And now, a few Tuesday Morning Links:
Kobe’s only visit …hits at a time where the Mavericks seem defenseless…
Last November, Bryant and the Lakers had a road trip through Texas, visiting San Antonio and Houston. At the time, trade scenarios were more outlandish than fairy tales. Even Bryant said: "I’m all over the place. I think they’ve got me playing on Mars, too."
Some of the rumors were comical — package deals that included Bryant to Washington for the ever-injured Gilbert Arenas, Bryant to Atlanta for who cares? Nothing would have made ... Joe Johnson, Bryant to Memphis for sense.
Chicago was supposedly the favorite but deemed Luol Deng untouchable. Bryant said he wouldn’t mind being a Maverick, but Dirk Nowitzki was untouchable.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss was not about to trade the NBA’s marquee player for the second- and third-best players on another team so despite Bryant’s frustrations with the Lakers’ inability to compete for a title, he stayed put.
In a few years, it’s likely that someone will be writing that "the rest is history" because the Lakers have grown quickly from a team that Bryant wanted to leave to a team that no one wants to play.
The Lakers come to Dallas for their only visit of the season when they meet the Mavericks at American Airlines Center at 7:30 tonight. They come not only as a team with a 5-0 record, but also as one that seems collectively happy and intent on winning the title that many predicted for them before the season began.
"There’s a lot to be happy about, a lot to be thankful about," Bryant recently told Los Angeles reporters. "We’re in much better position now than we were. We’re the favorites for a reason. We got all the tools here, now it’s on us to do the work."
So far, they have been doing that. It might have been easy to dismiss their first four victories this season — two against the Clippers and one each over the Nuggets and Blazers.
On Sunday, however, they battered the Rockets and their star trio of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest by 29 points. The bad news for the Western Conference, and perhaps even the rest of the league, is that the Lakers are succeeding because of defense.
For the fifth consecutive game, they held opponents to fewer than 100 points. They held teams to fewer than 80 points in two games and fewer than 90 points in two others. Their 84.4 points allowed is the best mark in the league. Their average margin of victory is 22.4 points a game.
"I watched the second half of their game against the Rockets," Dirk Nowitzki said. "They looked really sharp."
Andrew Bynum, the Lakers’ 7-foot, 275-pound, 21-year-old center, has returned to the lineup after playing only 35 games last season because of a knee injury.
While Bynum was out, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak made a remarkable trade with Memphis, bringing 7-0 center Pau Gasol to the Lakers in exchange for a minor group of players.
With Bynum back, Lakers coach Phil Jackson has made 6-10 Lamar Odom
— who not long ago was the Lakers’ second-best player — the Lakers’ sixth man with 6-10 Vladimir Radmanovic starting along with Bynum and Gasol.
Bryant leads the Lakers in scoring but the talent and depth on the bench have required him to do less.
It’s obviously early, but Bryant’s 24.4 scoring average is his lowest in the last five years and he ranks only 10th in the NBA in scoring.
The Stars with a big game in Los Angeles to keep from only getting 2 points on a 5
game road trip; Here is a good feature on Captain Dustin Brown who has a flattering story of Sean Avery …
"I'm one of those people that once I'm comfortable and get to know a person, I open up," Brown said. "Hockey was the easy part, but fitting in socially with an older team was hard."
Add Sean Avery, who often selected Brown to ridicule. Brown has had a slight lisp since childhood. "I can talk without it," he said, "but I have to really think about it. When I try to think about it, I feel uncomfortable."
It was something that Brown said was unimportant, but Avery would mock his speech, among other things. The friction in the room resulted in fist fights, with other Kings players jumping in on Brown's side.
Avery, whom the Kings shipped to the New York Rangers in 2006, returns to Staples Center tonight, playing for the Dallas Stars now. Brown, sounding very much like a leader, shrugged it off, saying, "It's a non-issue. We faced him when we played the Rangers last year. Besides, I think there are only four or five guys left from when he was here."
Talk about embarrassing, Nascar kicked off ABC in mid-race …
Concern and even panic temper the mood in the garage these days. Some teams are uncertain of their future. Crew members are worried about possible layoffs. Others already have lost their jobs.
Throughout this period, with no public voice of calm and reassurance from NASCAR,
doubt turned to worry and worry to fear.
Sunday night , after ABC moved the race to ESPN2 for more than half the country, NASCAR was surprisingly silent.
“I mean, maybe if the president was going to talk … but I can’t believe that “America’s Funniest Home Videos” would take priority over us,” Jamie McMurray said.
Car owner Rick Hendrick, among the sport’s most powerful people, was asked about what the switch says of NASCAR.
“It doesn’t say very much,” he said.
Where was the outcry from NASCAR? ABC is seen in about 160 million homes. ESPN2 is in close to 100 million homes. How can such a move late in a race be acceptable to fans, advertisers and the sport?
While NASCAR might not be expected to harshly criticize the network for the change, even a statement expressing disappointment might at least show fans that the sanctioning body is fighting for them and keep this from happening again.
A fine essay on the Shield …3 episodes to go…
I want Vic Mackey to live happily ever after. I'm sure that doesn't reflect well on the strength of my moral fiber -- wanting a lying, murdering, double-dealing cop like "The Shield's" Mackey to escape prosecution, shame and/or an untimely death. But after seven electrifying seasons of FX's suspenseful cop drama, I find myself hoping against hope that, in one last burst of brilliant scheming and strategizing, Mackey will somehow manage to play all of his allies and enemies against each other and emerge unscathed. In spite of his long history of abusing power, his big, messy mistakes, his corruption, his arrogance, his temper, his shortsightedness and his disturbing tendency to play the controlling, mean daddy to female victims, I still want him to pull off his biggest manipulation of all, then slip over the Mexican border and spend the balance of his days sipping margaritas in some sleepy beachside village, flanked by sexy señoritas, staring out at the lapping blue waves of the Pacific.
But let's face it, even Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) doesn't want to go out like that. If any TV character has ever been less likely to face eternity like Tony Soprano, listening to Journey and munching on onion rings, it's Mackey. And that's not to mention the writers of "The Shield" (10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX), who don't exactly specialize in subtle brush strokes and weighty, reflective moments. This is a writing team that favors bloody sabotage, budding teenage serial murderers and the occasional hand grenade to the face, and they're uniquely qualified to make all the nail-biting and sweaty palms of the past seven seasons pay off.
Willard Wigan is a genius
Willard Wigan.com ….
BERBATOV is, too…