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NBA Digest: Juggernauts in the East, Madness out West

curry vs. rose

Hello everyone, and welcome back to West Coast Bias Sports.  It’s been a while, and we missed you.  As the site gets back up and running I’m aiming to post a weekly NBA recap article, very much in the style of my DodgersOD.com recaps.  However, with my beloved Lakers buried deep at the bottom of the standings, I’ll be examining all of the other happenings around the league; emphasis on the West, of course. So, without further ado, let’s digest some basketball goodness.

Kobe Goes Down Again

Well, I couldn’t not touch on the Lakers.

Despite some great games over the past couple of days, one of the biggest stories was Kobe Bryant going down with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

The Lakers announced on Monday that Bryant will undergo season-ending surgery.  While Bryant has been extremely inefficient this season (career lows 37% FG, 29% 3PT), Kobe’s presence on the court is undeniable, and he is greatly missed in late-game situations when the Lakers tend to crumble.

Not only are the Lakers without their longtime star, the team is temporarily without Nick Young, who sprained his ankle in practice prior to Tuesday’s game against the Wizards.

The Lakers still put forth a game effort, falling to Washington, 98-92. However, it’s just bleak thinking about the rest of the season without Kobe and with Young continuing to bury himself in Byron Scott’s dog house.

Just think of it this way Laker fans, so long as the Lakers finish with the at least the fifth-worst record in the league, they will retain their draft pick this summer.

Fear the Hawks

If you’re only a casual NBA fan, you may not realize that the best team in the league outside of Bay Area is the Atlanta Hawks.  A team with no superstars and a coach with a funky name (Mike Budenholzer) has been running the East to the tune of 36-4 since losing three of their first four games to start the season.

The Hawks are essentially the San Antonio Spurs of the East, as Budenholzer was a long-time assistant in San Antonio. The Hawks run a similar offense in which a big man with range and excellent passing skills (Al Horford) has the ability to kick out to multiple shooters on the wing who are adept at passing or creating, most notably point guard Jeff Teague.

They also have the master of the catch-and-shoot, Kyle Korver, who is on pace for a historic 50-50-90 shooting season.

Cleveland has the star power and the highest talent ceiling in the East, but Atlanta is firmly in first place, and that’s not changing anytime soon.

Cavaliers back on Track

After taking two weeks off to soothe his ailing back and knees, LeBron James is back to world-beater form and the Cleveland Cavaliers are on an eight-game winning streak because of it.

A national audience got to watch LeBron go to work in the second half of Cleveland’s 108-98 win over Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Since his return LeBron is averaging 30.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.4 APG on 50% shooting from the field.  James is also getting to the line more than 10 times a game, something that just wasn’t happening earlier in the season.

The Cavs’ new additions of J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov have meshed well with the team so far (although they paid a high price).

Kyrie Irving will continue to do Kyrie things (including a 55-point game in Wednesday night’s win over the Trail Blazers), and Kevin Love appears a little more comfortable in his role as a shooter.  How happy he is, that’s a different story, but the so long as LeBron is playing at a peak level and the new bench doesn’t sputter, the Cavaliers appear to be back on track to head to the East finals.

How about the Clippers?

The Clippers have won five straight games including a brilliant road victory in Phoenix on Sunday.  Because of the craziness of the Western Conference Standings and the Mavericks losing six of 10 games, the Clippers have leap-frogged into the fourth seed overall.

Despite insane seasons from Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, John Wall and other incredible players, Chris Paul remains probably the best all-around point guard in the game with 17.4 PPG, 9.8 APG, 47-40-89 shooting on the season.

Blake Griffin remains a beast in the paint (50% FG) and has become one of the best passing big men in the game (career high 5.1 APG this season).

DeAndre Jordan continues to feast on rebounds and easy buckets and alley-oops.  Jordan leads the league in rebounding (13.4 RPG) and field goal percentage (73%FG)!!!  The Clippers will hit the road for the annual “Grammy trip” beginning with a game in Utah on Wednesday night.

