NBA PM: Kobe Sticks Up for LeBron
There aren’t many people who share commonalities with LeBron James.
By the time he was 17, most basketball fans had some level of awareness about the Akron native. James has been “The Next Michael Jordan,” a franchise’s supposed savior, that same franchise’s supposed destroyer, and now he’s settling into a role as the NBA’s greatest villain (although David Stern could get a few votes).
And having been under the national spotlight for the better part of the last decade, it’s hard for James to get support from anyone but his own teammates. However that changed with ESPN’s recent interview with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
“I think people need to lay off that kid,” Bryant told ESPN’s George Smith. “That’s what I think.”
Bryant is an unlikely supporter for James in that the two are usually competing for the league’s MVP, and they’re two of the most-talented and competitive players in the league. I don’t remember Larry Bird worrying that the press was being hard on Isiah Thomas.
But at the same time, Bryant might have more in common with James than anyone else on the planet. Like James, Bryant was a star before he was 18, and also like James, the Lakers captain has played the “villain” role for many NBA fans. If anyone has seen the Lakers on the road, they know the vitriol spectators unleash in Bryant’s direction; and now he’s starting to see James get the same treatment.
Maybe it’s because he went through it before, or maybe it’s because he has his own axe to grind with the media; but whatever the reasons, Bryant told ESPN that James is being unfairly targeted.
“I’ve gotten to know him pretty well playing with the Olympic team, and I think they just need to back up off of him and just let him play and just let him live his life,” Bryant continued. “Let him make his decisions and let him mature as a player. You know, it’s tough to be under the microscope like that all the time. I would like everybody to just kind of back off of him and let him play.”
What do you think? Has James brought the negative attention on himself through behavior like “The Decision,” or does he get unfairly vilified by fans and the press?
Perception vs. Reality in the NBA Draft
This past June there was a lot of speculation that the Celtics and HEAT were interested in drafting Boston College point guard Reggie Jackson. Soon Sports Illustrated was reporting that the Thunder made the same promise, and the next thing we knew, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti was getting his picture snapped next to the young man for the papers.
But what about the original promise? Did the HEAT every actually tell Jackson they would take him with the 31st overall pick?
As Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman writes, the answer is “no,” but that doesn’t mean he started those rumors.
“The speculation helped me, I guess, in getting drafted where I was,” Jackson said. “I understand this whole promise thing and (the way) everybody looks at it. But draft night is crazy. If everybody knew the draft (beforehand) I don’t think people would show up to New York to watch it. I don’t think people would tune it to watch it… I had no idea where I was going, just like the next guy.”
The story gets more interesting when you consider that Jackson stopped working out for teams. At the time he said it was because of a knee injury, but many people in the media felt that he was effectively telling the rest of the league that he already had a promise in his back pocket.
However Jackson insists there wasn’t any scheme behind his decision to stop working out for teams.
“After a workout for Oklahoma City, I came back and played pickup at my school,” Jackson said. “My knee, normally I could feel it tweaking, but it always got better. But it got worse. I went to the doctor and found out I couldn’t go for about a month. I was supposed to come back. I tried to and I just couldn’t compete, so I had to shut it down. That’s about it. I was supposed to have workouts for other teams, but I honestly couldn’t go. And that was that.”
Mayberry wrote that Jackson had knee tendinitis in college, but the point guard never had an issue playing through pain.
“It’s college,” Jackson said. “You don’t have many games. You need to win, win, win, so I was always out there trying to compete. But I would always feel it.”
After undergoing platelet rich plasma therapy—something that became popularized by NFL players and is now spreading to other sports—Jackson said he’s recovering in Los Angeles.
“I had to do something about it immediately or try to play through it and never know if I could ever reach my full potential or not know what other type of problems it may cause,” Jackson said. “It gives me great hope, and I feel like I have great promise to maybe do great things one day.”
Jackson is a real wildcard for the Thunder, because he could potentially make backup point guard Eric Maynor expendable. Jackson has an enormous wingspan, which, coupled with his athleticism, makes him a viable NBA defender right away. If he develops into a good distributor, Presti suddenly finds himself with some trade chips whenever the NBA resumes.
No News Like Bad News
AM Basketball’s Twitter feed (@NBARumors) put out some bad, if not unexpected news on Monday:
If that’s even remotely true, you can expect the All-Star game to get canceled.
Canadian basketball has been defined by Bill Wennington for too long. Suddenly, even years after Steve Nash’s arrival in the NBA, guys like Avery Bradley and Tristan Thompson have college scouts scouring the Southern part of the country for top basketball talent.
Now Jody Demling of the Lexington Courier-Journal is reporting that the University of Kentucky is in hot pursuit of the next great Canadian hoopster.
Anthony Bennett, a 6-7, 245-pound forward from Toronto, said he definitely plans on visiting the Kentucky campus.
“I’m wide open,” the AAU star said. “I’ll probably cut (my list) down after AAU, and then I don’t know how many or when I will take my visits.
“Kentucky is a power school and all of the top players want to go there, and they do great,” he continued. “I have heard the fans are crazy, so I want to see the environment.”
Like Bradley, Bennett plays for Findlay Prep of Henderson, NV.
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