In Bryant’s world, it’s all about that elusive sixth title ring, which is suddenly within his reach.
In Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, no team can match the Lakers’ size in the frontcourt, as formidable a one-two punch as any in today’s game.
Ultimately, it’s now up to the Lakers’ bench to step up when starters need a breather or when incumbents become foul prone.
“I was shocked just like everybody else,’’ Bryant said of Fisher’s trade. “We’ve always been close and we’ll continue to be close.”
Friendships and allegiances aside, it was a move that had to be made, an area of concern the Lakers thought it had addressed months ago in a three-team deal that would have netted Chris Paul, who would eventually land with the Clippers.
Sessions was playing second fiddle in Cleveland behind first overall pick Kyrie Irving.
Sessions isn’t among the best point guards in the NBA, but he’s serviceable, providing an ability to score and facilitate, areas that are much easier to execute when there are two low-post presences to feed and a player of Bryant’s ilk.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” added Bryant of his first game with Sessions. “I get a lot of easier opportunities. I sit on the perimeter. I got a lot of spot-up shots both from his break-down penetration and from teams collapsing on Andrew.”
FROM LOSING TO WINNING
Nick Young played his college ball at USC and gladly forfeited his Bird rights when the Clippers swung a trade with Washington for this explosive young shooting guard.
Apparently, Young’s no-trade arrangement with the Wizards featured a clause involving two teams he’d agree to sign off on in a deal.
One, naturally, was the Clippers. Logically, the other had to be the Lakers.
“We were losing and it was a tough situation,” Young said of his time in Washington. “We kind of felt it in the air something was going to happen.
“To be here (with the Clippers) in the atmosphere of winning is a different feeling. I have to adjust fast. Washington wasn’t going to be in the playoffs. I had to cancel some plans going into the off-season.” Young goes from riding shot gun with John Wall to playing alongside Paul.
PHOENIX WANTS TO RE-SIGN NASH
No one expected Steve Nash to be moved and the two-time MVP was not moved by Phoenix when last Thursday’s trade deadline came and went.
Nash’s agent, Bill Duffy, admitted to reporters in Phoenix that his client will have options, which is obvious given Nash is eligible for free agency this summer. Duffy has strong ties to Toronto, dating back to the days of Michael (Yogi) Stewart and Antonio Davis. Back when the Raptors were relevant, Duffy, one of the most influential and savvy representatives in the business, would often show his face in Toronto
“He (Nash) will have options and one he will strongly consider is Phoenix, based on what they’re planning to do,” Duffy said. “They respect him and he likes (owner) Robert Sarver, (team president) Lon Babby, (head coach) Alvin Gentry and his teammates. I know they’d like to re-sign him, but that’ll be his (Nash’s) decision.”
What’s best for Nash is to win a title, perhaps as many as two, before he calls it a career.
AROUND THE RIM: Charlie Villanueva is buried so deep down Detroit’s bench that it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll get meaningful minutes. What a waste and what a complete waste of money the Pistons spent on this perimeter jump-happy power forward. Villanueva, who will make roughly $7.5 million this year, ranks third on Detroit’s player pay roll. And as bad as that looks, consider he still has two years remaining that will pay him a combined $16 million ... Having dropped yet another game to a sub .500 team, this time to the Nash-less Suns, the Clippers held a players-only meeting that kept the media waiting for close to an hour. “It was for us,” Paul said. “If we wanted you (media) to know, we’d have invited you in.” Blake Griffin was a little more accommodating, but was far from enlightening. “It was productive,” he said. “Very productive.” To their credit, the Clippers went out and beat the Rockets.
VAN GUNDY WON’T CODDLE HOWARD
To no one’s surprise, the Orlando Magic quickly dismissed the notion that Dwight Howard will have a say on personnel and coaching moves now that he’s decided not to become a free agent this summer.
If hoops history has shown anything, it’s that a franchise is doomed once it allows its face to dictate what direction is plotted, who gets hired as coach or who gets acquired as on-court pieces.
Under no circumstance will Stan Van Gundy coddle Howard or any player he coaches, no way he’ll become some puppet. It’s why many people in basketball are wondering if Van Gundy will survive beyond this season, even if the Magic goes on some long playoff run.
If there’s a knock on Van Gundy it’s how the offence doesn’t feature Howard more often, even in late-game sequences knowing full well Howard’s deficiency at the charity stripe.
Van Gundy will speak his mind, will continue to pull no punch and will do what’s best to win games.
Let’s hope he never loses his sense of humour.
When apprised of Jon Barry’s assertion that Van Gundy was coach of the year worthy, Van Gundy’s reply was classic: “That’s very nice of Jon and that also shows he’s not the top analyst.”
NETS MAY LOSE AGAIN
This summer’s free-agent jewel is Deron Williams, an elite point guard whose future with the New Jersey Nets clearly is in question.
“I’m going to play out this year and see what happens,” D-Will said with every reporter assigned to the Nets within ear shot.
What many see is the Nets yet again coming up short as the franchise moves from its temporary home in Newark to its full-time, long-term home in Brooklyn.
For those who have lost track, the Nets lost out on the first overall pick two years ago, the prize being John Wall, when New Jersey had the best odds to win the draft lottery. Despite a strong push to entice free agent LeBron James, the Nets lost out in the sweepstakes.
A lot of noise was made to get Dwight Howard, but Howard has decided to stay in Orlando, at least until his contract comes up next summer.
Getting Gerald Wallace is a nice move, but Wallace isn’t enough to keep Williams, who hails from Dallas, beyond this season.
“As far as I know, Deron is excited about going to Brooklyn,” Nets head coach Avery Johnson said.
Just as the Nets were excited about getting James.
WARRIORS PAY HEAVY PRICE
Golden State Warriors Joe Lacob admitted the team was prepared to trade either Steph Curry or Monta Ellis to land a legit big.
As it turned out, Golden State parted with Ellis, who was dealt to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut.
“I’m getting chills talking about (Ellis) right now,” Lacob said. “He’s one of my favourite players in the NBA.
“Anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy. I feel very strongly about him. It was incredibly difficult to trade him, but he’s the piece it had to be to get Andrew Bogut. We would have traded either (Curry or Ellis) to take the next step for this franchise.”
Curry continues to nurse an ankle injury that may force the Warriors to shut him down for the season.
“We’re going to continue to look at all of the doctors’ reports and get as much information as we can, but no one can really say for sure why this keeps occurring,’’ said Lacob. “We need to know, though. We’ll get another opinion if we have to. If it requires shutting him down, then we’ll do it. If it doesn’t, he’ll be back playing in a month. It’s very important that he’s healthy, and we’re not going to risk further injury.”
* New York at Philly, Wednesday
Half court meets full court in Atlantic Division battle featuring Melo as marquee player.
* LA Lakers at Dallas, Wednesday
Big test for Mavs, who are 0-2 versus Lakers in season series after playoff sweep.
* Miami at Oklahoma City, Sunday
Potential to be a high-scoring game with game likely to be decided on final possession.