In case you were busy finding a new locker room from which to ban stat sheets, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Kobe Bryant returned to action after rehabbing from last year's Achilles tear, but his Lakers suffered a rare home defeat to the Toronto Raptors 106-94. "It's OK that we lost," Bryant said after the game while sitting in the locker room. "Fear can be a very powerful motivator." Suddenly the lights in the locker room went out, and horrifying screams echoed through the facility. The lights flickered on briefly, and a young girl was standing with her back to Lakers guard Nick Young, singing, "Do you want to play with me?" in a sweet tone. Then the lights cut out again before quickly coming back on. The girl had turned around, and instead of a child's face, she had the face of Popeye Jones. "Do you want to play with me?" the little girl with Popeye Jones's face sang in a scratch baritone to a terrified Nick Young. The lights cut out again, before coming back on to reveal everything back to normal. As Nick Young curled into a ball on the locker-room floor, Bryant chuckled to himself by his locker, and said, "Yes, things will be all right. Fear is a very powerful motivator."
Welcome to the official Kobe Returns Survival Guide, in which I’ll walk you through, step-by-step, the rules and procedures for preparing, watching, and analyzing Kobe Bryant’s first game back from injury.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "I’ll catch the highlights later on YouTube" and 10 being “I don’t care if the light’s red, the Mamba is playing in five!," Kobe Bryant's return is a 20. Kobe is on a mission to prove the haters wrong. He is here to defy his age, bones, muscles, and most importantly, tendons. This is like if Broadway, the WWE, and a Kanye West interview had a baby ... and that baby tried to play basketball only nine months after it tore its Achilles tendon. This will be a very important moment that must be seen and processed in the quickest and safest manner possible.
This survival guide is not for everyone. It is for those who love Kobe, basketball, and any type of entertainment whatsoever. If you do not fall into any of these categories, feel free to move on. For the rest, please proceed — and good luck.
There are trades and contracts that require cold, calculating analysis about whether the logic of particular transactions accomplishes the clear goals of the franchises involved.
Kobe Bryant's two-year, $48 million contract extension is not really one of those deals. At the very least it requires a different set of standards for judgment — standards only a handful of teams would actually use in judging themselves. Making Bryant the highest-paid player in the NBA over the next two seasons is, objectively, not a smart thing. He's 35 years old, and he has not played a single minute of in-game basketball after suffering a traumatic injury that has devastated nearly every player who has suffered it and managed to stay in the league.
He had precisely zero other suitors at this specific moment. He may have had suitors this summer among the 10 or so teams that could work their way to max-level cap room, but some of those teams are not in the right evolutionary position to spend that kind of money on a 35-year-old, and others could not have cleared enough space to compete with this L.A. deal. Bryant was not the best player in the league last season, nor was he even really close to it. The Lakers have voluntarily decided to pay him at that level as he enters the twilight of his career, amid unprecedented (for him) health uncertainty.
In case you were busy convincing friends and family that your Movember mustache should probably stick around through Mocember, here's what you missed on sports on Tuesday:
In a battle of the nation's best freshmen, Jabari Parker outshone Andrew Wiggins, but Wiggins's Kansas Jayhawks pulled away late, beating the Duke Blue Devils 94-83. Coming up with nicknames for the scintillating Parker is the task du jour for college hoops fanatics, so I'm going to throw a few out there; feel free to use any or all of them as you see fit. JaStarry Parker (Parker is a star). JaStarry Starker (seriously, the guy's a star). JaBobri Barker (the price is right for Duke, as college athletes are unpaid). Jaleel Parker (did he do that?). Jab-Ari Gold (for the obvious crossover potential with the upcoming Entourage movie). JaBerry Parker (for the obvious crossover potential with the upcoming Jamba Juice movie that's still happening, right?). Jerk-bari Parker (for NC State fans). Jerk-bari Jerker (for UNC fans). JABARI PARKER! (for Dick Vitale). Jay Parker (it's shorter to say Jay than Jabari). Danny Ferry (for people suffering from long-term amnesia). Shane Battier (for people suffering from mid-term amnesia and a rare disease that prevents them from differentiating between levels of raw athleticism). Jabari Plumlee (for people who don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players). Mason Plumlee (for people who really don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players). And finally, Marshall Plumlee (for people who really don't have time to differentiate between Duke basketball players, but at least want to make up a fake Plumlee name wait a second Marshall Plumlee is real? What the hell, Duke?).
What the hell was that? What was supposed to be a grudge match featuring the league’s highest profile free agent leading the league’s most rapidly ascendant team to a victory over his depleted former team turned out to be a nightmare in Houston. It was an ugly exposé of what might be gaping holes in the Rockets' ability to win basketball games.
In case you were out realizing the road less traveled is less traveled because it goes to Buffalo, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Baylor's speed was too much for Oklahoma as the Bears throttled the Sooners, 41-12, in Waco. "They say speed kills, and it did a number on us here tonight," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said after the game. "But I'm still alive." Stoops then looked around him; how did he get to this nondescript waiting room? Why was he talking to Bo Pelini? And what was the number "41” in his hand in reference to? "41," the talking skeleton behind the desk called. Stoops raised his hand. "Come on up, Bob," the skeleton said. "Welcome to limbo, Bob." Stoops looked around him, and saw the faces of Will Muschamp, Steve Sarkisian, and Mack Brown. "Limbo?" Stoops asked. "Limbo," the skeleton replied. "Now you can wait here for your second-tier bowl berth." Stoops raised his hand and said, "Now wait a minute, we're still alive for— " but the skeleton cut him off and said, "Limbo, Bob. Welcome to limbo."
