Add Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson to the list of people who believe the team made the wrong coaching hire this week.
In the wee hours aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to hire former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni instead of 11-time champion Phil Jackson, Ball Don’t Lie’s own Eric Freeman tweeted this prescient aside :
And, 48 hours after a self-induced Twitter hibernation, the five-time NBA champion and one-time Los Angeles Lakers executive has responded with a couple of doozies :
Miami Heat MVP LeBron James still fancies himself as a giant lead ball-handler in the Magic Johnson or Scottie Pippen mold , and was candid enough to point out that playing the power forward position was “taxing” during last year’s playoffs, but even he can’t deny that his team plays significantly better in “small” lineups that feature James at big forward. The stats don’t lie , James put up some ridiculous numbers at the position last year, and the ring taken from a backpedaling Oklahoma City Thunder outfit last June with James mostly at power forward helps drive the point home — “point forward” it up all you want, LeBron, but the Heat are at their most dominant when James is looking to score on the interior.
Apparently one step — and one position — ahead, James is attempting to add that most center-ish of resources to his offensive repertoire. He might bust out a skyhook this season. Perhaps, 75 of the things spread out over 82 games. And who is going to be able to stop that?
From ESPN’s Heat Index, here’s tale of James’ tall maneuver :
So when a sweat-soaked James spent nearly 30 minutes alone after a recent practice working on his sweeping hook shot, on some levels it was déjà vu for McAdoo.
“I’ll be down here even more this year,” James shouted through near exhaustion as he wrapped up the extended workout. “Might as well keep getting more comfortable.”
James vows to add the traditional hook shot to his game, and he could test it out when the Heat play a pair of exhibition games this week in China against the Los Angeles Clippers. McAdoo proudly acknowledges that James is continuing to build a foundation of post moves that took root two summers ago in Houston with Olajuwon.
“September is just the beginning.”
Barclays Center signs and banners all over New York promise good things are coming to Brooklyn. Jay-Z’s opening of the new billion-dollar arena Friday showed off a fashionable, high-tech future for both concert enthusiasts and Nets fans.
Top-level pro sports are back in the borough for the first time in 55 years, and the newest NBA uniform was unveiled Friday…right on Jay-Z’s back.
[VIDEO: HEAR THEIR REACTION TO THE ARENA AND CONCERT, WITH COMMENTS FROM THE FANS.]
“September is just the beginning.”
Barclays Center signs and banners all over New York promise good things are coming to Brooklyn. JAY Z’s opening of the new billion-dollar arena Friday showed off a fashionable, high-tech future for both concert enthusiasts and Nets fans.
Top-level pro sports are back in the borough for the first time in 55 years, and the newest NBA uniform was unveiled Friday…right on JAY Z’s back.
[VIDEO: HEAR THEIR REACTION TO THE ARENA AND CONCERT, WITH COMMENTS FROM THE FANS.]
In basketball, everyone loves stats. It’s just one of the few sports where you can get a good indication of what exactly happened in a game, season or career just based on a box score or an individual stat line.
Oftentimes, I have been guilty of overindulging in stats, looking up box scores from long ago or taking another look at Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s ridiculous stat lines from the 1985-86 season and playoffs.
Now though, instead of looking to the past of statistics, I am going to try to do the near-impossible: predict the future. Over the next couple weeks, I will predict the season stat-line for every rotation player on the Celtics, then back my prediction up with an article.
I will start with the point guard: Rajon Rondo.
(Note: I will not be doing it for players that won’t make the rotation like Kris Joseph. If you really want to see my predictions for any omitted player, just let me know.)
Stat predictions for 2012-13 season:
15.5 PPG, 12.0 APG, 5.4 RPG, 46 FGP, 68 FTP
Rajon Rondo boldly appointed himself the best point guard in the league in an offseason interview. Now, he will have to go out and back it up. In order to truly prove himself as the best one in the league, he will need to put up some gaudy numbers.
But as we all know after his huge postseason, this triple-double machine is more than capable of filling up the stat sheet. Really, if he put his mind to it, he could probably come close to averaging a triple-double. Something he not done since Oscar Robertson did it in the 1961-62 season.
Although, I would argue that Magic Johnson technically did it in the 1981-82 season with 18.6 PPG, 9.5 APG and 9.6 RPG (did I mention that I’m a stat nerd?). I was always taught in elementary math class: five and above give it a shove, four and below, let it go. Based on those advanced principals, Magic Johnson did average a triple-double in 1982.
But that’s neither here nor there.
What’s important here is that Rajon Rondo will average just a double-double and account for over half of the Celtics points between his points scored and assists.
He has seen improvements statistically every year, especially passing. Next season will be no exception. He will make a big jump scoring wise (from 12 to 15 PPG) with a hopefully improved mid-range jump shot and continue to take the league by storm with his passing and surprising rebounding ability for a guard.
Along the way, he will again lead the league in triple-doubles (more than even LeBron James) and continue to dominate in prime-time games.
As the on-court leader for the Celtics, his continued dominance will more often than not inspire his teammates and lead the C’s to a lot of wins.
By season’s end, he will without a doubt be the MVP for the Celtics and will even be in the discussion for league MVP. He’s a dark horse candidate sure, but come the end of next season, he will justify himself as one of the best players in the league, point guard or not.
Read more Boston Celtics news on BleacherReport.com
Let’s set something straight before we get started:
Kobe Bryant’s comments about the 1992 “Dream Team” were not that strong.
