Court Vision: Lakers’ Kobe Bryant cleared to run on anti-gravity treadmill
• Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, now roughly four months out from season-ending Achilles surgery, posted a video of himself running on an anti-gravity treadmill. Opening night is a little more than two months away.
• Speaking of Bryant, Andrew Sharp of Grantland.com has an entertaining rundown of last week’s Kobe Up Close, an hour-long interview of Bryant conducted by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
Kobe is asked about the toughest people he’s ever played against. He lists Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, and Gilbert Arenas. “Carmelo Anthony’s always tough,” he adds. “Durant’s always tough.”
“The guy that always gave me the most problems was actually Tracy McGrady.”
This is notable because in Kobe Bryant’s universe, LEBRON DOESN’T EXIST.
Related: Kimmel brings up the possibility of the Lakers clearing cap space for a run at LeBron, and the crowd erupts in the loudest boos of the night. Then Kobe laughs off the cap situation and promises he’ll be a Laker for life, and the boos turn to ecstatic cheers.
• Harvey Araton of the New York Times has a must-read feature on Dan Roundfield, the former Hawks player who drowned while trying to save his wife’s life.
Dan and Bernie had met in college — students from Detroit — at Central Michigan University. He was more than 6 feet tall on the way to 6-8; she topped out at about 5-5. They married as seniors on a January day so cold that Dan’s suit froze in the trunk of his car. He wore jeans instead and immediately returned to college (in Mount Pleasant) for basketball practice.
Bernie went to lunch with her parents and back to the Roundfield family home to pick up the ring Dan had inadvertently left there.
“That ring cost $57,” she said. “But it was everything to me.”
• The SB Nation crew attempts a massive task: projecting the top 100 players in 2017. They envision Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who told Sports Illustrated in April that he’s sick of finishing second, will leapfrog Heat forward LeBron James for the No. 1 spot. Conrad Kaczmarek writes…
Kevin Durant isn’t even 25 years old yet, so he’s going to be in the prime of his career in 2017. He’s gotten better every year he’s been in the league and somehow he just keeps getting more and more efficient at putting the ball in the basket. If we go by his current rate of improvement, he’ll be scoring five points per shot somehow, probably. He’s improved defensively and on the boards, and has become a significantly better playmaker. LeBron won’t decline that much, but the smart money is on Durant to surpass him at some point.
• Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com interviews Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, who has spent the summer rehabilitating from a shoulder injury.
What happens between now and training camp? How’s your shoulder doing?
It’s getting better along the way. I’m not sure when I can play. I’m not trying to give no deadlines or anything, but it’s coming along pretty well. I’m just doing rehab, trying to strengthen it just so everybody can feel more comfortable when I’m out there playing. Hopefully, at the end of this month [I can play], but you never know.
How much actual basketball work have you been able to do this summer or has it been mostly rehab?
It’s just been mostly rehab because I had surgery May 8, so I think it was like two weeks before that, that was the time I had to work out. It was still bugging me at that time, but I was kind of pushing through it. I learned a lot of stuff with [trainer] Jay Hernandez out in Long Island. Then after the surgery I had to shut everything down.
• LeBron James angered some folks when he posted this video of himself getting a police escort — on the wrong side of the road — to a Jay-Z concert in Miami. James wrote: “They treat us so well! Needed it cause traffic was nuts!!”
• TMZ.com reports that the Miami-Dade Police Department investigated the matter and concluded that its officers broke protocol in giving James the lift.
As we reported, Miami-Dade PD initially denied involvement in the police escort — blatant favoritism — but a rep for the department now tells us its officers were the ones who accompanied LeBron to the Jay Z show.
The rep tells us, “This should not have happened.” The rep says the department is still looking into which officers were involved and will determine what punishment, if any, is appropriate. Sources tell us, Jay Z was refusing to start the concert without LeBron present, so police determined it was in everyone’s best interest to get LeBron there ASAP.
•Sekou Smith of NBA.com writes that the Heat’s three-peat chances hinge on Dwyane Wade’s health.
“The challengers are lining up,” said an Eastern Conference executive from a team outside of that group of contenders. “We all know how hard it is to get back on that horse and ride it to The Finals for third straight year. Everybody understands what kind of toll that takes on the guys who are the true superstars in those situations. If DWade is right and healthy, it’s hard to see anyone knocking them off the top of that mountain. It’s not impossible by any stretch, because Indiana was right there last season. But it is a tall order and nearly impossible with LeBron and healthy Wade doing what they do.”
• Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman argues that the Thunder shouldn’t be dismissed simply because they had a quiet offseason.
Lost in this summer’s extolling of other teams’ activity is this simple but significant truth: most every Western Conference playoff contender that added a major player lost a major player.
Dallas, for instance, added Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and DeJuan Blair but lost Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Elton Brand. Golden State welcomed Andre Iguodala and Jermaine O’Neal but said goodbye to Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. The Los Angeles Clippers brought in the aforementioned Collison, J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley but watched Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler take a hike.
Houston, with the addition of Dwight Howard, is the only Western Conference playoff contender that escaped this negligible, at best, net gain.
But because Oklahoma City didn’t reel in Mike Miller or Dorell Wright or whoever else to replace Martin, the Thunder, on paper, appears to be worse. Of course, this logic fails to consider OKC’s in-house replacements, rising star Reggie Jackson and sharpshooter Jeremy Lamb. Both have been recognized as possible Sixth Man Award candidates next season, and, together, the two should be more than capable of supplying what Martin provided last season — if not more.
• Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic gets an offseason update from new Suns guard Eric Bledsoe.
“Work,” Bledsoe said of how he has spent his time since the trade. “I’m trying to get better, even better than I did last year. Coming off the bench, I did a lot. I’m trying to increase that 10 times more. Just coming in and having a big impact in the game.
“I just try to go as hard as I would in a real game. So when a real game comes, it makes it 10 times easier. I try to do intense everything. Shooting, I try to give 110 percent. Dribbling the basketball. Thinking the game. I just try to do it 110 percent so when the game comes it’s a lot easier.”
• Jeff Caplan of NBA.com writes that a number of teams are preparing to take player analysis to a whole new level.
The San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, plus four other teams that have chosen to keep their identities secret, have invested in these complex GPS tracking devices created by the Australian company Catapult Sports, the self-professed leader in “athlete analytics.”
“We just want to be able to get smarter about our players and how to train them and how to put them in a position to succeed,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “So that’s just one component of a lot of different things that we’re doing.”
The device, called OptimEye, is roughly the size of an oldfangled beeper and athletes wear it inside their jerseys on the upper back between the shoulder blades. The device records literally every movement the player makes, accurately measuring exertions such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and more.
• Keith Langlois of Pistons.com investigates the budding relationship between Andre Drummond and assistant coach Rasheed Wallace.