A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : GQ . Bethlehem Shoals on the question of whether DeMarcus Cousins, no-kidding early season MVP candidate and leader of the resurgent Sacramento Kings, has really "grown up" and "put it all together" or whether changes (and, apparently, improvements) in virtually every other variable around him have simply forced us all to see the greatness that's been there all along. PF : Magic Basketball . Joe Atmonavage on how Nikola Vucevic's advancing low-post game is giving the Orlando Magic's offense something to hang its hat on. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] SF : Pounding the Rock . Despite getting just 10 minutes of playing time from stalwart center Tiago Splitter thus far this season, the San Antonio Spurs have put the clamps on opponents, ranking third in the NBA in points allowed per possession. Jesus Gomez takes a closer look at how they're doing it, and whether the Spurs' elite early-season defense is sustainable. SG : Bourbon Street Shots . Mason Ginsberg with a quick statistical reminder that, thus far this season, Anthony Davis has been all-time, historic, Hall-of-Fame-company-level great. PG : SB Nation . A good read from Mirin Fader on Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets, who can both "vacillate between fun and flat," and who both need to take a step forward this season if they want to be considered serious players on the NBA's main stage. 6th : CelticsBlog . Wait a second — are the Boston Celtics really fun? 7th : The Oklahoman . Darnell Mayberry on an eight-game stretch that could determine the course of the rest of the season for the 3-10 Oklahoma City Thunder: "Will this be a team that splinters and flies in the face of the fabled fabric of the organization, or will it be a team that rallies, comes together and turns all those trite clichés into a season-saving battle cry?" 8th : BBallBreakdown . Ben Dowsett on how a very simple philosophy — shoot open shots and don't allow open shots — has turned the Portland Trail Blazers into a top-10 team on both sides of the ball. (Speaking of the Blazers and open shots, here's LaMarcus Aldridge breaking down his signature and nearly-unblockable fadeaway jumper in his own words .) 9th : Nylon Calculus . Sorry, Stan Van Gundy , but Nick Restifo ran the numbers, and it turns out "the altitude effect" is very, very real: "Denver and Utah enjoy a 31% stronger than normal home court advantage, even after accounting for the strength of teams and their rest coming into the game." 10th : BDCWire . Ananth Pandian brings us inside NBA Nerd Night, am inclusive weekly gathering of hoops-loving folk of all stripes in Somerville, Mass., that gives "smart NBA fans […] a common place to rave about the uniqueness of the league" over a few adult beverages. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
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It will remain a game day staple for the duration of the length of Kobe Bryant’s contract, and (though we hope this isn’t the case) the rest of his stay in the NBA. Kobe will hit a town with his Los Angeles Lakers, and be asked by both local and Los Angeles press alike about his contract – a two-year, $48.5 million deal that just about everyone save for the Buss family (at least on record), Kobe (at least on record), and the more ridiculous of the Kobe defenders (they’re on record) agrees is not commensurate with what Kobe Bryant is currently contributing on the basketball court. Bryant has produced when it has come to the Lakers negotiating their own local TV rights, however, and his Pacific cellar-dwelling club will still take in an ungodly amount of national television appearances this year. On top of that, even though Bryant signed maximum extensions with the Lakers in 1999, 2004, and 2010, Bryant has really never made with the Lakers what he would earn in a fully open market – one pitched without a salary cap or maximum salaries. Kobe reminded all of this on Friday, in meeting with the media. Slated to take on Dirk Nowitzki, who famously took a hometown discount of his own to help with Dallas’ free agent turn, Bryant took on the usual questions. From ESPN Los Angeles : "It's the popular thing to do," Bryant said after the Los Angeles Lakers' shootaround in preparation for Friday's game against Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks. "The player takes less, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think it's a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money. Because if you don't, then you get criticized for it. "It's absolutely brilliant, but I'm not going for it. I know the new head of the players association ain't going for it, either." […] "This is where players get themselves in a lot of trouble, which me in my 19th year I really don't care, so I'll kind of say what I need to say," said Bryant, who indicated that he would retire at the end of this contract. "But I think you've got to look at the business of basketball. I think for a lot of writers, for a lot of fans, they have a very tough time distinguishing the two. "This is a business, and you have to look at individuals and what they generate and the market that they're generating revenue in. And you can't separate those. People have a hard time separating that stuff. From a business perspective, you have to take that stuff into account and you have to try to, as a player, be in situations where it can be a win-win for everybody. "So did I take a discount? Yeah. Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No. Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah. So what we try to do is be in a situation where they take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put us in a championship predicament eventually." Technically, Bryant did take a “discount,” from the over $30.4 million he made last year to the $23.5 he’ll make this year. Whether or not this was enough to “help us be a contender” is, to go very soft on the guy currently shooting 38 percent and with his team playing better with him off the floor than on, is questionable at best. The major criticism of Bryant’s striving to make more money than any other NBA player this season and next has to do with the team’s attempt to rebuild around him before his career runs out. Bryant’s yearly dollar figure didn’t get in the way of the Lakers having cap space last summer and it won’t get in the way of the team having cap space this summer, but his late-career contract far overpowers the ones recently signed by Tim Duncan (three years, $30 million) and Dirk Nowitzki (three years, over $25 million) as they attempt to reconfigure their teams – one of which made the Finals in 2013 and won it all in 2014, the other currently has won nine of 12 games and is on pace to produce the most explosive offense in NBA history . Bryant dismissed comparisons with his setting and Duncan’s last week , and did as much as his squad prepares to take on Dallas and Dirk on Friday (“ I think it means he's not playing in Los Angeles ”), but as you’ve read in the comments above, it appears as if he’s finally inching toward what we’ve been begging him to discuss in the 12 months since he signed that giant contract. Transparency. Just say you wanted the money. Just say that, even after signing deals for $70.9, $136.4, and then $90 million prior to 2013, that you were more than fine in taking in another $48.5 million that you feel like you’ve earned after making the Lakers a destination watch even during its lowest ebbs, and a five-time champion during your career. That’s just fine! You may not earn your salary this year and next, but you certainly earned way more in years prior. And free agents declining to join the Lakers probably has more to do with the fact that Kobe Bryant is 36 and notoriously hard to get along with, and less to do with his massive contract. From there, we’re all allowed to twirl our Monopoly Man mustache and wonder about why in the world maximum contracts exist, when NBA stars are worth so much more than their allotted salaries. Listen, in a capitalist society the NBA’s salary cap is an absolute joke. It’s more than OK to refer to it as un-American, as NBPA chief Michele Roberts recently did , and it’s just fine to call any number of NBA stars “underpaid” as they work their way through capped salaries. The NBA’s salary cap and maximum salaries, however, are in place to ensure that the league boasts a healthy middle class. Before the implementation of maximum salaries the NBA was rife with stars making outrageous sums, surrounded by helpers making far less than they were worth. In the seasons that Michael Jordan made over $30 million (probably less than he was worth, even in late-1990s dollars), Scottie Pippen was the NBA’s 122nd-highest paid player. Rex Chapman worked for a quarter of a million a year one season and then over $326k the next season when he was worth easily 15 times that, all because the big slots had been taken up. Had the league and its players not collectively bargained an end to the practice of unlimited salaries, things would have gotten even worse – ask the Chicago Bulls, who were set to desperately throw Jordan-level cash at someone like Kobe Bryant even in 1998-99. Maximum salaries exist so that Channing Frye and Marvin Williams don’t have to work for the league minimum this season. No, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Kevin Durant have never really been paid what they’re worth, but that’s in deference to making sure that the other 99 percent are. Please try to remember that the next time you construct a haughty tweet on the subject. Kobe Bryant is finally starting to dispense with the “I’ll do whatever it takes to win”-nonsense and come out with the truth. He might be overpaid now, but for years (in spite of the hundreds of millions he took in) he was underpaid, and his Lakers are still printing money despite a miserable season. He took what was offered, as we all would. Unless our name was “Tim,” or “Dirk,” I guess. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
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