.

"At halftime, we showed stuff on the tape where he was guarding [Houston swingman Corey] Brewer in the corner. I asked [Young], 'What were you thinking on his play?' The answer he gave me, I couldn't figure it out. So I just felt with his body language that he didn't want to play tonight, so I chose not to play him."

The Lakers are scheduled to practice Monday, when Young will likely be available to address his benching.

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LOS ANGELES -- James Harden had 37 points and eight rebounds, and the Houston Rockets rolled to a 99-87 victory over the Lakers on Sunday night, sending Los Angeles to its eighth straight defeat.

Harden hit four 3-pointers, and the NBA's leading scorer added five assists in the Rockets' third victory in four games.

Josh Smith and Jason Terry had 11 points apiece as Houston cruised to its fourth straight road victory over the Lakers even without Dwight Howard, who sat out after injuring his right ankle two days ago.

Carlos Boozer scored 18 points for the Lakers, who are on their longest losing streak in nearly 10 years.

The Lakers weren't terribly competitive until the fourth quarter of their latest game without Kobe Bryant, who could be out for the season.

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Rockets 99, Lakers 87: 8 straight losses

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
LOS ANGELES -- No Kobe Bryant? Bummer. No Dwight Howard? Even worse. A complete blowout from the start? OK, let's just change the channel.

Yes, Staples Center offered pretty much nothing worth watching Sunday night in a 99-87 victory by the Houston Rockets. Even Rockets fans probably tuned out after their team had doubled up the Los Angeles Lakers after the first quarter (30-15).

Then again, even the Rockets looked bored most of the night, just watching and waiting for the seconds to tick away in a game that they led by as many as 25 points.

The Lakers suffered their season-high eighth straight loss, their longest skid since they dropped eight in a row from March 14 to 27 in 2005. They sit at 12-33.

Bryant was absent with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, and Howard was out with a sprained ankle, which meant no scuffles between the ex-teammates who had a sour relationship at best.

Player of the game: L.A. native James Harden barbecued the Lakers, though some of his shots were more well-contested during pregame warm-ups than in the actual game. The Rockets' star guard finished with 37 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, and though he technically broke a sweat, it seemed like he wasn't trying that hard all night.

Lin in action: Jeremy Lin came off the bench in the first quarter, his first action after receiving a DNP-CD (did not play -- coach's decision) Friday at San Antonio, his first healthy scratch since Feb. 2, 2012. He finished with 14 points on 2-of-9 shooting to go along with six assists in 28 minutes.

Swaggy P in the doghouse: Lakers coach Byron Scott benched Nick Young in the second half. Young played just nine scoreless minutes all told, missing both of his field goal attempts.

Lone bright spot: Carlos Boozer provided 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Lakers. There wasn't much else that the Lakers did worth mentioning.

LOS ANGELES -- It's fitting that Kobe Bryant wanted to pretend everything was OK one last time before losing a third consecutive year to a season-ending injury. Pretending -- that's what this entire season has been for Bryant and the Lakers. Because that's really the only way you get through a season like this with your spirit intact.

And so after playing with the injury for a few minutes Wednesday night in New Orleans and hoisting some off-hand shots, Kobe shrugged and said he wasn't "that concerned about" what proved to be a completely torn rotator cuff in his right, shooting shoulder. He'd played with a torn labrum once, he said. No biggie. Later that night, when I reached out to check on the severity of the injury that had him shooting and playing left-handed, he laughed and said, "Why? God gave us two hands."

It was classic Kobe Bryant. Forever in his armor. He probably already knew what was coming next. What daylight would bring. He'd partially torn the rotator cuff in the preseason and had been managing the injury all along. This was obviously different. But what difference would another night make? Another night of believing that he could talk himself past any injury. Of convincing himself that willpower and work were enough to stave off the effects of age and time and 19 years of NBA pounding.

The world would know soon enough that his season was over. Why not save one more night and fight the inevitable break of dawn?

When he got home to Los Angeles, where each doctor he met with kept saying the same thing, he still needed to take a few more days to process it all.

Yes, this has been a long time coming. The more Kobe played this season, the worse he played. He was sore all over, with the sort of generalized pain that becomes a syndrome and then a downward spiral. But before he ended it by going under the knife, he wanted to exhaust all options.

