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Bryant Has Third-Most Jersey Sales Worldwide

ts_131003kobe_jersey670Kobe Bryant came in at No. 3 for most popular jersey sales worldwide for the 2012-13 season, according to a release from the NBA. Derrick Rose and LeBron James came in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. The rankings are based on Adidas global sales in advance of the NBA Global Games, which tips off Oct. 5.

Bryant also had the third-most jersey sales in China, Europe and the Philippines and the second-most jersey sales in Latin America. Teammate Steve Nash had 11th most worldwide, while Pau Gasol had the fifth-most sales in Europe.

The Lakers, along with 11 other NBA teams, will play a combined 10 preseason and regular-season games in 10 cities in seven countries as part of the 2013-14 Global Games schedule. L.A. will face Golden State in Beijing on Oct. 15 and again in Shanghai on Oct. 18 as part of their preseason slate.

Lakers Select Ryan Kelly in 2013 Draft

Related Links
Ryan Kelly Injury Update
VIDEO: Kupchak on Kelly

ts_130627ryankelly_duke500With the 48th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected 6-11 Duke forward Ryan Kelly, who averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes per game while shooting 42.2 percent from the field as a senior.

“He was the player we had rated the highest still on the board,” said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “It’s unusual to get a guy that’s 6-11, 6-11 1/2 that has the skill that he has, so it’s a unique opportunity, a big player that has an NBA frame that can shoot the ball not only mid-range, but he can make some shots. I think he can become a consistent three-point shooter in the NBA as well.”

L.A. may have found the rare second round pick that can fit into a specific role right away, as Kelly’s ability as a stretch four in the form of New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson is increasingly coveted around the NBA.

“There’s an opportunity there, a guy that can shoot the basketball with the size and length that I have,” said Kelly. “I’m going to have to earn everything that I get, but I think my ability to shoot the basketball and my ball friendliness for a guy my size – I can pass a little bit, dribble the ball a little bit – are the things that are going to allow me to play on a team the Lakers.”

A foot injury that limited Kelly to 23 games in his fourth year under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski resulted in offseason surgery; he’s 11 weeks into a rehabilitation program that was originally scheduled to last 12 weeks. Kupchak was asked if the injury were a concern.

“No,” he replied. “(Kelly) was cleared to play last week, but I don’t think he’s going to play for another week or two.”

“(I) just this week I got x-rays that showed full healing in my foot,” added Kelly. “I feel great, and I’m ready to get back into it … Every team that I talked to felt like my injury was something that wasn’t going to be (lasting), that once I got healthy I was going to be healthy for a long time.”

All in all, Kelly couldn’t have been more happy to hear his name called as the newest member of the Lakers.

“I feel unbelievably blessed,” he offered. “I’ve been handed a great opportunity, and I look forward to taking advantage of it. It’s hard to put into words how excited I am.”

Kobe Named All-NBA First Team … Again

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles LakersThe abundant accomplishments in Kobe Bryant’s career continued to mount in 2012-13, with yet another All-Star berth (his 15th) topped by his 15th overall selection to an All-NBA team when he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the 11th time.

This 11th appearance matches Karl Malone’s all-time record for First Team accolades, and the 15th overall matches Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record. In other words, no player in NBA history has more appearances than Bryant, with only two players left to match his consistent greatness over his 17-year career.

Bryant amassed one of his better statistical all-around years in 2012-13, averaging 27.3 points (third in the NBA), 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds on 46.3 percent shooting. He started 78 games, missing two because of a severely sprained ankle and the final two of the regular season, plus the playoffs, after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State on April 12.

Kobe also moved past Wilt Chamberlain for 4th on the all-time scoring list and became the youngest player to score 30,000 points.

With his 11th First Team selection, Bryant surpassed Hall of Famers Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit, and Jerry West, who have 10 nods apiece. His 15th overall selection pushed him past Shaquille O’Neal and Malone (14 each).

Bryant’s first appearance on an All-NBA team was in his third season, 1999, when he earned a Third Team nod, as he did in 2005. He was on the Second Team in 2000 and 2001, and the First Team from 2002-13, minus 2005.

To be chosen as an All-NBA honoree, a player is selected by media members that vote for two guards, two forwards and one center for each of the three teams, with Bryant having been named one of the NBA’s top two guards in 64.7 percent of his seasons (11 of 17), and a top six guard in 88.2 percent (15 of 17) of his campaigns.

