Last Shot: Lakers' youth starting to develop

Adrian Wojnarowski

Once the roster had been determined in training camp, Phil Jackson gathered his players for a meeting at the Lakers hotel in Hawaii. All around the room, they were required to stand one by one, give their name and say something about themselves.

And so, the rookies, Javaris Crittenton and Coby Karl, rose, and the old returning champion, Derek Fisher, and finally, the most famous man in the room climbed to his feet.

“Hi, I’m Kobe Bryant and I want to win a championship.”

• So Eddie Sutton didn’t like how his career ended at Oklahoma State? You mean, slumped over a wheel drunk?

And he doesn’t like that he isn’t in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

So, this is the University of San Francisco’s problem?

For them to hire Sutton to coach the rest of this season is a disgrace. He keeps saying that he just wants to get two more victories to reach 800 in his career, and you have to question the motives of a coach returning just long enough to stockpile victories to get into Springfield. What happens when a kid has an injury, and he’s pushing to get him back on the floor? Or another is struggling in school, but Sutton does nothing to help just so he can eke out a few more W's.

The reason he hasn’t made the Hall of Fame has nothing to do with the 798 victories in his career.

It’s simple: He should’ve had his assistant seal that overnight envelope full of cash to Chris Mills’ father back at Kentucky.

• Speaking of Sutton, you’ve got to love the nepotism that gives the kids of famous coaches jobs that they don’t deserve. His son, Sean, has been a disaster as head coach at Oklahoma State. Why? That isn’t an entry-level job. And they never would’ve given it to an assistant unless his last name was Sutton. He should’ve had to take, say, Oral Roberts the way his brother, Scott has done.

And speaking of disasters on the horizon, just wait until Pat Knight takes over for his father, Bob, at Texas Tech. He should be proving himself in a Mid-American Conference job, but no one will make him. To think he’s going to walk into the Big 12 and win? No chance.

• Seriously, USF hired Eddie Sutton. What, Tark wanted to stay retired?

For a moment, it had to draw the air out of the room. After all, this was the tension that hung over the franchise like an anvil.

“That’s all he said,” Jordan Farmar said by phone Thursday. “That’s all that needed to be said.

To the Lakers youth, the message was unmistakable: For the future of the franchise, they were on the clock. Between Bryant and management, all hell had broken loose, trade talks still swirled and the youngsters in the room understood that they were the source of irritation. Kobe Bryant didn’t think he could win with them.

Perhaps Andrew Bynum swallowed hardest listening to Bryant in the hotel. With so much of the summer of Bryant’s discontent borne of his frustration with Bynum’s development, with management’s refusal to trade the 7-foot teeny-bopper for New Jersey’s Jason Kidd, nothing could change for the Lakers until the light flickered for him.

Yet, there was one young Laker bred for this burden. He comes out of Woodland Hills, and played his ball at UCLA where he delivered the Bruins to the national championship game. In just his second season, no one needs to hold Farmar’s hand here. He’s a pro. He embodies the toughness, the tenacity, it’s taken for this young core to fight through all the doubts, the dismissals and ultimately be responsible for steadying a wobbly franchise. When you’ve grown up with the Lakers and played your ball under John Wooden’s banners, there’s no flinching in an environment that makes the demands of Bryant and Phil Jackson’s Lakers.

Along with Bynum, Farmar has played an immense part in what felt like the unthinkable mere months ago. Together, they’ve moved the Lakers back to relevance, and Bryant back from the brink. Suddenly, the Lakers are 18-10 and the Western Conference’s Big Three – San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix – find a fourth muscling into contention.

If the Lakers keep winning, it’ll be impossible to deny Bryant his first Most Valuable Player award. For Kobe, that hasn’t happened by leading the league in scoring and losing. The MVP will come out of trusting his teammates and elevating those around him. It’ll come because Bynum is turning into a low-post terror, Farmar a relentless pest and the rest of these young Lakers – Luke Walton to Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza – are able complements to Bryant’s greatness.