That's always been Kobe. Never accept anything as it is, on the court or off of it. Believe there's a way, even if you're deluding yourself, and a path will appear.

But there was no getting around this reality. The only way to fix this injury was surgery. So when the time finally came to confirm the inevitable, there was sadness and relief.

It may have been fascinating to watch Kobe play on this awful Lakers team, but it was not fun. There were nights you marveled at him trying to carry the franchise as he once did on much springier, younger legs. There were other nights you cringed as he jacked up 20 or 30 shots and missed far too many.

But his talent, his insatiable competitiveness, his enormous id was lost on a team like this. The Lakers are going nowhere this season. They never really were. Steve Nash

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What does Kobe's future look like?

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25

A torn rotator cuff has, according to Lakers head coach Byron Scott, likely ended Kobe Bryant's season, making this the third consecutive season that Bryant has suffered a serious injury. His future, as well as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers, all hangs in the balance. Here's a primer:

The injury

Bryant reportedly had been playing with a prior shoulder injury, which would indicate that this injury was probably months in the making (even if the actual tear happened on the play in question at New Orleans). On Tuesday it was announced the Bryant would be undergoing surgery on Wednesday.

Bryant is facing the reality of basketball mortality. It's not just that he's not talented enough to carry or will his team to victory any more; it's also detrimental to his health. The wear and tear on a body that's seen a lot of miles is simply too great to overcome, regardless of work ethic and diligence.

Bryant himself seemed to acknowledge this in recent weeks before the injury, saying "the Kobe from five years ago could have picked up this team by himself... physically, I can't do that."

The contract

Video: Kobe getting his shoulder examined

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
According to sources, the Los Angeles Lakers expect guard Kobe Bryant to miss the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff.

Bryant met with team doctor Steven Lombardo in Los Angeles on Friday. The Players' Tribune has the video from the visit, where Bryant was told, "It's torn, and it's pulled off the bone."

Lakers didn't treat aging superstar properly

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

SAN ANTONIO -- Kobe Bryant might have said it at a practice or a game, and he might have said it a month ago, or maybe longer. Byron Scott doesn't quite remember.

What the Lakers coach does remember is his star guard saying that his shoulder was bothering him.

“You all right?” Scott said he asked Bryant.

“I’m all right,” Bryant replied.

The two never talked about the issue again, Scott said.

Then Wednesday, in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, Bryant tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, an injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season, though a final decision on that will be made early next week, likely Monday.

But Friday, before the Lakers’ 99-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs here, Scott recounted two rather serious missteps regarding Bryant’s health that Scott said could very well be tied to Bryant’s latest ailment.

The first issue is well known: Scott simply played the 36-year old Bryant way too many minutes earlier this season -- a team-high 35.4 per night during the team’s first 27 games -- even though he said Bryant asked to play fewer minutes from the start.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsInstead of employing a cautious Spurs-like approach, coach Byron Scott played Kobe Bryant too much early on.
“I don’t know if the wear and tear of playing so many minutes early is a result of what’s happening to him right now,” Scott said. “To be honest with you, I thought about that, it made me almost sick.”

Scott said he apologized to Bryant via text.

“His response was like, 'No, that ain’t it,'” Scott said. “He tried to make me feel better.”

Then Scott discussed Bryant’s nagging shoulder issue, which hadn’t been made public, and they brought it up again this week after Bryant appeared to tear his rotator cuff on what seemed to be a no-frills baseline dunk against the Pelicans.

“You remember when I said it?” Bryant said, according to Scott.

“Yeah, I remember,” Scott said.

“I think it was kind of hurting then and I just re-aggravated it on a much higher level,” Bryant replied.

Bryant has played through numerous injuries and said so again Wednesday.

“I’ve played on a torn labrum before,” he said. “I’m not too concerned about it.”

Bryant also basically played with just his left hand after suffering the injury Wednesday but said that wasn’t unusual. He said that he had played entire games left-handed before too, in 2003, 2004 and 2006 because of a separated shoulder.

But that was years ago. He’s aged plenty in NBA years, put on many more NBA miles and suffered two recent major injuries (Achilles and knee). So much is different.

Yet Kobe is still Kobe.

He still believes he can overcome because, well, he always has, even against great odds. The people around him -- namely Scott -- believe the same. At times, though, everyone seems to forget that Kobe Bryant is, first and foremost, human.