Clash of the Titans

In what was surely the game of the night on Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls beat the Golden State Warriors in OT, 113-111.  The loss ended the Warriors’ 19-game home winning streak.

Derrick Rose hit the game winner, a step-back jumper no less, with seven seconds left.  Like Batman in the Dark Knight, the Bulls’ star’s heroics did not come easy (13-of-33 shooting, 11 turnovers!), but he never faltered.

The Bulls will match up with the Lakers Thursday night on TNT.  The Warriors head to Utah Friday night.

Do yourself a favor and check out some NBA action this weekend, games to look out for include:

  • POR vs. ATL
  • Clips vs. San Antonio
  • GSW vs. PHX
  • OKC vs. MEM

Okay? Okay: Reacting to Kobe Bryant’s Third Season-Ending Injury

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Kobe Bryant underwent successful shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff on his shooting shoulder. When the severity of the injury was broken to him by the doctor in a video for the Players’ Tribune, Bryant and his PR team decided to frame his reaction to the news with a simple word that is used ubiquitously in everyday conversation: “okay.”

At it’s core, “okay” is used when nothing else can be said— a form of acknowledgement and acceptance. Not to be confused with “k,” the universal emblem of unceasing anger.

Apropos of nothing, in the last year, the term has been popularized by John Green’s novel, the Fault in Our Stars. The two main characters in the novel, a young couple who both battle cancer, use it as their code word “to express their love for each other.”

Bryant has had an unbelievable career in terms of longevity and achievement. If he decides to return, the Black Mamba will be entering his 20th season in 2015-16, and will have to face the challenging reality of his previous three campaigns being ended by injury.

Okay?

***

I haven’t lived long enough to discover the meaning of life yet. But, what I have learnt is life is often about getting through layers of pain until what once hurt, hurts less and less.

In learning how to ride the bicycle without the training wheels, I fell more times than Bryant has missed shots in his career.

A little later in life, things start getting taken away from you that also equate in pain. It begins with trivial objects, such as your teeth and the fact that Santa Claus is a fictional character. Then, people get taken away, grandparents, parents and friends.

Through each and every one of those conflicts, we, as humans, learnt how to process the negative emotions associated with pain and loss, and channel that towards being able to deal with the next negative experience in a more sensible manner.

When Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon in April of 2013, Gary Vitti, the Lakers’ head athletic trainer, revealed the third-leading scorer in NBA history was irate.

“Bryant starts throwing things around the room. I see for the first time an element of doubt in Kobe’s eyes,” Vitti told Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

Kobe made it all the way back from that, playing in six games in 2013-14, before his knee gave out against Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies in December of the same year.

He rehabbed and recovered once more, leading us to current day. This time, his 36-year-old body gave him a stretch of 35 games before his shoulder popped versus the New Orleans Pelicans, while he performed the signature action of the sport he plays for a living— the slam dunk.

As much as Bryant’s inhuman amount of will power has been documented, his reaction to his injuries have been very human.

From the destruction of the lengthy Facebook rant after the first major injury, to being “okay” with the third, it appears that although Bryant’s threshold of pain and willpower is inhuman, he copes with trial and tribulation the same way as the rest of us do.

***

In the many conversations I’ve had with friends, family and acquaintances in regards to Kobe’s injury, the most meaningful passage I’ve heard is this one: “watching Kobe this year is like growing up and seeing your parents not being able to do the things they used to; and not being able to do a damn thing about it.”

Jhumpa Lahiri succinctly summarizes the sentiment of the emerging generation clash in her novel, The Namesake. Throughout the novel Gogol Ganguli has a lousy attitude towards his father, due to their contrasting life views, mostly stemming from cultural differences.

Gogol is unable to appreciate the sacrifices his father made for him until it is much too late, after his father passes away at about the three-quarter mark of the novel.

