Players, Players, Players—What the NBA’s All About

The NBA’s all about them, so let’s get to it. We’ll talk teams and trends later.

Best basketball player on earth: Kobe Bryant. His numbers in the Laker’s last four games—three of them wins, accompanied with one lose to a very good Portland ballclub—have been nothing short of astounding. He had 30/8/3 in an eleven-point defeat on the road at the hands of the Trailblazers, and there’s no one playing better basketball than that band of Blazers as of right now.

During the Lake Show’s three-game home stand, Kobe started off with 39/4/7 against the Warriors, followed by 29 points and 9 assists versus the Grizzles, but the real fireworks came last night when the Suns came up the coast to Los Angeles: Bryant was responsible for 48 of LA’s 99 points.

The big two Timberwolves. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are polar opposites; one’s an immovable big man (Love), and the other’s a flashy rookie phenom (Rubio). The numbers are piling up like something fierce, and wins will follow.

Winning two games in three-straight days of play—flying all over North America from D.C. (W), to Toronto (L), to their home floor in Minnesota (W)—Love had 20 points, 6 boards, 3 steals and 3 blocks; then 13&14; and then 20&13. Rubio heavily contributed to the victories, a good sign, with 13 and 14 assists in Washington, and 13 and 12 dimes for the home crowd.

Josh Smith leading the way. In his last four games Mr. Smith has done the following damage: 17&13, 23&13, 25&5 and 26&6.

These numbers are even more impressive when you realize that the Hawks are currently second in their division (behind only the Miami Heat), are 7-3 (one a three-game winning streak, in fact), and are through playing four games in five nights (two that went into overtime, too).

Melo and Amar’e. The New York Knicks have won three straight contests because of these two. Melo dropped 37&7 last Friday. Then, he gave his team 13/4/7—and 3 blocks—the next night, to go along with Amar’e’s 22/8/4.

And, in New York’s third game in four nights, Anthony had 22/4/6, alongside Stoudemire’s 25&12.

Random player knowledge. On a few semi-positive notes, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings had two impressive statistical nights, while his team lost each time, registering 31, 7 dimes and 5 steals last Thursday, and 21/6/7 two nights later; Marc Gasol had games of 6 and 4 blocks, but both during losing efforts as well.

It doesn’t look good for the Grizzles either, for their three-game losing streak could worsen with the news of Zack Randolph having to miss the next two months of NBA action.

Teams and Trends. Two random notes: the Spurs are 0-4 on the road, and that can’t bode well for them; on a lighter note, the 76ers are on a six-game winning streak, but the real story is Philly’s 7-2 record, sitting atop the Atlantic Division.

As mentioned earlier, the Blazers are for real. They began the post-lockout preseason with a lot of negativity—the retirement of Brandon Roy and the constant question mark known as Greg Oden—yet coach Nate McMillan has this team playing like serious contenders.

They’ve beaten both teams from LA convincingly, but what stands out is how they did it; they operate with such balance on offense and structure on defense that there are few areas in which Portland is lacking anything; that’s scary.

On ESPN tonight is the Mavs/Celtics and Heat/Clippers, so tune in and stay tuned for more NBA commentary from yours truly.

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