NBA Quick Hits

Lennon and McCartney?

I have been wanting to make some observations around the league for a while. Lots of stuff has been going on the past 8 months. Heck, there is always some kind of stuff happening. And of course, if not, we, the media, invent it.

Like…take Kobe’s visit on the Conan O’Brien Show last night. L.A. papers and others making it bigger than it was.

Here is the clip.

Everywhere today it is being offered as Kobe dissing or taking a shot at Shaq. Really? Saying you ‘wouldn’t understand him’ if he (hypothetically) talked trash to him hardly qualifies as a diss. Maybe a polite dismissal, but little more.

Of more interest to me, but receiving no media attention whatsoever, was Kobe’s score and foul on a drive past Shaq in the recent Celtics/Lakers game on Sunday. Kobe immediately got up and assumed a ‘do you like that?’ stance by the baseline under the hoop as Shaq turned away ignoring Kobe completely. It was Shaq’s version of ‘not understanding him’.

It is too bad that that is the state of relations between two of the games biggest stars…ever. It mimics and has assumed Lennon and McCartney proportions.

For the young and uninitiated, the break and rivalry started quite early in their success together.  Far earlier than you might expect. It was the same with Shaq and Kobe, I'm guessing.

Until Lennon was shot, I held out constant hope that the two would patch up their differences and get together for another run at it and I wasn't even a big Beatles fan. I was OD'ed on them from having to hear them so much. They were always on the radio. But they were part of the fabric of the day. To this day I wonder what the new songs would have sounded like. We all get to go to our graves imagining more unwritten greatness, when we really, really don’t know, do we?

I’m not a Laker or Kobe fan (far from it), but I have come to appreciate Shaq in a much more expanded way since he arrived in Boston. But my point here is, I never wanted nor anticipated a Shaq/Kobe reunion. Really don’t care one way or the other. With Shaq at the end of the road now, that isn’t going to happen either. Age catches up to one and all – even larger-than-life superstars.

But the good thing is….song writing skills, they don’t depreciate with age, do they? Oops wait. I forgot about Paul’s later work. Time to hit the gym again Paul. Get in shape and write something worthwhile. It’s not too late, you know? You don’t have to be a ‘just slightly more rocking’ version of Neil Diamond. – Not that I don’t like Neil Diamond. Ok. I don't. It is the John Lennon in me coming out.

Item #2

Speaking about media inventions…how about player inventions that happen to get out to the media through unnamed third sources, like (maybe, just maybe) their own brother?

Marc Stein, a reputable NBA writer reported that Artest is unhappy in L.A. this season. Artest’s brother has tweeted about his dissatisfaction. Lack of a bigger role in the offense has led to a depletion of energy at the defensive end is the rumor. So is the fact that Artest is Phil Jackson’s new whipping boy a la Horace Grant and Tony Kukoc in earlier times or so it is reported by those who know much more than I do.

Going to back to that recent Laker/Celtic match up, Paul Pierce’s lighting up L. Ron Hubbard for 32 points (I have no idea why I just called Artest that. Ghetto basketball scientology?) was attributed as example #1 of that lack of energy and ineffectiveness at both ends (Artest shot 1-10) of the court. I wonder if Paul Pierce’s feelings are hurt by that?

Ron Artest, who all can conclude to be having a sulking, unmotivated season, has just today, in his twitter and elsewhere, denied he wants to be traded. That may be good news for the Celtics. Very good news.

But I’m not completely convinced, either. That it is good news, that is.  Artest will stay a Laker this season, if for no other reason than his contract. While the rumors may be overblown, they are typical of midseason frustrations of many NBA egos. And issuing a denial after venting those thoughts in private is the way of pro sports. And…yes… blame the media.

What the Lakers have figured out through first hand experience in last year’s finals, for better or worse, is that you don’t have to play well in the regular season to play well in the playoffs. What the Celtics have figured out is that having home court in the finals for game 7 is a nice thing to have. So each team has been influenced by the other. Their individual seasons reflect that.

Whether the Lakers have bigger issues, as have been suggested by others, even Jerry West, I’m not sure. In fact, I doubt it. Their two biggest issues will be San Antonio, and Kobe going Hans Solo, I’m guessing. Other than that, I expect them to be ready come playoff time.

But I digress. Ron Artest can get motivated by the playoffs and still be a factor. What the Celtics have to remember is all you have to do is stay with him now to render him neutral in L.A.’s offense. In game 7 they failed to do that.

Item #3

The Indiana Pacers fire Jim O’Brien. Story here.

Well, that took a while. Solid coach with a defined system and tight reins – unless you are Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. But no one can say he didn’t get the most out of each of them either. The same can’t be said for this season’s Pacers.

It was time. Larry Bird said it was his decision and I believe him. The team didn’t have elite NBA talent, but it could be playing better than it is. With Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, and Darren Collison, you have a nice core.

O’Brien’s public criticism and approach with Hibbert was said to be affecting his confidence and play. So, it is a funny thing. O’Brien helps Hibbert develop into the player he is and then inhibits Hibbert. I’m sure that both things are possible, but ‘how or why’ are the questions.

Darren Collison was the big acquisition that should have helped move things along this season. Everyone’s pre-season ‘break out’ point guard for this season, Darren has disappointed somewhat and seemed to playing with a tight rein nor up to his or the team’s best advantage. Opening up his game and the Pacer offense seems to be in the cards for the new coach, Frank Vogel.

Rookie George Paul has been tagged as a strong talent with lots of upside that needs to see the floor to develop. Wasn’t happening. So Larry Bird has given Coach Vogel the same directives that Danny Ainge gave Doc with the Celtics ‘Wonder Years Gang’ of a few years ago. Develop the young players as you compete to win and, in this case, for a playoff spot. Rivers didn’t really have the talent, but using the Bucks as a comparison, it can be done.

Anyway, there are even questions whether Larry Bird will return after this season and the team is now structured financially to make a clean sweep and have financial freedom it hasn’t had in a long while.

Larry has stated that he has rebuilt the Pacers in a 3 year period and some teams take much longer (10-12 years).  Huh? 10-12 years to rebuild? I’m not sure that is what I would call it. That is more like wandering in the NBA wilderness. But yes, a lot of NBA teams have wandered like that.

Many seem to be in an eternal state of some level of rebuilding. Minnesota, New York, Golden State and the Clippers come to mind. The Knicks finally have something promising going. Blake Griffin has hopes high in L.A. They are still below .500 but trending upward. There is still time for "The Other Donald" (Sterling) to mess that up. I can go on.

Getting a team going in a ‘zero sum game’ as sports leagues are (you only gain when someone else loses and in direct proportions, no less) is an extremely difficult endeavor.

In the case of the Pacers, I think the change will be good. I would like to see Hibbert and Collison unleashed. Living and dying with the three, they could diversify the offense going forward. Bird wants to make the playoffs. I’d be happy to see what the young guys can do on this team in order to make some forward thinking decisions.

I could go on with my ‘quick hit’ thoughts but they weren’t as quick as I originally intended. Like the Celtics and Trailblazers, even when I want to fast break, I end up slowing it down. Must be that veteran age.

When I start to show you pictures of my grandchildren you know I’m babbling. I don’t even have grandchildren. Hey, how about slides of my last trip to Yellowstone Park in the camper?

You would rather see Kevin Garnett talking to himself or that invisible man on the court? I don't blame you. Dude is crazy.

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