Desppite chants for MVP in Atlanta of all places, Kobe Bryant did not play like an MVP. He estimated that his pinky finger wasn't even at 70 percent. Kobe shot 4-16 and is now averaging 8.5 points over his last two games.
"[The pinkie] is very swollen," Bryant said after the game. "There's a different feel to the ball. It is what it is."
Pau Gasol wasn't much better. He was 5-14 and had 12 points.
So the championship won't just be handed over on a silver platter. The Lakers will have to go and actually play, and play well. If that wasn't obvious to all those who were proclaiming the Lakers champions, a loss to the Hawks will do that. As Joel Meyers keeps pointing out, the Lakers could have been undefeated thus far on the road trip. But instead of being 5-0, the Lakers are 3-2. Just like they let the opportunity to beat Detroit slip away with poor execution late in the game, they let an 8 point fourth quarter lead against the Hawks slip away also. At the end of the game, the Lakers turned the ball over (Kobe), took a two point shot when they needed 3 (Sasha with three seconds left), and failed to draw up a better play than a 35 foot jumper by Derek Fisher as time expired.
It was the second game of a back to back, the Lakers didn't get to their hotel until 4 in the morning and Kobe was at less than 100 percent. The Lakers lacked energy. That was the most frustrating part. Their lack of execution was less of getting comfortable with Pau and more about just going through the motions at times. They looked tired. In the fourth quarter, they had heavy legs. Notice that Kobe's jump shot was not off right and left because of the tape on his shooting hand, but short because he wasn't putting enough air on the ball.
Anyways, I won't make too much of one game. The Lakers have a very good Orlando team on Friday and it will be interesting to see if Kobe breaks out of his short two game slump. Lamar Odom is still thriving since the Pau trade (19, 11 and 3 vs. the Hawks) and the Lakers lineup is still formidable. One game doesn't change that. But maybe it was a small wakeup call that the Lakers still have to go out and play good basketball.
Arizona football not looking good: Mike Stoops has lost some of his recruiting luster Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen says. The Wildcats class this year with no ESPN 150 players is underwhelming. Even more disturbing is the fact that there were a number of players decommitting and choosing to go to ASU. So Stoops did what he does best. Acted like a jealous child.
"Arizona State has turned into a JC, and we're a four-year college," Stoops said. "According to all the players, they say it's easier to go to school there, easier to get in."
I'm surprised Stoops didn't go ahead and say the whole thing was "unfair" and that ASU should give those players back to us. Then cry and stomp his foot until the NCAA did what he asked.
I love John Calipari even more: When people ask me who the nicest coach I've ever met is, I always say John Calipari. He's not only media savvy, with a funny or insightful story to tell, but he doesn't coddle his players. He's honest, or at least seems so. Here's the way to handle things when a player breaks team rules.
He made the kid (Robert Dozier), who broke curfew by being at a club until 2:30 a.m., sit on the bench during the game, warm up with the team, not play, and answer media questions after. He didn't hide Dozier, cover up his actions, or decline to discuss the situation. He was up front about it, and made Dozier realize that there are consequences for his actions and he would have to answer for what he did. That's what teaching young men is all about.
Not so Wise: Nic Wise is likely done for the season after suffering a knee injury and undergoing surgery.
Kevin O'Neill said Wise could be back for the Pac-10 tournament but with the way the Wildcats have gone about disclosing injuries thus far, that doesn't seem likely.
Wise became an integral part of this Arizona team, playing 34.4 minutes per game and saving Jerryd Bayless from having to play point guard. Wise was the fourth best player on this squad, which already was lacking depth. If Laval Lucas Perry did indeed transfer because of a lack of playing time, he surely didn't envision the current situation.
Daniel Dillon and Zane Johnson getting regular minutes makes me very, very afraid.
What an idiot: The high school football player who said he was scammed by a Cal recruiter admitted that he fabricated the entire story.
As always, an updated Lakers +/- (through 48 games) Lakers: 31-17 6th in West
Up next: at Orlando Friday 4:00 p.m. PST (5:30 on KCAL)