After hearing the news, I could not write this immediately without flicking myself thousands of times trying to wake up from this nightmare. As a young basketball fan, I wasn’t able to witness the young number 8 “Frobe” but I was able to watch his last 8 years of greatness. The earliest I can remember watching the NBA was in 2008-the rookie year of Derrick Rose- and it was when Kobe was at his individual peak. Out of the first 3 NBA Finals that I can remember watching, Kobe took home 2 of them and in historic fashion. I’m not going to claim myself as the biggest Kobe Bryant fan but he is certainly a player I loved watching, who left his mark on basketball forever. Instead, I will talk about what his legacy meant to me and what I have learned from him. Kobe brought a different attitude. He was a take no prisoners type of guy. He was gonna win, and he was gonna win at all costs. He never backed down from a challenge. Even after winning 3 titles with Shaq, he wasn’t satisfied. Everyone remembers the famous Kobe picture that I have posted up there of him sitting in the corner of the locker room looking upset after just winning the NBA Finals. Many thought this was Kobe upset not winning Finals MVP, but I see it as a young 20 year old Kobe Bryant, trying time find himself, just like any other 20 year old. Many young players are not immediately put in a position to win and the fact that Kobe was able to mature his game at such a young age says a lot about his work ethic. Another thing I took away from Kobe, is to embrace all of the critics and use it as fuel. After looking back at some draft day reports, many said he played a similar game to Michael Jordan (which we all know is true) but didn’t have the efficiency or ability to do it at the next level. He was labeled as a “project prospect” with high ceiling but also a very low floor making him a high risk high reward pick straight out of high school. Luckily the Hornets took a chance on him at #13 but the Lakers took an even bigger chance by trading for him at that pick. There may not be a player for the next 50 years that can be a near clone to Michael Jordan and embrace it like Kobe did. Many would fall under the pressure or would get lost up in the hype, but not Kobe. He was the bean. He embraced the challenge of trying to become MJ. On draft day in 1996 there was not one person in that room who believed he could do it but I guarantee you that Kobe did, because he had that type of confidence. He believed in his own ability and set his own path to greatness. He truly was an inspiration for multiple generations of NBA fans. The main things I’ve learned from Kobe were to #1 Win at all costs, #2 embrace every challenge you are faced with and #3 believe in your own ability. Thank you Kobe Bean Bryant for the lifelong memories and lessons you have taught me and the rest of the NBA community. You are truly a legend and legends never die. RIP to Gianna Bryant as well and everyone else on the helicopter. Your legacy will live on forever. “Mamba never out”
Last night, the Bulls had their first regular season game of the season. Playing the Hornets, I saw it as a solid opportunity to get the season off on the right foot. Although I did not think they played terribly, they did not come out with the W. The Hornets outlasted the Bulls in the final seconds to win 126-125. The MVP of the game for the Bulls was for sure Lauri Markkanen. The Marksman dropped 35 points, and proved his ability to be a big man in this league by snagging 17 boards. Although he did struggle from 3, shooting 1/7, that is the one part of his game that we know is there, and it was just an off night. He was most successful when attacking the rim. He proved that he was not a one dimensional player and I hope in the future he looks to attack the rim more. He tried shooting too early this game and struggled. If he looks to attack the rim first, it will open up his 3 point shot more for him. He should try and take a couple of closer shots or “rhythm shots” as I like to call them to help get him going. Zach Lavine for sure had an off game. He had one field goal in the first half and looked frustrated to start the game. Zach is a complete gym rat, and works just as hard on his craft as anyone does. Seeing him struggle in the first half was disappointing, but he still remained an effective playmaker, picking up 7 assists. He also wasn’t able to play as many minutes as they would probably have wanted him to because he picked up 2 fouls early, and his 3rd right before the 1st half ended. After all this, he still ended the night with a solid 16 points, but I expect him to be back to himself next game. Wendell Carter Jr. had a solid game as well. Although he didn’t do anything special, he added a solid 12 points, 9 rebounds to go along with a block. Thomas Satoransky played really well I thought, disregarding the stats. He only had 2 points and 3 assists, but he made some great hustle plays, including a fast break block that led to a bulls scoring run. Coby White was really good in his debut. He had 17 points off the bench, adding 7 assists, all we’ll playing valuable minutes for Lavine who was in foul trouble. I am not too worried about him shooting 1/4 from three because they were all good shots that just did not fall. He looks to have a bright future with this team. Thaddeus Young proved to be the player that they wanted him to be when they signed him this offseason. He played great defense for the bench unit, and knocked down 3 threes all while collecting 17 points. Arcidiacono brought his usual hustle, making multiple diving plays to keep bulls possessions alive or provide second chances. He makes his money with his hustle, proving his worth on an NBA roster while knocking down 2 open spot up 3s. If he can shoot the 3 well this year, he will continue to get minutes. Kris Dunn also had a solid game, proving he wants a spot on this team. With a surplus of point guards, this could be hard. At one point in the second quarter, the Bulls bench unit consisted of 3 point guards (Kris Dunn, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono) on the floor at once. The Bulls could look to move Dunn for a nice young wing, or give Denzel Valentine some more minutes. Overall I’m not too mad at how they played for the first game of the season. I think that the Hornets had an uncharacteristic night, in which they knocked down 23 threes which was a franchise record. Their rookie, P.J. Washington had 7 of them, which is a record for a rookie in his first career game. The entourage of threes killed the Bulls, and lead to a one point defeat. I think this team has promise, and I think it showed last night. The main takeaways from last nights game is 1. Lauri can attack the rim, he is no longer a 1 dimensional player who can also hold his own on the glass. 2. Lavine can stay calm and collected even when struggling. Even though he struggled in the first half and got into early foul trouble, he came out for a strong second half and still played decent defense and showed his playmaking ability. 3. The role players that the Bulls have implemented are solid. Most of the role players for the Bulls played their part. Thad Young had a very solid game and proved that he can shoot he 3. Otto Porter added 2 steals and 9 points. Arci played to his hustle style and Kris Dunn had a solid all around game with 11 points and 4 steals. 4. We have a promising rookie in Coby White. The future is bright for Coby. I really liked what I saw out of him last night. He wasn’t forcing up any shots and he was letting the game come to him. He took the shots when they were open and found his teammates when they were. The team showed flashes of great team work and a winning mentality. I look forward to a year with this team and I hope that they can develop into something special.