Bryant’s teammate Dwight Howard was named as the All-NBA Third team center, breaking a streak of five consecutive years on the All-NBA First team. He now has two Third Team selections to give him seven overall appearances.

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM
G: Chris Paul
G: Kobe Bryant
F: LeBron James
F: Kevin Durant
C: Tim Duncan

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM
G: Tony Parker
G: Russell Westbrook
F: Carmelo Anthony
F: Blake Griffin
C: Marc Gasol

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM
G: James Harden
G: Dwyane Wade
F: Paul George
F: David Lee
C: Dwight Howard

Were the (somewhat healthy) Lakers Elite?

Los Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City ThunderAfter two rounds of playoffs in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs remain, and it’s not just recently that the two potential NBA finalists have played well: Over the last 40 games, the Grizzlies went 28-12, and the Spurs 27-13.

That 28-12 mark may sound familiar in Los Angeles, because that’s the record the Lakers put up as well. They won at a .700 clip despite not being fully healthy, with Pau Gasol missing 20 games and Steve Nash eight.

Only Denver finished better, rolling off a 33-7 mark, while Oklahoma City matched San Antonio’s record to round out the top five.

The Thunder endured a devastating injury when Russell Westbrook (torn meniscus in his knee) went down early in Round 1, OKC ultimately falling 4-1 to Memphis in Round 2. Denver lost Danilo Gallinari (torn ACL) and to Golden State in Round 1. L.A. was swept by the Spurs without the services of Kobe Bryant (torn Achilles), not to mention their next best guards (Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks) for the bulk of the series.

As such, the “what if” game is alive. OKC may have a stronger argument, given they played elite basketball all season, while the Lakers had to exert maximum effort after falling eight games below .500 in January just to make the playoffs.

Nonetheless, you don’t go 28-12 over 40 games in the NBA without a combination of talent and on-court chemistry. It’s the latter that the Lakers lacked early due to new players, a coaching/system change and a plethora of injuries.

With that said, at least one guy believes 28-12 wasn’t a fluke.

“When you go from a year like this … it does something for the group,” said Bryant. “It builds character. To allow that to dissipate and do that again with another group, it’s a headache.

“I want (Pau Gasol) here. He gives us the best chance to win titles. You bring Dwight (Howard) back, then we’re off and running. You saw how well they played together (at the end of the season). That puzzle finally got solved.”

We’ll have to wait and see what the roster looks like for next season, with Howard being the first domino that needs to drop. In the meantime, here’s a look at how each Western team fared in the final 40 games:

1. NUGGETS (33-7) – Home: 23-0; Away: 10-7

2. LAKERS (28-12) – Home: 17-2; Away: 11-10

2. GRIZZLIES (28-12) – Home: 15-3; Away: 13-9

3. THUNDER (27-13) – Home: 15-4; Away: 12-9

3. SPURS (27-13) – Home: 17-4; Away: 10-9

4. CLIPPERS (24-16) – Home: 13-5; Away: 11-11

5. MAVERICKS (23-17) – Home: 13-9; Away: 10-8

6. WARRIORS (21-19) – Home: 14-7; Away: 7-12

7. JAZZ (20-20) – Home: 16-7; Away: 4-13

8. WOLVES (14-26) – Home: 9-13; Away: 5-13

9. HORNETS (13-27) – Home: 9-11; Away: 4-13

10. KINGS (12-28) – Home: 8-11; Away: 4-17

10. BLAZERS (12-28) – Home: 8-11; Away: 4-17

11. SUNS (11-29) – Home: 7-13; Away: 4-16

Looking Atop LAL in the West

Before the season started, not even the biggest cynic (or Celtics fan) would have believed that the Lakers would have a 17-24 record exactly halfway through the 2012-13 campaign.

But after losing its first six and last three games in January (2-9 overall), L.A. has fallen to a season-low seven games under .500, a full four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot (Houston, 22-21).