“He has done a lot better job being a teammate,” Farmar said. “He’s been great this year. His focus is with us on the planes, going out to dinner, and practicing more when he could be resting up. He’s a member of the team, not bigger than it. He wants us to be great.”

Slowly, surely, Bryant must be coming to terms with the truth that there’s no championship salvation to be found in a trade. Out of stubbornness, he’ll never come out and say that this is where he wants to be, that this is best, because it would be admitting he was wrong. For now, it doesn’t matter. General manager Mitch Kupchak has shown a better eye for talent than most wanted to give him credit for this summer, and Jackson has done a remarkable job playing these kids through mistakes, through tough times and developing a bench.

“We’re a deeper team than we were last year,” Bryant said. He won’t give them much more because he knows it’s just December, and he knows that trailing the Suns by one game in the Pacific Division can be a mirage. He’s been desperate to find tough young guys able to withstand the pounding of life with him, to understand what it takes to chase contention.

“Listen,” Farmar said, “they don’t care what else happens here, except us raising a banner. This isn’t about getting through the first round of the playoffs, it’s about winning championships. That’s how it was at UCLA. Coach (Ben) Howland would chart our goals in the preseason and it would be: Win all of our games, win the Pac-10 and win the national title.

“They don’t hang any banners at Pauley Pavilion except national championships. And that’s the mentality with the Lakers. We are not here for stats. We are not here to get paid. We are here to win now. That’s the sacrifice we are all making.”

As Farmar and these young Lakers understand, he’s Kobe Bryant and he wants to win a championship. For now, these kids on the Lakers have him on the way to a winning season, on the way to an MVP. Out of nowhere, there are possibilities again. The Los Angeles Lakers have a basketball season. Slowly, surely, they’re winning back Bryant.


1.The embarrassments, the indignities, never end with the Knicks. Most of the league is just numb to the organization’s incompetence and indifference, but it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the fact that Stephon Marbury has disappeared on the Knicks.

More and more it seems clear: He really doesn’t want to play basketball.

Yes, his father, Donald, died on Dec. 2, and everyone can understand the grieving that comes with losing a parent. He tried to come back two weeks ago, but quickly disappeared again. He hasn’t come to practice. He hasn’t played a game. Now, he’s sent word that he’ll come back to the team after New Year’s – just hours after Isiah Thomas suggested that, “I don’t know,” if he’ll ever return to the Knicks.

They’re still paying Marbury and they’re still losing. It doesn’t help Marbury’s cause that he walked out on the Knicks in November, choosing to fly home and miss a game with the Suns as a protest to his benching. Once Thomas discounted a team vote to sit the point guard in the next game, he lost the rest of the locker room, too.

You want to give Marbury the benefit of the doubt on a bereavement leave this long, but it is not cold to suggest that he had an obligation to be back at work sooner than this. It wasn’t so long ago that Marbury had aligned himself with Thomas, and promised to do everything in his power to make the Knicks’ emperor grateful that he brought the Coney Island guard back home. Marbury is just one more symbol of Thomas’ failed regime.

Now, maybe Marbury will return after New Year’s. Or maybe not. Whatever. These are the Knicks. Anything goes.

2. They always go opposite for the next coach. That’s how it works in sports. You fire the fire-breathing tough guy and you hire the reasonable man. For now, that’s how it’s gone with Bulls general manager John Paxson firing Scott Skiles and making assistant Jim Boylan Chicago’s interim coach.

Once, Boylan was unfairly fired at the University of New Hampshire after his third season. The AD made himself coach and won a few games with the players that Boylan had recruited to campus. Who knows? Maybe Boylan was on the fast track and never had a chance to prove it. Nevertheless, Boylan now gets the rest of the Bulls' season to prove his worth.

If that doesn’t happen, Paxson should pursue the best defensive mind in the game now, Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. With the way he’s transformed Boston on the defensive end – turning them into faraway the most proficient in the league – he’s finally getting the notice that escaped him for so long on Jeff Van Gundy’s Houston and New York staffs.