The Spurs have been arguably the most successful team since Greg Popovich became the head coach in 1996. They have won 5 titles including 99’(Duncan), 03’(Duncan), 05’(Duncan), 07’(Parker) and 14’(Leonard). The only seasons the Spurs have had under 45 wins under Pop was 1996 when he took over mid-season(17-47) and the 1998 season in which they finished 37-13 and only played 50 games due to the lockout. They have made the playoffs 22 years in a row.
In Pops first offseason, they landed the #1 overall pick and gave the Wake Forest stud Tim Duncan the keys to the team. The Next year the team improved from 17-47 to 56-26. Pop implemented his system with just one addition in the offseason. 2 years later in 1999, Pop took Emanuel Ginóbili with the 57th overall pick. Not known to us as “Manu” yet, nobody predicted him to become one of the biggest pieces to their dynasty. In 2001, the dynasty was complete as they drafted the French point guard by the name of Tony Parker with the 28th overall pick. We all know what he became and the Spurs trio plus Popovich went on to win many NBA Finals.
For the first 5 years after the 2007 Finals, many began to believe that the Spurs 4 ring dynasty was coming to an end. Most teams with older players that are declining would trade them away to capitalize on their value, however Pop knew that they were just one piece away from being a contender again. In 2011, Pop took the risk on the 15th overall pick from San Diego State, Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs traded George Hill for him and even got back a solid role player in Davis Bertans on draft night. Kawhi flourished in Pops system bringing the spurs to 2 Finals appearances and winning the Finals MVP in 2014. However, in between the 7 years of their last NBA Finals appearance in 2007, they did not have a season where they won less than 50 games. Being able to rebuild with limited assets is simply remarkable.
I believe we see this happening again with today’s Spurs. Dealing Kawhi, and pairing up Derozan with Aldridge gave them 2 All-Star caliber players to remain a steady playoff team. Even this year they took the 2 seed Nuggets to 7 games in the first round. But what I want to point out most importantly is that the Spurs are slowly developing one of the better young cores in the league. In the 2016 Draft, they drafted Washington point guard Dejounte Murray with the 29th overall pick. Murray has great defensive potential and seems like the perfect point guard to fit into the future of Pops system. Unfortunately he missed this year due to an ACL injury but is definitely someone to watch out for in the future.
The next year, the Spurs were dealt the same pick and with the 29th overall pick they drafted Derrick White. He averaged 18.1 ppg and shot 39% from three at Colorado. He showed great potential especially in the playoffs when he broke out and put up 36pts 5rebs 5ast with 3 steals and a block all we’ll shooting 15-for-21 in game 3 against the Nuggets. White said that he felt the game 2 loss was on him for allowing Jamaal Murray to score most of his 21 points in the 4th Quarter when White was guarding him. He wanted to bounce back for his team which he definitely did. I am excited to see what he can do in the future.
In the 2018 Draft, the Spurs took Lonnie Walker IV with the 18th overall pick out of Miami. Walker thrives when he has the ball in his hands and is one of the most skilled players when it comes to creating his own shot. He plays quickly all we’ll staying under control. With open space Walker has a versatile package where he can take the dribble pull up or the step back 3. This was proven in the summer league when he went off for 32 the other night.
This years draft I think the spurs got 2 steals and their second round pick might just make it 3. With pick 19 they took Luka Šamanić. He shot the 3 ball at 34% overseas and is crafty around the rim and with the ball as he possesses multiple ways to finish. Šamanić could end up being the perfect modern day stretch 4. Watch this to see Šamanić show off his handles a bit. (https://twitter.com/spurs )With the 29th pick the Spurs took Keldon Johnson from Kentucky. He has had great games this summer including 29pt and 19pt outings. Johnson has great defensive potential and a smooth stroke. He shoots the ball off catch and shoot very well and has soft touch around the rim. The modern day 3 and D player. The 2019 Draft is looking even better for the Spurs because the play out of their second round pick, Quinndary Weatherspoon(49th), has been very surprising this Summer. As a senior at Mississippi State, he shot 39.6% from 3 and scored at least 20 points in 16 games for the Bulldogs. He has a had a great Summer and the Spurs just recently signed him to a contract so look out for him in the future.
Oh yeah…guess what, they are still a playoff team. The question is can they keep up with all the dominance in the West this year? I think it is possible especially with a Derozan trade in the future. Having Dejounte Murray back from his ACL injury this year and hopefully getting a full season out of young stud Lonnie Walker IV, Pop might just work his magic and lead them to a 23rd straight playoff birth.
Do you guys think their young core is slept on?
Do you think drafting is mostly Pop or the front office? Both?
What are you most excited to see this year out of this team and what direction do you think they will go?
Curious to see your thoughts.