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Injuries have robbed the Lakers of 24 games of Steve Nash and 13 of Pau Gasol, plus three from Dwight Howard, much of the season to Steve Blake and the rest of the season for Jordan Hill. A coaching change thrust an unfamiliar system upon the players five games in when Mike D’Antoni replaced Mike Brown, well before Nash returned, and players have struggled to get on the same page. The defense has just been bad (19th in defensive efficiency). Howard hasn’t looked close to the dominant player that made him a constant All-NBA 1st Teamer on either end of the floor, Kobe Bryant has tired in the past three games after shooting career-high percentages up to that point … and so on, and so forth.

For now, here’s a look at the Western standings, to see what the Lakers are looking at in a second half of a season-gone-wrong that they’re hoping to redeem.

SITTING PRETTY
1, 2, 3: Oklahoma City (32-9), L.A. Clippers (32-10) and San Antonio (33-11)
- It will be very difficult for anyone, let alone a Lakers’ team that’s 13 games behind the Spurs in the loss column, to catch these three. Neither of these teams has had a troubling stretch of play, and each display terrific on-court chemistry.

COMFORTABLE:
4, 5, 6: Memphis (26-14), Golden State (25-15) and Denver (25-18)
- L.A.’s Wednesday night opponent, the Grizzlies have slipped a bit, losing four of their last six games, and just made a trade with Cleveland through which they lose reserves Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington, but remain 10 games ahead of the Lakers in the loss column, a big number with 41 games to go.
- GSW have impressed considerably without center Andrew Bogut even while losing both games to the Lakers, and have showed consistent effort on both ends all season.
- Denver ably navigated the league’s toughest schedule to start the season and has won 7 of 10 games to pull seven games ahead of L.A., though the schedule difficulty has evened out a bit. According to ESPN.com, L.A. have played the 7th toughest schedule, and Denver the 4th. Yet the Nuggets may have the best chance of moving up should one of the top four current teams slip.

BORDERLINE:
7, 8: Utah (22-19), Houston (22-21) and then Portland (20-21), Minnesota (17-21) and Dallas (18-24)
- The Jazz have already beaten the Lakers twice, once at home and once on the road, not to mention twice in the preseason, and play L.A. only once more (next week at home). They’re up five in the L column.
- Houston, Portland and Minnesota have all struggled just as badly as the Lakers in January. The Rockets just snapped a 7-game losing streak with a narrow win at Charlotte (who hasn’t won a home game forever) and are only three games ahead of the Lakers in the loss column. Portland really struggles to get bench production, and have lost six straight. Minnesota is maybe the only team that’s been more affected by injuries than the Lakers, and has dropped seven of 10. In theory, L.A.’s sense-of-urgency pedal – at least mathematically – has thus needed to be pressed a bit more lightly than it could have been.
- On the other hand, Dallas is the lone team in this group playing well right now, as they’ve won five of six games and gotten Dirk Nowitzki back, enough to pull a half game ahead of the Lakers in the standings.

With all that laid out, the major point for the Lakers is simple: if they find themselves collectively, the playoffs are well within reach regardless of what number of wins may be required. And once there, a road victory in Game 1 or Game 2 of the first round can make up for much of the regular season struggles.

Of course, that L.A. turns it around as such is absolutely no guarantee; yet the opportunity is there with 41 games to go.

Lakers Fans Around the World

There really are Lakers fans everywhere.

For some evidence on the claim, I took to Twitter on the plane flight from Los Angeles to Toronto yesterday, asking people to tell me from where and at what time they’d be watching the Lakers play the Raptors on Sunday at 10 a.m. Pacific.

Below is just a small sampling of the responses from Lakers fans across the globe, with some listing their specific city of residence and some the country in which they’ll be watching:

Mexico City: 12 p.m.
Maracaibo, Venezuela 1:30 p.m.
Asunción, Paraguay: 2 p.m.
Bogota, Columbia: 1 p.m.
St. Lucia: 2 p.m.
Barbados: 2 p.m.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 4 p.m.
Rejavik, Iceland: 6 p.m.
Dublin, Ireland: 6 p.m.
Morocco: 6 p.m.
England: 6 p.m.
Lagos, Nigeria: 6 p.m.
Denmark: 7 p.m.
Paris, France: 7 p.m.
Milan, Italy: 7 p.m.
Slovenia: 7 p.m.
Hungary: 7 p.m.
Belgrade, Serbia: 7 p.m.
Stockholm, Sweden: 7 p.m.
Israel: 8 p.m.
Cairo, Egypt: 8 p.m.
Kiev, Ukraine, 8 p.m.
Istanbul, Turkey: 8 p.m.
Beirut, Lebanon, 8 p.m.
Cape Town, South Africa: 8 p.m.
Ethiopia: 9 p.m.
Saudi Arabia: 9 p.m.
Yemen: 9 p.m.
Qatar: 9 p.m.
Kenya: 9 p.m.
Moscow, Russia: 10 p.m.
India: 12 a.m.
Karachi, Pakistan: 12 a.m.
Manilla, Philippines: 2 a.m.
Toyko, Japan: 3 a.m.
Sydney, Australia: 5 a.m.