Rest assured, Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers will fight to keep Thibodeau, but it’s hard to imagine that’ll he be back for a second season in Boston. He’s too good.

3. Throughout the summer, the belief was that Team USA had its three point guards for Beijing in 2008: Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams.

Out of sight with an injury in Las Vegas over the summer, Chris Paul was out of mind.

Well, what do you with the fact that the New Orleans point guard could be the best American point guard now? He’s been beyond spectacular for the Hornets. He told me in the preseason that he was determined to use this season to make his case to Team USA officials for Beijing. Billups didn’t play well for Team USA over the summer, but he’s been terrific for the Pistons and his ability as a winner, a leader, almost assure him a spot with Kidd.

The argument for Williams is that coach Mike Krzyzewski preferred big guards in international play, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny Paul. So far, he’s averaging 21.7 points and 10 assists. He’s shooting 49 percent from the floor and 91 percent at the free-throw line. In Memphis this week, Paul dropped 40 points, including five three-pointers and also had nine assists and five steals.

Yes, he’s making it difficult to deny him the red, white and blue in Beijing.

4. First, it was Andrei Kirilenko for Jerry Sloan.

Now, it’s Gordan Giricek.

Either way, it’s hard to miss management’s message in Utah: Take on the coach and you’ll lose.

For a coach without the top executive title, Sloan’s the closest thing to a tenured coach in the NBA. Sloan and Giricek got into it on the bench Dec. 19 in Charlotte, and Sloan just sent his seething guard straight to the locker room and tossed him off the road trip for two games. Along with GM Kevin O’Connor, Sloan and Giricek met on Thursday and the result was little surprise.

“What we expect is for Giri to play and do what the rest of the team does,” O’Connor told the Desert Morning News.

Translation: The coach wins again. If only the rest of the league only backed its coaches this way.

5. Memphis freshman Derrick Rose promises to be the first point guard drafted in June, but several NBA scouts will tell you: Don’t be shocked if North Carolina sophomore Ty Lawson turns out to be a comparable pro prospect.

As one Eastern Conference scout said, “He’s come back such a stronger, better point guard. He’s the best player on Carolina’s team. To me, right now, he’s far more of an NBA-ready point guard. If this kid stayed in school, he would go down with the best in Carolina history.”


Back in the D-League, our Yahoo! Sports correspondent, Jeff Ruland, has officially tired of playing the Colorado 14ers. He’s lost three of his five games to them and never, ever wants to see them again.

“They’ve got enough freakin’ pros on that team,” Ruland said.

His Albuquerque T-Birds lost, 109-94, to drop to 4-5, and this wasn’t the worst of it. Another D-League hotel “that reminded me of 'The Shining.' We just needed Jack Nicholson there. No hot water, no heat, the pillows sucked, ghosts. …”


“Yeah, freakin’ ghosts.”

“I mean, I froze my ass off. I had icicles hanging off me.”

The T-Birds play a classic D-League back-to-back on Friday and Saturday.

Friday in Albuquerque. And then, they got up early on Saturday to fly to Salt Lake City for a Saturday night game at Utah.

“Great travel plans, huh?”


Here is one Western Conference assistant coach’s report on the Mavericks’ relative inconsistencies this season.

“To me, they aren’t playing defense like they did last year. Right now, they’re a complete jump-shooting team, just like Chicago, with no low-post presence. Over time, too, Josh Howard has become as important to them as (Dirk) Nowtizki. Eddie Jones and Trenton Hassell have added nothing. Jones has really lost it. I wonder how much of a hangover is still there from last year’s playoffs.”

“That said, I will be shocked if they don’t get it together this year. They’re still one of the elite.”

  • Tim Tebow answered Stephen A. Smith's dumb question with a riveting inspirational speech

    Hate on Tim Tebow all you want, but there’s no denying he’s one of the most motivational guys in sports — period. On Tuesday he appeared with Stephen A. Smith on First Take and dropped the best speech you’ll hear all week. When he was criticized for taking a long shot at making an MLB roster, Tebow dropped the hammer.

