Kobe Bryant has added to his All-Star Weekend plate. After participating in the Skills Challenge last year in Las Vegas, #24 will try his hand at the 3-Point shootout this year.
The competition is stiff. Last seasons winner Jason Kapono, of the Toronto Raptors, returns, as does two time winner hometown Hornet Peja Stojakovic and Suns Guard Steve Nash. Rounding out the field are Cavs Guard Daniel Gibson and Pistons Guard Richard Hamilton.
Looking at the number so far this season doesn’t bode well for Bryant, but he’s been known to rise to the occasion when they shine the bright lights.
The Nets are a team that has under-performed relative to expectations this year (or at least relative to the names on their roster) and seem to have lost some of their focus. This could be because their franchise point guard is asking for a trade six months after they re-upped their star shooting guard for another four years.
Somewhat surprising has been that the problems exist on both sides of the ball. As a result, they have gone 2-10 over their last 12, though that string included a 6 game road trip out west where the Nets lost all 6 games.
Despite the dysfunction, New Jersey still sits in the eight spot in the Eastern Conference, a full game ahead of the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers and Nets met earlier this year on November 25th in a game that can be considered one of the Lakers worst home losses of the year. LA saw an early lead evaporate during a strong New Jersey 3rd quarter and was unable to recover. Also in that game, the Lakers bench had a subpar performance while Kobe and Vladi had poor shooting nights.
The game will also feature an odd reunion, as Pau and former Memphis teammate Stromile Swift meet up on opposite sides, both having been traded over the last few days.
Guard Jordan Farmar and Forward Lamar Odom took some time during yesterday’s off-day to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans during their visit to the NBA store on 5th Ave. in New York City.
All eyes will be on New Jersey on Tuesday as Pau Gasol makes his Laker debut. They could probably use him more defensively than offensively, as they’ve struggled on that end (111.0 rating) since Andrew Bynum went out.
The steal, er, deal that envious execs and media types can’t stop talking about — Gasol for none of the Lakers’ top 10 players — was summed up best in all of three words by Dallas’ Avery Johnson: ”Merry Christmas, L.A.”
How geeked is Kobe over the Gasol acquisition? He outscored the Wizards all by himself 19-15 in the first quarter en route to an easy victory Sunday. Meanwhile, the Lakers’ new 7-foot star could make his debut Tuesday at New Jersey.
Average Ranking: 3.66 | Last Week: 10.33 | Diff: +6.67
Why Make the Deal?
Gasol is a polished offensive presence with the ability to operate in the post and to hit the mid-range jumper. He presents the potential of a 4 headed offensive monster for the Lakers with Pau, Kobe, Andrew and Lamar. Gasol is an established all-star caliber player (2006) with career averages of 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. The Lakers also get a 2nd round pick in 2010, which could be only a few picks after the 2010 1st round pick that they will be sending to Memphis.
It is an adage that you want to get the best player in the trade and the Lakers achieve that. In terms of how to get better, both long term and short term while Andrew Bynum is out, the Lakers needed a front court presence and had few trading chips to do that. One of the big ones was Kwame’s expiring deal and Mitch was able to use that to help the team.
Why do the Grizzlies make this deal?
The Grizzlies weren’t going anywhere with Gasol and are already firmly in rebuilding mode. They get some salary cap space with Kwame’s expiring contract. On the court, they get the benefit of Kwame’s defensive prowess. They also get Javaris Crittenton, who has shown immense promise in his limited time on the court. With the development of Jordan Farmar, he has been pushed to the background, perhaps more than was envisioned when he was drafted last summer. While the Grizzlies already have 3 point guards in Conley, Jr., Navarro and Lowry, they are all shorter point guards and Javaris with his height will bring a different dimension to their point guard mix. The Grizzlies also get 1st round picks in 2008 and 2010 and the draft rights to, ironically, Pau’s brother Marc Gasol.
Making the Money Work
In order to get the numbers to balance, the Lakers also signed and traded Aaron McKie.
Gasol in the NBA
After playing with F.C. Barcelona in the Spanish League, Pau was drafted 3rd overall in the 2001 draft by Atlanta and had his draft rights traded to Memphis with Lorenzen Wright and Brevin Knight for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. He would go on to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award and be named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2001-02. Pau has delivered consistent points and rebounds each year of his career and was awarded with an All-star berth in the 2006 NBA All-star game. In 12 career playoff games, Pau has averaged 20.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 blocks. This season, Pau has continued his steady play, averaging 18.9 points and 8.8 rebounds.
2006 NBA All-Star
Pau was named MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championships in leading Spain to the gold medal, despite missing the final due to a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.