“I don’t know,” Bryant said when asked if today’s US basketball squad could beat the first batch of pros to play in the Olympics. “It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”
Bryant should feel that way. He’s going for Olympic gold. It’s his duty to think he and his teammates are the best in the world – not just now, but maybe ever. This is no time to consider defeat.
And it’s that type of swagger that helped Bryant lift his Lakers to five NBA titles. You know the story: He’s ultra-talented, possesses a killer instinct and a relentless work ethic. Even at the age of 33, Bryant may still be the game’s best all-around player.
So his comments about beating the Dream Team made sense. It was just Kobe being Kobe. It’s why fans embrace him. In an era when players too often treat the league like an AAU circuit by offering the opposition handshakes, hugs and high fives, Bryant is an assassin.
LeBron James once admitted as much, saying he could never be like Bryant, “and want everyone else on the floor dead.”
Clearly an exaggeration, but it made a valid point. Kobe is the ultimate competitor.
But that doesn’t make him right.
I know, because I’ve seen both teams play. I have no allegiance to either side, either. I’m not one of those guys who thinks the good old days were always good — or better than today. If the teams really could meet, I’d probably even root for the modern-day version. But I know what I see and have seen. I know today’s NBA consists of 30 teams. I know the league consisted of 27 in 1992.
That meant less jobs. It meant greater competition. It meant plenty of guys in the league today would likely need to sell insurance for a living if they aimed to make the pros 20 years ago.
Still, it goes way beyond that. Everyone on the Dream Team possessed Kobe’s determination. Michael Jordan led the way in that department — and was more talented than Bryant. Jordan was at least as athletic (more, in my opinion) and more intelligent on the floor.
Since Bryant is pretty intelligent … well, it should give a pretty good idea of Jordan’s greatness.
But for the sake of argument, let’s call that matchup a draw.
Joining Jordan on the ’92 team were the likes of Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler and Magic Johnson, to name a few.
Pippen is the best wing defender I’ve ever witnessed. Robinson and Ewing are up there as far as centers — certainly much better in every area than today’s big-man contingent of Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis and Kevin Love.
And Malone was Blake Griffin before Griffin (now injured and out of the Olympics). Except Malone could make perimeter shots, too.
Honestly, even comparing the teams is downright silly to me. But since it’s the point of this column, I’ll keep going.
Playing the right way Who would defend Magic Johnson, a 6-foot-9 point guard who may have been a little past his prime, but could still see over defenders, handle the ball better than anyone in today’s game, and took great pride in finding the open man in the most electrifying way possible? His passes alone would reduce today’s team to tears.
Oh, yeah. About that Barkley guy. He would have his way with James when it came to getting to the basket. James is rock solid, but Barkley was still more powerful. Combine that with the fact James shies from physical play in the post, and Barkley would pretty much do what he wanted. LeBron would end up frustrated and in foul trouble.
Back to Pippen. He could contain anyone from Bryant to Kevin Durant to Carmelo Anthony to Deron Williams — Pippen’s great length, superb positioning and unmatched smarts making it tough for even those with outstanding athleticism to get into any sort of rhythm.
And nobody on today’s team can shoot like Chris Mullin, or even Larry Bird, despite the fact Bird had an ironing board for a back at the time.
Mostly, the Dream Team would own a distinct advantage when it came to knowing the game and keeping the ball moving. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on that team could pass.
LeBron is celebrated for that skill, and deservedly so. But for members of the ’92 team, it was second nature.
Perhaps Jordan summed it up best when he learned of Bryant’s comments.
“‘Most of us were in the prime of our careers, at a point where athleticism doesn’t really matter,” Jordan told The Associated Press. ”You have to know how to play the game.”
Ah, yes. You have to know how to play the game — when things are close, when things don’t go your way, when your legs feel like jelly and you just can’t seem to take another step.
You have to know how to utilize your teammates to excel. No team ever did that like the 1992 Dream Team.
Again, Bryant has every right to say what he said. In fact, he should be applauded. It’s what you expect from a leader. He’s won five championships and would be a top-five player in any era, no questions asked.
But let’s not kid ourselves. When we look at the matchups, and the level at which the game was played 20 years ago, there’s little doubt about it:
Kobe can keep on dreamin’.
“Remember now, they learned from us,” Jordan said. “We didn’t learn from them.”
Like every bit of drivel out of Magic Johnson’s mouth, the results from the NBA Summer League are best taken with a grain of salt. No single performance—strong, poor or otherwise—should be weighted too heavily, what with the actual NBA talent so scattered, the schemes so simplified, and the style of play so in favor of those trying to shoot themselves onto the radars of attendant scouts.
That being said, even in the eight-team Orlando Summer League, there’s plenty to be gleaned from a day’s work. The wins and losses of the teams don’t matter so much as the tally of who came to play, who didn’t and who tried but failed anyway.
Again, a player’s NBA viability can hardly be measured accurately through the lens of one performance against rookies, benchwarmers, D-Leaguers and American ex-pats playing overseas, though Day 1 in Orlando still yielded a fair share of open eyes and shaken heads from the ballers on display.
The Los Angeles Lakers will have an intriguing season next year now that Steve Nash will be bringing the ball up the floor. Now that the triangle offense is in the rearview mirror and the Lakers have arguably their best point guard since Magic Johnson, the offense will run a little differently at Staples Center. Nash will obviously help the team as a whole, and that has been his reputation for his entire career. However, will certain Lakers benefit more than others?