    SB Nation
  • Giants finally release Josh Brown, John Mara cites team's 'misguided' actions

    Brown was left home from the Giants’ game against the Los Angeles Rams in London in Week 7 and was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by the NFL, granting the team a roster spot to replace him. Giants co-owner John Mara explained (via ESPN) why the team released Brown now and not when the allegations of abuse first surfaced, or after the shocking documents in which Brown admitted he abused his wife were released by the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Rob Gronkowski Goes Undercover as Driver for Lyft

    And the latest Undercover Lyft driver is ... Rob Gronkowski. In a video from the ride-sharing service that aired on “GMA” today, the tight end for the New England Patriots disguises himself in a pair of wigs and drives unsuspecting passengers around

    Good Morning America
  • NASCAR America: Brian Scott pleased with second-place finish at Talladega

    Richard Petty Motorsports announced it has partnered with the American Red Cross as the primary sponsor on the No. 44 of Brian Scott this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in an effort to help Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Scott’s car will feature text message code fans can use in order to donate to the Red Cross’ efforts to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew earlier this month. Fans can help people affected by Hurricane Matthew by visiting, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999, which will be featured on the No. 44 Ford Fusion this weekend, to make a $10 donation. “With the significance that Hurricane Matthew had on the Carolinas, Virginia and really all of the Southeast coast, we knew it was extremely important to give back to our community in a partnership with the American Red Cross,” Richard Petty said in a press release.

    NASCAR Talk
  • Nasty fight erupts over life-changing World Series of Poker hand

    English professional poker player William Kassouf uses his mouth to try an gain an advantage at the table, and has a history of tilting fellow pros. The tactic has made Kassouf a very polarizing pl…

    New York Post
  • Tigers not likely to deal Kinsler

    While Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila recently told local reporters he will be looking to cut payroll and shake up his roster before next season, Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech believes the Tigers have no interest in trading 2B Ian Kinsler and RHP Justin Verlander. "We want to get younger," Avila said two weeks ago. "We want to get leaner. We want to run the organization without having to go over our means." Kinsler, 34, who hit .288 with 28 home runs and 83 RBIs this season, will earn just $21 million over the next two years and be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. Matthew Cerrone | Snapchat | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | About Me The Mets technically need a second baseman.

  • Experienced Cup drivers limited to 17 Xfinity and Truck Series races a year starting in 2017

    Kyle Busch will only be able to make 10 Xfinity Series starts in 2017. A rule limiting Sprint Cup drivers in NASCAR’s No. 2 and No. 3 series is official. NASCAR said Wednesday that Cup drivers with five years full-time experience in the series will be limited to 10 Xfinity races and seven Camping World Truck Series races a season starting in 2017.

    From The Marbles
  • Is Jake Browning the nation's best quarterback?

    Dr. Saturday's Graham Watson takes a look at the Washington Huskies quarterback in this week's Heisman Watch.

    Yahoo Sports Videos
  • Video: World Series Expected to Be Most Expensive to Attend

    And the series is shaping up to be the most expensive to attend in the history of Major League Baseball Cleveland. Hasn't been a series in nineteen years and a ticket there tonight starts at more than 700 dollar. It's actually surprising that it's that love let's not that bad. But the cubs haven't been invited to the dance in 71 years so understandably prices for game three in Chicago start at. 19100. Dollars all of and average about four times as much as ones in Cleveland and those prices are likely to rise even more. Before Friday's first game in Chicago and not even counting how much they have to spend and how much it invested in getting back and forth to the game which is going to be its

    ABC News
  • Jonathan Bernier exits Ducks game at Sharks with upper-body injury

    Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonathan Bernier exited his team’s Tuesday game against the San Jose Sharks with an upper body injury. It’s unclear when exactly Bernier was hurt. It was just the second game for Bernier with his new team this season.