Abdul-Jabbar Honored, Statue Unveiled

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 6-time NBA champion; 6-time MVP award winner; 19-time All-Star; the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Former broadcaster Eddie Doucett, who long served as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Bucks, recalled when he coined Abdul-Jabbar’s shot.

“This guy created a masterpiece,” he said. “I was just there to give it a name.”

Now, that shot, his patented sky-hook, will forever be etched into bronze with the unveiling of his statue outside STAPLES Center on Friday afternoon.

“I can understand now what a man like Lou Gehrig means when he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,’’ Abdul-Jabbar said. “When you’re fortunate enough to be honored in this way, it’s a very humbling experience.”

A former No. 1 overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969, Abdul-Jabbar won his first title along Oscar Robertson during his second campaign in the league. He was traded to the Lakers in 1975, winning the first of his titles with the team in 1979, the beginning of an era coined “Showtime,” and the start of a dynasty, when the purple and gold captured five of the next nine NBA championships.

Yet when reflecting on his storied career in the league during the unveiling of his statue, the 7-foot-2 center noted of something far more significant than his accomplishments on the hardwood.

“(My business manager) convinced me even though I was successful, I needed to turn that success into something else,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “And that was more than being just a great athlete.”

The New York native now serves as a cultural ambassador, has written several books on various historical subjects, appeared in documentary films and even started his own Skyhook Foundation – a program focused on “raising the academic aspirations of students by connecting them with mentors who are equipped to motivate and engage under-served youth to reach their potential.”

Those close to Abdul-Jabbar realized the impact he had and has as a person and as a model for today’s youth.

“I define a leader as somebody who stands up for justice and doesn’t block its path,” Richard Lapchick, a human rights activist, said, “and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been doing that since he was a young man when I first met him.”

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton echoed similar sentiments in a congratulatory video.

“To those of us, certainly including me, who have had the privilege watching you both on and off the court, you have been a real symbol of strength and an exemplary model for our children,” he said.

Those in attendance included former teammates and Lakers including Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Jerry West, who all reflected on him as a teammate.

“You taught us how to be a man and be professional,” Johnson said of Abdul-Jabbar. “You didn’t have to say any words. We saw you and we wanted to be like you.”

“Kareem was the most selfless super player that I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ West added.

NBA Institutes Flopping Fines

The NBA announced on Tuesday morning that it will adopt an anti-flopping rule starting this coming 2012-13 season.

“Flops have no place in our game – they either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call,” said Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations Stu Jackson. “Accordingly, both the Board of Governors and the Competition Committee felt strongly that any player who the league determines, following video review, to have committed a flop should – after a warning – be given an automatic penalty.”

As the NBA defined it, “flopping” is: “any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player.” A player’s physical reaction to contact with another player must match what would reasonably be expected “given the force or direction of the contact.”

Legitimate basketball plays, like moving to a spot in order to draw an offensive foul), and minor physical reactions to contact won’t be treated as flops. But if a flop is determined by video review, the following fines will be assigned:

Violation 1: Warning
Violation 2: $5,000 fine
Violation 3: $10,000 fine
Violation 4: $15,000 fine
Violation 5: $30,000 fine

Any player violating the anti-flopping rule six times or more will be subject to further discipline.

Effect on the Lakers:
In short, the new flopping fines should help the Lakers more than hurt them. L.A.’s defense will be anchored by the league’s best defensive player, Dwight Howard, who rarely attempts to take charges thanks in part to his fantastic athletic ability. Howard is exponentially more likely to come over from the weak side to block or change a shot with his length and hops, instead of sliding in for a charge. Fellow seven footer Pau Gasol will take an occasional charge if the man he’s defending is aggressively backing him in, but also utilizes his length to protect the rim on the weak side instead of sliding in to draw contact.