Similarly, Laker fans are spoiled by Bryant’s elongated prime, expecting the scoring binges from him to last forever, and the game-winners to be eternally effortlessly. They were for 16 seasons. Then it all changed when that Achilles snapped.

This year, especially, the highs of Bryant’s season have been celebrated excessively due to two reasons:

  • as a group, the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers are trash.
  • the lows of Bryant’s individual campaign have heavily outweighed the highs.

Sure, he passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list with a pair of converted free throws on a typically cold night in Minnesota in mid-December.

What will stick with me more is everything else that occurred, the nights that humanized the man who I’ve learnt just as much from as my biological father.

Nov. 23, 2014 vs. the Denver Nuggets: with 15 seconds left on the clock, and the game tied at 86. The Lakers have possession and Coach Byron Scott calls a timeout to draw a play up to potentially win the game. During said timeout, Bryant is heard telling Jeremy Lin to “get the f*** out of the way.” Bryant proceeds to take and miss a baseline jumper, and the Lakers lose the game in overtime.

Dec. 19, 2014 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder: in the Lakers’ first home game since Bryant passed Michael Jordan, the Mamba is presented with purple and gold balloons at centre court before tip-off. In a night that was structured around celebrating him, Bryant gave the fans nothing to celebrate. He shot 3-15 on the night, including missing a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game for his team.

The legend has nothing to prove to anyone, anymore. 19 seasons, five world titles, you know how the résumé reads.

In his final full healthy game of the season versus LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Mamba was uncharacteristically jovial with the King, sharing conversation and laughter.

After the game, Bryant explained: “If we were contending for a championship, I’d be my same moody self. But right now, I tend to have a little more perspective, knowing I really won’t get a chance to play against him for much longer.”

“So, you want to enjoy it.”

If Kobe does return for his 20th season after recovering from the shoulder injury, I think we as fans have to shift our perspective as well, from one of expectation to enjoyment.

And if he doesn’t? My reaction will be similar as Bryant’s when Dr.  Steven Lombardo diagnosed his shoulder.
Okay.

Warriors Highlights: Klay Thompson’s Big 37-point 3rd Quarter

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Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson set an NBA record Friday night for the most points scored in one quarter by notching 37 points in the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings.

The 24-year-old did not miss any of the 13 attempts he took in the historic quarter, which included nine from long distance. Nine of his 13 conversions came on assists — six of which came courtesy of Stephen Curry.

Eight of his nine three point jumpers were contested, with four of them coming off of screens.

Have a look for yourself:

Two points 

Ben Maclemore tries to cover Klay Thompson to no avail. Two points.

Ben Maclemore tries to cover Klay Thompson to no avail. Two points.

Five points

Thompson out-hustles Maclemore and steals the ball, taking it the other way and nailing a wide open jumper for three.

Thompson out-hustles Maclemore and steals the ball, taking it the other way and nailing a wide open jumper for three.

Eight points

Stephen Curry finds an open Thompson, who sinks a three-pointer over Maclemore, who defended the ball weakly.

Stephen Curry finds an open Thompson, who sinks a three-pointer over Maclemore, who defended the ball weakly.

10 points

Thompson feeds Curry, who returns it back to Thompson for the alley oop.

Thompson feeds Curry, who returns it back to Thompson for the alley oop against the helpless defender, Darren Collison.

13 points

Nik Stauskas stood no chance as Curry found Thompson, who thought about this shot before drilling it.

Nik Stauskas stood no chance as Curry found Thompson, who thought about this shot before drilling it.

16 points

It didn't matter how far out Thompson was, and Stauskas learned this on an assist by Draymond Green as Thompson buried another three.

It didn’t matter how far out Thompson was, and Stauskas learned this on an assist by Draymond Green as Thompson buried another three.

19 points

 

A quick catch and shoot from Justin Holliday helped Thompson add another three to his third quarter resume.

A quick catch and shoot from Justin Holliday helped Thompson add another three to his third quarter resume.