    Puck Daddy
  • LeBron, Cavs receive rings, raise Cleveland's 1st banner in 52 years

    The city of Cleveland waited 52 years to win a major sports championship before the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors last June. Tuesday’s ring ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena brought that opportunity for yet another celebration of a classic victory. NBA Finals MVP LeBron James and teammates finally received their championship rings in a ceremony before Tuesday’s season opener against the visiting New York Knicks.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Welcome to the Tim Tebow baseball and PR Experience

    In the last seven days, I've talked to a handful of Mets insiders, none of whom believe Tim Tebow will be with the team next spring in Port St. Lucie. I've heard several different reasons behind their thinking. But, in the end, everyone agreed that -- if he's still with the organization -- he's more likely to show up in St. Lucie when minor-league camp starts, as opposed to when big leaguers arrive in February. This is good news ... if you ask me. It's nothing against Tebow, who has every right to pursue a career in baseball. It's just, the Mets have real goals, and real business at hand, as they try to right their ship and get back to the World Series. I expect Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah

  • HSBC Champions: Tee Times, TV Schedule, Prize Money

    (c) 2016 Time Inc. Star-Studded Field for First WGC Event of the Season Russell Knox looks to defend his 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions title against a star-studded field that includes Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.Russell Knox

  • Griezmann wins best player award in Spain for last season

    VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann has won the best player award in the Spanish league for last season. The Atletico Madrid forward was announced as the winner in a ceremony organized by La Liga in Valencia on Monday. The Frenchman was not at the ceremony. Atletico also had Diego Simeone win the best coach award, Diego Godin earn the best defender award, and Jan Oblak clinch best goalkeeper. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was selected as the best forward, and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as the best midfielder. Team captains voted for the top players in each position, while a data-analysis system generated the best player award. Barcelona won the Spanish league last season, ahead of Real Madrid and

  • Snap totals point to which tight end the Steelers could release if Ladarius Green is activated

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have a predicament on their hands when the team comes out of the bye week and starts preparing for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. Some might think the predicament is whether Ladarius Green is ready to be activated to the 53-man roster yet, a task they have 21 days to officially do, but the real question is not if, but when, Green is activated, who becomes the odd man out at the tight end position? The current tight end depth chart reads as follows (in no particular order): Jesse James Xavier Grimble David Johnson There is no debate about Jesse James. The 2015 5th round draft pick has been the main man at the tight end position, routinely playing more than 90-percent of

    Behind the Steel Curtain
  • Bill Belichick Ripping Into Tom Brady ‘Set The Tone’ For Chad Johnson With Patriots

    A lot of successful coaches ensure no player gets away with any special treatment. If the star player is criticized in front of the team, everyone notices and doesn’t fool around. Famous Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach did this, too. He would rip legendary center Bill Russell on purpose during practice to make a point that everyone had to be held accountable. It appears New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to lay into his own star players, as former Patriot wide receiver Chad Johnson explained during an appearance on FOX Sports 1 program “Undisputed” earlier this week. “First day, team meeting. Everyone’s coming in and Belichick puts on — first day, no greeting —

    New England Sports Network
  • Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields turning pro

    Claressa Shields celebrates after winning her second Olympic gold medal. There will be no third gold medal for Claressa Shields. The only American to win a boxing gold medal since Andre Ward in 2004 is turning professional and will make her pro debut on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas on the undercard of the Ward-Sergey Kovalev pay-per-view show.

    Yahoo Sports
  • Jabrill Peppers makes inroads, but Lamar Jackson still Bovada’s overwhelming Heisman favorite

    Most observers have already handed the 2016 Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson, but there are still a couple of players who could make the race at least mildly interesting. The Louisville quarterback is, once again,‘s overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman, coming in at 1/3 (bet three dollars to win one). Those are slightly shorter odds than the 1/2 Jackson was getting a week ago. Tied at 15/2 are Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Peppers was at 33/1 just three weeks ago, while Watson, the preseason wagering favorite, will have a high-profile matchup with Florida State in which to bolster his Heisman pedigree and chip into Jackson’s