In case you were busy coming around to the idea that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is just the sort of guy who sometimes has to be yelled at, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In what may prove to be the biggest upset of the entire NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers stormed out to an early 19-0 lead before holding on late to beat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 114-110. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams looked like a star, putting up 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, and seven rebounds in his NBA debut. Unfortunately, Carter-Williams was shut down for the season after the game by 76ers GM Sam Hinkie for what he described as "precautionary reasons." When asked to clarify, Hinkie said, "I'm hoping this will serve as a precaution to the rest of the team as to where looking like a star will get you."
The Red Sox are your 2013 World Series champions after John Lackey powered Boston past the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, in a deciding Game 6. "Just as I predicted," said Boston superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Lackey brings us another banner. Never doubted that it would happen." When asked specifically when he made that prediction, Sullivan replied, "Fourth inning, right after we went up 6-0. And I swear I only backed off it three or four times," before promising to name one of his middle children John Lackey Sullivan, assuming that one of them came out looking a little squished.
And I know it was just one regular-season NBA game, most of the East Coast was asleep, and it probably changes nothing for what we expect from either team. But as single games go, it was so much more fun than it should've been. Let's start from the beginning.
In case you were busy walking the plank at the behest of Bill Belichick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened their NBA championship defense with an impressive 107-95 win over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. An optimistic Rose, who was playing in his first regular-season game since recovering from a torn ACL, said, "I'm disappointed in the loss, but my performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keeping down the turnovers." When Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau heard his point guard's comments, however, he flew into a rage, screaming, "He could have made more shots and avoided turnovers? Well, why didn't he? What the hell was he thinking?" Thibodeau then threw his hands in the air and said, "Jiminy Christmas, he was only out for a year. I have to micromanage everything with this team."
In case you were busy pouring one out for the Dawgfather, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
After a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty call went against New England, Jets kicker Nick Folk hit a 42-yard field goal in overtime to give New York a come-from-behind 30-27 win. Jets head coach Rex Ryan defended the officials when asked about the penalty after the game, saying, "Look, it was a new rule, and besides, we all got to see some more kicking out there as a result. So how is that not a win for everybody? I know I just love the kicking game; it's absolutely at the core of why I love football. Gotta love the kicking of the football." Ryan then adjusted himself and added, "Now if ya'll excuse me, I have to contrive a reason to leave right now."
In case you were busy fumbling your way to victory in Iowa, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Your newest NFL juggernaut is the Cleveland Browns, who have now won three straight after defeating the Buffalo Bills, 37-24, behind the play of reserve quarterback Brandon Weeden. "No! What happened to Brian Hoyer?" yelled world's saddest man Gary Pittson as he checked his fantasy team at 2 a.m. while finishing up an unpaid overtime shift of data entry at Telecommunications Systems Inc. Pittson then scanned the waiver wire looking for Weeden and moaned, "Poor Hoyer, he was all I had left in this world well, him, this job, and the hope of finding Brandon Weeden. Where is he? He has to be here!" Unfortunately for Pittson, longtime rival and world-class bassist Teddy Jackson's wife Sandra Carmone had already picked Weeden up because she thought he had a funny name. Also, he had been noticed by floor supervisor Whit Rickenbauer, who added a demerit for unauthorized Internet use to Pittson's permanent file with the company, putting his employment status in serious jeopardy.
Despite having less than his best command, Clayton Kershaw allowed only three hits, collected 12 strikeouts, and secured his first postseason win as the Los Angeles Dodgers easily defeated the Atlanta Braves, 6-1, to take the first game of their National League Division Series. Despite the loss, the Braves have to consider themselves lucky. Had Kershaw had his best stuff, he would have likely allowed no hits while getting two himself, collected 29 strikeouts, and secured three wins in the game, instantly eliminating Atlanta from the postseason, and advancing his Dodgers directly to the World Series where they would have played themselves reflected in a giant mirror.
Picture yourself waking up from a multi-day, Pinkmanesque bacchanal. The couch is smoldering, strangers are snoring in the hallway, ominous stains dot the rug, and the detritus of now-departed house guests litter the scene. There, in the dawn light seeping through torn drapes, is a person dutifully bagging the beer bottles, wiping off the counters, and sweeping up the ash. That person is Pau Gasol, and this is Lakers Media Day 2013.
We've been getting in the mood for basketball for a few weeks now, but the NBA season doesn't officially begin until Media Day.
That's when everything that's amazing and ridiculous comes back at once. The photos, the quotes, the trash talk, the outrageous predictions. It's all there. And it's been even better the past few years, because Twitter makes it easier than ever to share all the best moments. With the help of Danny Chau and the rest of the NBA Internet, let's run through some important moments from around the league.