22 points

Thompson even got a lucky bounce going his way, hitting a three over Ray McCallum and from Curry.

Thompson even got a lucky bounce going his way, hitting a three over Ray McCallum and from Curry.

24 points

Green finds Thompson, who drives down the lane for a layup against three Kings defenders.

Green finds Thompson, who drives down the lane for a layup against three Kings defenders.

27 points

Life is good when you have the Splash Brothers. Curry finds Thompson, who sails home another three over McCallum, who was a couple steps off here.

Life is good when you have the Splash Brothers. Curry finds Thompson, who sails home another three over McCallum, who was a couple steps off here.

29 points

No help needed here as Thompson draws Quincy Miller in his direction and shows him just how unstoppable he was in this quarter.

No help needed here as Thompson draws Quincy Miller in his direction and shows him just how unstoppable he was in this quarter.

32 points

And when McCallum and Stauskas turn up the defense, Curry and Thompson just find another way to return the favor on offense.

And when McCallum and Stauskas turn up the defense, Curry and Thompson just find another way to return the favor on offense.

35 points

Curry finds Thompson for his final jumper of the quarter, and it makes Jason Thompson look foolish.

Curry finds Thompson for his final jumper of the quarter, and it makes Jason Thompson look foolish.

Thompson would add two more points courtesy of free throws to finish the quarter with 37 points, doing it against six different Kings defenders.

For the night he finished with 52 points on 16 of 25 shots, including 11 of 15 from long distance, an NBA record of 73.3 percent, the most for any shooters with a minimum of 15 three-point attempts.

Most points in a quarter in NBA history
Year Player Team Points Quarter
2015 Klay Thompson Warriors 37 3rd
2008 Carmelo Anthony Nuggets 33 3rd
1978 George Gervin Spurs 32 2nd
1978 David Thompson Nuggets 32 1st
1962 Wilt Chamberlain 76ers 31 4th

Thompson’s 52 points is the second most in Warriors’ team history, just two fewer than Curry’s 54 points against the New York Knicks on Feb. 27, 2013.

Rumors: Are The Warriors Interested In Signing Ray Allen?

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Free agent Ray Allen was reached out to by the Golden State Warriors about resuming his playing career, but is unsure whether or not he wants to play another season.

Allen, 39, said in October that it would take him only one week to prepare for live action once more, and has been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers quite heavily.

He reportedly is set to make his decision in February.

The issue is the amount of minutes the Warriors have to provide for Allen.

Minutes played by Warriors' bench
Andre Iguodala 27
Shaun Livingston 17
Leandro Barbosa 13.6

 

 

News: Trail Blazers Fan Sues Team For $150,000 For Injuries

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A Trail Blazers fan sued the team for $150,000 Tuesday after allegedly suffering injuries to her shoulder, neck and back after two fans accidentally slammed into her.

Robin A. Smith, 53, claimed a prize during the Blazers’ Jan. 7, 2013 contest against the Orlando Magic and was returning to her seat when she was struck by two unknown people walking through tunnel 121 at the then Rose Garden, now Moda Center.

The tunnel was unsupervised, and obscured by a curtain, and created a dangerous situation for fans walking in opposite directions in and out of the seating area according to the lawsuit.

Both fans were moving quite rapidly, bursting through the curtain and knocking Smith (then 51-years-old) to the floor. The pair stuck around while Smith was on the floor crying, but soon would leave without giving their names to the victim.

Her injuries include a rotator-cuff tear, headaches and pain that has interfered with her ability to carry on the natural activities of her life.

She is seeking $50,000 for medical expenses, physical therapy, lost wages and impact on her future earnings as an adult foster care giver, and is also looking to get $100,000 for pain and suffering.

Listed as defendants are: Rip City Management, Coast to Coast Event Services and AEG Entertainment OR, which used to operate the arena.