    NBC Sports: CollegeFootballTalk
  • NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks

    NBCSN has a doubleheader tonight and it begins at 7:30 p.m. ET when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Buffalo Sabres. Following that game, the Anaheim Ducks will take on the Sharks in San Jose at 10:00 p.m. ET. To watch the early game online, click here. To watch the late game online, click here. The Flyers will be playing their second game in two nights, as they dropped a 3-1 decision in Montreal last night. Philadelphia had some good scoring opportunities, but they were held to one goal mainly because Canadiens goalie Carey Price put together a strong performance. “We definitely wanted to come in here and get two points and it’s disappointing with the loss,” Steve Mason said, per CSN Philly.

  • World Series Can't Outrun Objections to Indians' Red-Skinned Logo

    Everywhere the Cleveland Indians go, so go team mascot Chief Wahoo and the logo that critics slam as derogatory. The Indians are in the 2016 World Series and, as expected, some Native American groups immediately planned protests against the team's use of the Chief Wahoo logo. The Cleveland American Indian Movement, for instance, has posted a call to rally against the mascot on its website. "The World Series begins in Cleveland this Tuesday, October 25,” it reads. “Join Cleveland American Indian Movement and the Native community as we gather at the stadium in protest of Cleveland Baseball's use of the ‘Indians’ team name and the despicable ‘Wahoo’ logo. Newspapers and broadcasters from around

    ABC News
  • Travis Ford has Saint Louis recruiting at an unprecedented level

    In the 13-year history of the Rivals rankings, Saint Louis had only landed one top 150 prospect prior to this year. New coach Travis Ford and his staff have now pulled in three in barely three months. In August, they outdueled Illinois for wing Jordan Goodwin, an Illinois native rated the No. 56 prospect in the 2017 class.

    The Dagger
  • Unhappy 49ers fan edits Trent Baalke's Wikipedia page

    The San Francisco 49ers might be the worst team in the NFL. Yes, the Cleveland Browns are winless, but taking a glance at the 49ers roster, there’s not a lot there. As The Mercury-News discovered on Monday, someone did some … creative editing to Baalke’s Wikipedia page.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Report: Jose Mourinho willing to let Wayne Rooney leave

    Wayne Rooney‘s future at Manchester United seems increasingly uncertain. A report in the Sun newspaper states that United’s captain and talisman, 31, has been told by manager Jose Mourinho that he can leave if it’s regular game time he wants. Rooney hasn’t started any of United’s last four Premier League games and was left out of their squad for the 4-0 thumping at Chelsea last weekend with a small injury. Per the report, Mourinho has spoken to Rooney’s advisers and has told them he can not guarantee the England national team captain a starting role. There’s no doubting Rooney’s huge impact at United over the past 12 years since he arrived at Old Trafford. He’s won five Premier League titles,

  • Why Ty Montgomery isn’t RB eligible on Yahoo (for now)

    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery pushes Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos away as he carries the ball. There have been numerous tweets and questions about whether Ty Montgomery would become eligible at running back in Yahoo Fantasy after getting a chance to line up in the backfield after a rash of injuries for the Green Bay Packers. After much consideration, Yahoo Fantasy Sports has decided to leave Montgomery as receiver only at this time.

    Roto Arcade
  • Georges St-Pierre Addresses Fighting Michael Bisping at UFC 206

    UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping dropped a bomb on the MMA world recently, saying he had agreed to a fight with Georges St-Pierre at UFC 206. Now, St-Pierre is weighing in on the potential fight. Bisping on Tuesday tweeted, “@GeorgesStPierre, we all want more money. But let’s go, sign the papers. Give the people of Toronto what they want, be a hero! Let’s go champ!” He was, of course, referring to a fight between himself and St-Pierre, a fight that had been unsuccessfully negotiated prior to Bisping’s title defense against Dan Henderson at UFC 204 in early October. Bisping said that the UFC had “been negotiating this fight for the last few days,” and that he had verbally agreed to it.