By Rob Mahoney
• I didn't even know that Kobe Bryant was capable of sitting still for 20 minutes at a time, but Bryant entertained a lengthy interview with ESPN's Mike Wilbon that's essential viewing for the Kobe faithful and general basketball fans alike.
• On a related note: Bryant has had a terrific season, but aren't we past the point of foolishly citing him -- as Arron Afflalo does here -- as the game's best player?
• In a lengthy Q&A with Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald, Ray Allen shares a very frank answer regarding the way he uses fear to ready himself for competition (via Dan Devine):
12) You admitted once that, even as a star, you were terrified before games -- and that's why you prepared the way you did. Why and how do you use fear?
"I always feel, even at the top, that it can all be taken away, that the trick is to keep managing what you got. I've seen a lot of people in life lose what they have because of their shortcomings - drugs, drinking, women, money. Fear of failure and shame have always been motivators for me."
• The Heat have looked fantastic this season, but the Thunder's schedule-adjusted point differential (a solid predictor of postseason success) is poised to measure up favorably to some of the NBA's all-time great teams.
"[Lopez] has a great, soft touch in the paint. He probably has the softest touch of centers in the league. He really doesn't have a weakness."
• While Mike Mastrov and company rally more investors in their attempt to keep the Kings in Sacramento, Chris Hansen and his Seattle-based group have begun to assemble a season ticket waiting list to demonstrate the city's interest in reclaiming an NBA team.
• ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz riffs on the Clippers and the pressure facing a team that may only be "very good":
Still, there’s a certain restlessness around the Clippers. For weeks, they were regarded as a lock for the No. 3 seed, but they’re now fending off Memphis, who has lost once since the All-Star break (a well-played nail-biter at Miami). The high-grade product the Clippers showcased during their 17-game winning streak is still there most nights against most opponents, but there are a few teams who play better basketball more often. Vinny Del Negro conceded as much pregame Sunday, and it speaks highly of a team when it acknowledges underperformance, even while it’s winning most of its games.
The electricity generated from the collective buzz is important for a team’s psyche, but you can take only so much satisfaction from the drubbing of a lottery-bound team ranked in the bottom third of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. A win over Memphis on Wednesday night would be a helpful salve, but the shadows of recent home losses to San Antonio and Oklahoma City will recede only so far. That’s when the whispers started that the Clippers are just shy of elite, that there’s no shame in being the fourth- or fifth-best team in basketball, but that might not get you past a conference semifinals.
• Jerry Stackhouse is very much into TNT's DALLAS reboot:
• Things haven't quite worked out as planned with the development of Washington forward Jan Vesely, who has yet to prove he can be a functional component of an NBA rotation. That's a hard fall for a player who was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft and tabbed to be an energetic difference-maker from Day 1, even as his technical skills remained relatively raw at the time of his drafting. Michael Lee elaborates on Vesely's situation and frustrations in a piece for the Washington Post:
The lowest point, Vesely said, came in December, when his poor play had him super-glued to his cushy leather seat on the bench. At the start of the new year, Vesely had such a steady rotation of visitors that he bought an extra mattress to lay out in the living room.
Vesely said driving home from Verizon Center or the airport after not playing in the previous game was “kind of depressing,” but when he opened the door and was greeted by his loved ones “it was nice to see. So it was fun.”
Vesely played a total of seven minutes in two of the 13 games between Feb. 1 and March 1. Wittman finally gave him another shot March 3 against Philadelphia, and he caught two alley-oop dunks from Wall and A.J. Price and finished with six points, tripling his total from the previous month. He went scoreless with a turnover in eight minutes in Minnesota, again looking lost, unfocused and lacking energy.
“The only part of his game that he’s struggling, is mental. Has nothing to do with his skills,” said Price, who had a long talk with Vesely before a recent shoot-around. “I was just trying to tell him to find something — a safe haven, almost — and say, ‘I’m going to play for that.’ I told him play for his girl. I know that’s one person I see him all the time with.”
• Henry Abbott of TrueHoop did a terrific video interview with one of the most charismatic players in the NBA: Phoenix's currently inactive Channing Frye, who has been dealing with a serious heart condition and a season away from the game.
• Shortly after OKC signed Derek Fisher for the remainder of the season, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks made clear that he intended to play Fisher regularly. He's thus far lived up that threat, including giving Fisher some burn during a crucial stretch of Monday night's game against the Spurs. Royce Young of Daily Thunder reflects on that decision:
Now, before I rag on Fisher here, I have to say, you can’t deny that he’s played pretty well in places since he signed. He’s shot the ball well, he’s even made a few plays too. He’s added, not subtracted.
But last night brought to life the great fear of Thunder fans. There was Fisher, on the floor in the fourth quarter, for some reason. Sitting on the bench: Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson. And if you want to extrapolate further, Jeremy Lamb and DeAndre Liggins were figuratively on the bench as well. In 12 minutes, Fisher was a -21. He was on the floor for both big San Antonio runs. Now, I can’t be selective and ignore that Collison was actually the biggest minus (-24) so it’s not fair to just single out Fisher. BUT with Collison, I know why he was on the floor. I still don’t with Fisher.