There’s always plenty of action going on in the NBA, whether it be on the court or off the court. However, this past weekend there was plenty of action on the court as well off the court. While one superstar made his return back to the court, another superstar was traded away to another team.
Kobe Bryant Returns to the Court
When it comes to the action on the floor, it was all about Laker guard Kobe Bryant who made his season debut on Sunday after being out for eight months with a torn Achilles. While many fans were excited to see him back on the court, their joy quickly turn to sadness, as the Lakers loss 106-94 to the Toronto Raptors, a game in which Bryant only scored nine points on 2-of-9 shooting and turned the ball over eight times. Now of course this is only his first game back, so there is no reason to think his first game will define his season but that doesn’t stop fans from overreacting. So I decided to give my take on Bryant’s debut.
However before I get to the negative parts of his debut, I wanted to point out that Kobe seemed to be in pretty solid shape. He played 28 minutes in the loss to the Raptors but that didn’t stop him from playing hard each quarter. I’m sure he expects to be in better shape but I feel he will get there as the season goes on but for his first game back, I thought he did well as far as stamina. While he did have eight turnovers in his debut, he also had four assists and what stats don’t show you is that Kobe was trying to get his teammates involved. Basically meaning most of his turnovers were the cause of him forcing a pass to a teammate. It’s not good that he tried to force multiple passes but it does show that he was trying to get others involved which I liked.
When it comes to the negatives of his debut, I must say that a lot of it comes down to rust and trying to do too much. I felt he made a point to force a lot of passes and even a couple of shots instead of letting the game come to him. Athletically he didn’t elevate as high as he normally does and when I say elevate, I’m not talking about his ability to dunk, I’m referring to the elevation he gets on his jump shot. Now again, it’s only one game, so I won’t make a big deal out of it yet but one of the reasons Bryant’s jump shot is so deadly is because of his elevation so that will be something to watch. Defensively he seemed stiff at times and didn’t really move his feet but again that is to be expected but it is still something to watch.
Chemistry wise he struggled but again that isn’t surprising since he hasn’t played with the “new look” Lakers consistently enough yet to have real chemistry and camaraderie. At this point I think he is filling out his teammates and they are filling him out. I think fans have to give them time for that and understand that it’s not something that happens over night.
Honestly, the same thing goes for Bryant. Did he look good? No. Does that mean he will suck this season? No. It’s one game and contrary to belief you can’t judge a player or a team off of one game. I encourage fans to be patient, if you’re expecting immediate success you could be setting yourself up for failure. Now I feel there are some area(s) of Bryant’s game to watch, specifically three things, one being his elevation (particularly on his jump shot), the second being his mental toughness and the third being his camaraderie with this team. I personally think Bryant will be fine, I believe he just needs to get the chemistry going with the team and more importantly figure out what he can and can’t do at this point in his career and make the needed adjustments. In case you forgot that is one of the most underrated factors about Bryant’s game and IQ, he does a great job of adjusting his game and adapting to what he can and can’t do and I don’t think this situation will be any different, you just have to be patient.
Toronto Raptors Trade Rudy Gay
When it comes to the action off the court, you probably guessed it by now, but it was concerning a big NBA trade. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports’, the Toronto Raptors reportedly came to an agreement to send the forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday:
Wojnarowksi later added that the Sacramento would send John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes to the Raptors. While the Kings receive Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray:
Now this trade is not surprise, well at least not to me. Rudy Gay was traded by Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors less than a year ago and anybody with eyes could see that Gay and the Raptors were not a match made in heaven. With the upcoming 2014 NBA Free Agency class and 2014 NBA Draft class, the Raptors would like to open up some money and opportunities to make things happen.
Which is why I think the Raptors are a winner in this trade. Honestly you have to give credit to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri who continues to do a wonderful job for the Raports right now. He was smart earlier this off-season when he got rid of Andrea Bargnani and now he has gotten rid of Rudy Gay. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel Gay is talented player but he hurts this team’s growth and he didn’t fit what this team is trying to build, so they got rid of him and his expensive contract. This move allows them to possibly move Terrence Ross in to a more important line-up role which is what they drafted him for and this move opens up significant cap space for next year. This trade also allows the Raptors time to focus more on developing their other pieces such as Jonas Valanciunas and Demar DeRozan.
Don’t forget that the Raptors receive John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes in this deal. When it comes to Vasquez, the Kings have a true point guard who can be used in the starting line-up or off the bench and I would definitely love to see him do some pick and roll with Valanciunas but he can be a liability on defense. Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes are a solid big men off the bench who likes to hustle but are known to be inconsistent at times. Then you have Salmons who offers experience and leadership but doesn’t offer much after that. Now some may say that they will fit with the Raptors, others feel they won’t fit with the Raptors, well if it turns out that they don’t fit or help the Raptors, remember that the Raptors can easily get rid of them in a way that doesn’t allow them to waste too much money. So, overall this is still a good move for the Raptors.
As far as the Kings are concerned, I have 50/50 feelings about this trade. However I do like this trade for a few reason. One of them being that I am a fan of Isaiah Thomas and with Vasquez being gone, this opens up the door for Thomas to get the starting role and hopefully rookie Ray McCallum out of Detroit Mercy to get off the bench this season. I also like that the Kings are unloading a lot of unnecessary players that they don’t need such as Vasquez, Patterson, Hayes and Salmon. I have said all season long that the Kings need to start dismounting this roster and figuring out who fits and who doesn’t fit and I feel they are doing that with this trade. I also like the fact that Kings get themselves a nice seven-footer in Aaron Gray, who could turnout to be a solid big men off the bench.
My main concern with this trade is that the Kings will be stuck with a player that they don’t need. If you’re the Kings, you get Rudy Gay who is extremely athletic and talented but also an inconsistent defender and leader. The Kings just spent $63-million dollars on DeMarcus Cousins, who already brings a bad attitude, inconsistent play and leadership and to add another player similar to Cousins like Gay is questionable to me. Now clearly I can’t read the minds of the Kings organization so their could be a bigger plan here but until the plan is revealed, I worry about this part of the trade. Now of course there is always the possibility that Gay could opt out of his contract this off-season but that’s a big “if” and if I am the Kings, I don’t know if I would want to go off of that big “if.”
Now to play’s devil advocate for this trade, some say that Kings are building a Big Three (Thomas, Gay and Cousins) or Dynamic Duo (Gay and Cousins) with this trade. I can see that and even understand that point of view but again remember who you are dealing with in Gay and Cousins. They have to be willing to share the ball and change their roles for the better of the team. This team is full of talent but it’s also full of youth and Cousins and Gay have the opportunity build this team up or tear it down. Together they could be a great combination but if they continue their inconsistent defensive play, bad attitudes and questionable leadership, this team will struggle. I hope it works out for the Kings because I like Gay and Cousins but if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, I won’t be surprised. In my opinion, this is one of those high risk-high reward type deals, if the Gay and Cousins work well together and improve together, this trade could turnout to be a great move but if they don’t, this trade could turnout be a bad and costly move. Only time will tell.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com