Rumors: Blazers, Clippers Going After Jermaine O’Neal

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All NBA teams are asking of free agent center Jermaine O’Neal is to play one more season. A request the Portland Trail Blazers have entered in on, according to league sources.

O’Neal, 36, was originally drafted by the Blazers out of high school in 1996, where he played for four seasons before moving on to play in Indiana for the Pacers.

Such a move would help bolster the team’s front court, which is damaged due to injuries suffered by Robin Lopez (hand) and Joel Freeland (shoulder).

Portland is said to be behind the Dallas Mavericks for the services of O’Neal, and join the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers in trying to lure him in.

On Monday O’Neal posted a picture to his Instagram account while in Germany for a knee surgery that he been credited with extending his playing career during stints with the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.

Still, no decision has been made on whether he will play this season or not.

Is DeMarcus Cousins Asking For a Trade From The Kings?

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Sacramento Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins might be on his way out of town after expressing distaste with the franchise’s decision to fire former coach Michael Malone.

Cousins fit in well under Malone’s system, one that is highly in tune with its defensive side, and slowed down the game, catering to Cousins’ strengths.

But Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadivé expressed his desire for the team to play a different style of basketball, hoping to see more points on the scoreboard.

For that the club installed Tyrone Corbin as its coach, removing the interim tag from his title a week ago.

They’re 3-6 under Corbin, including the club’s 110-107 win Saturday night in Minnesota.

Sacramento Kings Hire Tyrone Corbin For Remainder Of Season

The Sacramento Kings and  Tyrone Corbin agreed to a contract to keep the coach on board for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Photo: Kelley L. Cox / USA Today Sports

The Sacramento Kings and Tyrone Corbin agreed to a contract to keep the coach on board for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Photo: Kelley L. Cox / USA Today Sports

Sacramento Kings’ interim head coach Tyrone Corbin signed a contract Tuesday to remain with the club for the rest of the season.

It ends any hope that the team would hire another candidate, including George Karl, a name popular with many fans, who are upset with the team’s decision to abruptly fire Michael Malone, which has led to the team playing poorly and a 2-5 record under Corbin.

While the Kings could still bring in another candidate, the chances are worsening by the minute, as the franchise would be responsible for both the new hire’s contract and that of Malone.

 

Rumor: Are The Clippers Interested In Khem Birch?

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NBDL forward Khem Birch of the Sioux City Skyforce appears to on the Los Angeles Clippers’ radar for a signing of a 10-day contract on January 5.

Chris Reichert of Ridiculous Upside shared on Twitter that he is hearing some rumblings.

Birch, 22, played one season at the University of Pittsburgh before playing his final two at UNLV. He averaged 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game in college, and shot 51 percent.

In 14 games with the Skyforce he is averaging 15.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

The Clippers would have to make room for a player on their roster by cutting, waiving or trading another. The most likely candidate is guard Jared Cunningham, who has the team’s only non-guaranteed deal.

Griffin Becomes 5th Best Scorer In Clippers’ History

Dec 15, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots the ball as Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) defends at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Piston 113-91. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 15, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots the ball as Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) defends at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Piston 113-91. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With his 18 points scored in Monday night’s 113-91 victory for the Clippers over the Detroit Pistons, Blake Griffin has leapt past Danny Manning to become the fifth-best scorer in franchise history.

The 25-year-old power forward of the Clippers now has scored 7,121 points, and is averaging 22.7 points this season in 23 games.

Only 1,714 points to go to catch Maggette, and 5,614 to climb to the top. Griffin is averaging 21.5 points per game in his five-year career, which means it will take roughly 80 games to catch Maggette, or by December, 2016, and 261 games before he can take down Smith, or roughly three full seasons, an estimate of February, 2018.

Check it out for yourself below.

Clippers' All-Time Leading Scorers
1 Randy Smith 12735
2 Bob McAdoo 9434
3 Elton Brand 9336
4 Corey Maggette 8835
5 Blake Griffin 7121