The usual protocol for a nagging injury, Scott said, is for a player to go talk to the team’s trainer, Gary Vitti. Does Scott know if Bryant ever did that? “I don’t,” Scott said.

In hindsight, these issues appear greatly troubling, because just as Bryant must treat every aspect of his health, training and diet so seriously at this age just so he can perform, so too must the Lakers, and especially Scott, be ever so cautious with him.

That’s all the more true because Bryant is the Lakers’ sole attraction during an awful season, the lone reason for fans to tune in or attend games, all they really have to look forward to until the draft lottery. From a business sense, Bryant is their cash cow -- their extremely well-paid cash cow -- and thus missteps are extremely costly.

Where does blame lie? Certainly some falls on Bryant. He’s as powerful as any figure within the Lakers’ organization and as powerful as any player within any NBA franchise. If he wanted to play fewer minutes, he could have. If he wanted to get his shoulder examined earlier, he could have. The only person who could’ve stopped Kobe was Kobe, but he didn’t, because Kobe is Kobe. He believes he will overcome.

So the blame truly falls on Scott, who hasn’t been shy about admitting his fault in the issue. And, to a greater degree, the blame truly falls on the entire organization for not stepping in at some point earlier on when Bryant was playing all those minutes.

If the Lakers wanted a good lesson in how to handle superstars late in their careers, they only needed to glance down the sideline Friday.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he started resting Tim Duncan after winning the championship in 1999 “because the following year Timmy had a bad knee going into the playoffs. We had to make a decision.”

Duncan was 23 years old at the time and had just played his second NBA season.

“The docs cleared him, he could probably play, but I didn’t let him,” Popovich said. “I held him out. I did that with the thought of wanting him to have as long of a career as he wanted to. I didn’t want to take a chance to send him out there and do more damage to it. We had playoffs. So it started way back then.”

Fast-forward to Friday, and Duncan, now 38, had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 20 tidy minutes as the Spurs rolled to a double-digit win.

Scott has talked about the Spurs being the “blueprint” for how to properly rest players, and Popovich talked about that blueprint, the one the Lakers didn’t follow.

“You have a long view in the sense that you think about it, you look at the schedule at the beginning of the year, that kind of thing,” Popovich said. “Because it depends on how much people played in the last three days or last night and what’s coming up in the schedule or who else is hurt or injured.

“It’s never about wins or losses, it’s not about that,” Popovich said. “You don’t overplay somebody to get the win. Sometimes you’re in circumstances where it happens, like the two triple-overtimes we had. That really skewed things for us. I hated watching those guys play all those minutes, but I guess it would have been sweeter if we won. In general, it’s a process and you talk about it daily and weekly.”

The phrases “It’s never about wins and losses” and “You don’t overplay somebody to get the win” appear to be exactly what the Lakers didn’t do with Bryant early on this season, even though this season was never headed anywhere to begin with.

Either way, Bryant is now hurt, likely gone for the season, facing yet another rehab, and it’s not clear how this will affect what should be his final season in the NBA.

“Nobody wants to see that happen,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. “It sucks. The league needs him. He’s one of the best players that ever played.”

"When somebody like that of that stature goes down, it’s not good for everybody, obviously for his team but for the league and you miss guys like Derrick Rose for instance, the last couple of years, or Kobe or anybody else like that," Popovich said.

"It’s a loss for the league, for fans, for all of us. I can think of a lot of shots Kobe’s made that’s basically knocked us out, and in an odd, weird sort of way I still enjoy it. When you see a talent like that, when they don’t play anymore then you say ‘Wow, I got to see so and so play.’ He’s one of those kind of guys.”

Spurs guard Tony Parker agreed.

“When I first came here, Spurs-Lakers, that’s all we talked about,” Parker said. “It was a huge rivalry, with him and Shaq. Those were great years.

“They always say good stuff has to have an end, but hopefully we can see him one more time next year and he’ll be healthy and finish on a high.”

Hopefully, that will be the case. Hopefully, Bryant can recover and go out on his own terms, whatever those may be. But considering he’s now facing his third consecutive season-ending injury, a storybook ending may simply not be possible, even for someone with such an iron will as Kobe Bryant.

He’ll have his five rings, but a graceful exit could elude him, and it’s hard not to look back at this season and wonder why more wasn’t done to help him achieve that.



Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2