Kobe Bryant has repeatedly told reporters that he isn’t interested in taking charges, citing the history of injuries suffered by players who commonly did so (Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen) as opposed to those who did not (Michael Jordan). Metta World Peace takes pride in his on-ball defense, and grew up playing on the hard courts of Queens, New York, where charges and flops simply don’t happen. Steve Nash has certainly stepped in to take charges in his career thanks to his hoops IQ, but is not known as the kind of player to try and trick the refs with a flop.

On the other hand, the Lakers should benefit from opponents having an incentive not to flop, due to the mismatches and angles that should be created thanks to the mix of elite offensive talent and new cuts in the Princeton offense. Furthermore, Howard may be allowed to worry a bit less about getting into foul trouble on the offensive end, if defenders are mindful of flopping fines.

With the first preseason game now only four days away, we’ll get a look at how the policy is implemented very soon.

Andrew Bynum Named to All-NBA 2nd Team

As a exclamation point to his the best all-around season of his 7-year career, Lakers center Andrew Bynum was named to the All-NBA Second Team.

The first time All-Star was thus considered by selected members of the media as the second best center in the NBA, trailing only Orlando’s Dwight Howard, receiving 400 votes to the 476 afforded to Howard.

Missing just one game due to injury and at times dominating games on both ends of the floor, the 24-year-old put up impressive numbers: 18.7 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting with 11.8 rebounds and 1.93 blocks, ranking among league leaders in each category.

In terms of his future in Los Angeles, there is an option year on Bynum’s current contract, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said the team plans on exercising it for the 2012-13 season. It will be the first time in years that Bynum will have not only completed a season fully healthy, but have the entire offseason to continue to work on his strength and health heading into the subsequent one.

Bynum said during his exit interview that he plans on adding a 15-18 foot jump shot, and a turnaround jumper, to his game so that he can better deal with double teams. His coach, Mike Brown, said the “sky is the limit” for how good Bynum can become, while Bynum acknowledged that the next step he can take to reach superstar status — like his teammate Kobe Bryant, who was selected to his 10th All-NBA First Team — will be to bring his dominance every night. Not just for one or two games a week, but all four.

If he’s already at All-NBA Second Team level without such consistency, the Lakers can certainly harbor some excitement about where he’ll go next.

ALL NBA FIRST TEAM:
G: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

ALL NBA SECOND TEAM:
G: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
F: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

ALL NBA THIRD TEAM:
G: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
F: Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler

Kobe Bryant Named to All-NBA First Team

For the seventh consecutive season and 10th time in his storied NBA career, Kobe Bryant was named to the All-NBA First Team, and has now been on an All-NBA team in 14 of his 16 seasons.

Bryant, who finished percentage points below fellow First Teamer Kevin Durant for the NBA’s scoring lead with 27.9 points per game, in 2011-12 moved past Shaquille O’Neal for fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list and became the youngest player to 29,000 career points.

In 58 games of the lockout shortened season, Bryant added 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.19 steals to his 27.9 points per game in 38.5 minutes, shooting 43 percent from the field, 30.3 percent from three and 84.5 percent from the foul line.

Bryant trails only Karl Malone for all-time selections to the first team (11), and is now tied with legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit, and Jerry West. Bryant’s 14th overall All-NBA mention has him tied with Malone and Shaq for second all time behind only Abdul-Jabbar and his 15 selections to a team.

Bryant’s first appearance on an All-NBA team was in his third season, 1999, when he earned a third team nod, as he did in 2005. He was on the second team in 2000 and 2001, plus the 10 first team honors from 2002-12, minus 2005.

How does a player get chosen? Selected media members vote for two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, with Bryant having been named one of the NBA’s top two guards in 62.5 percent of his seasons, and a top six guard in 87.5 percent of his campaigns.

The 2011-12 season is the first time in three years that teammate Pau Gasol does not flank Bryant on one of the teams, but emerging center Andrew Bynum earned his first nod, making the All-NBA Second Team.

ALL NBA FIRST TEAM:
G: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

ALL NBA SECOND TEAM:
G: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
F: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

ALL NBA THIRD TEAM:
G: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
F: Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler