BIG3

Kobe Bryant Reiterates He’s Done Playing Basketball

Having been the subject of recent speculation involving the BIG3, Kobe Bryant appeared on The Rich Eisen Show to reiterate that he has no plans to come out of retirement and play basketball again in the NBA, the BIG3, or any other league, as Christian Rivas of Silver Screen & Roll relays.

“There’s about a 0% chance that I come back to play,” Bryant said. “Nothing. Done, that’s it.”

Bryant, who turned 40 years old on Thursday, last appeared in the NBA in 2016 when he scored 60 points in his final game as a Laker. The 18-time All-Star’s notorious competitiveness led to some speculation that he wouldn’t be able to stay away from the game for good. As he explains to Eisen though, Kobe viewed that skepticism as a challenge in its own right.

“When I retired, everybody was saying, ‘OK, he’s too competitive, he’s not going to know what to do with himself, he’s going to have to come back,'” Bryant said. “I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I am this one-dimensional person, that all I know is how to dribble the ball, shoot the ball and play basketball. … I took that as a personal challenge.

“I will never come back to the game, ever,” Bryant continued. “I’m here to show people that we (professional athletes) can do much more than that. Creating this business, winning an Oscar, winning an Emmy, those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, ‘No, no. There is more to this thing.’ So I would never (come out of retirement). It’s not even a thought.”

Of course, Bryant hasn’t stepped entirely away from the game of basketball — he continues to work with some NBA players who have reached out to him, and he coaches his daughter’s team. However, he appears to have definitively shut the door on his days as a player.

BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube joked last week that Bryant would need to get a “restraining order” against him to stop him from trying to convince Kobe to join the BIG3. But by the sounds of it, Ice Cube and fellow co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz won’t have much luck with their recruiting efforts.

And-Ones: Kobe, C. Randle, Seattle, Ball Family

Kobe Bryant retired from the Lakers two years ago, but his days of competitive basketball may not be over. BIG3 founder Ice Cube plans to make a strong push to get Bryant involved in his three-on-three league of former NBA players, relays Nina Mandell of USA Today.

“To me he’s the biggest name out there for us to get and he’s going to have to get a restraining order on me to leave him alone about this,” Ice Cube said.

BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz started the rumor mill earlier this week by indicating in a conference call that Bryant had interest in joining the league, but a spokesperson for Bryant later issued a denial. Bryant, who turned 40 today, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and underwent knee surgery late in his career.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • In a G League trade, the expansion Capital City Go-Go acquired the rights to Chasson Randle from Westchester, according to a tweet from the Knicks. Randle agreed to a training camp deal last month with the Wizards, who are the parent team of the Go-Go. Randle, 25, had brief stints with the Sixers and Knicks during the 2016/17 season. In return, Westchester received the rights to center Stephen Zimmerman, who was selected in Wednesday’s expansion draft.
  • In a separate deal announced by the Knicks (Twitter link), Westchester acquired the G League rights to Duje Dukan from Capital City, Wisconsin received the rights to Travis Trice and the Go-Go got the rights to Josh Davis.
  • The NBA’s return to Seattle will be televised by ESPN, relays Jordan Ramirez of NBA.com. The Kings and the Warriors will square off October 5 in the first NBA game at Key Arena since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City a decade ago.
  • The Ball family didn’t make a good impression during its four months in Lithuania, according to Steve Gardner of USA Today. LaVar Ball pulled his sons LiAngelo and LaMelo off their BC Prinai-Skycop team with two games remaining in the season and left a lot of animosity behind. In a press release issued today by the team, coach Virginijus Seskus claims the Ball brothers were “nowhere near the level of the LKL (Lithuanian league)” and “they had no inner drive to become better.” BC Prinai-Skycop also claims that LaVar Ball took back his financial support from the team, along with shooting machines that were presented as gifts.
  • In the latest installment of her five-part series on mental health issues in the NBA, Jackie MacMullan of ESPN talks to referees about the stress they face. Joey Crawford, one of the game’s legendary officials, discusses his experience with counseling after being suspended following a 2007 confrontation with Tim Duncan.

And-Ones: Mental Health, Rookie Extensions, BIG3

The mental health of NBA players has become a more frequent topic of conversation over the last year, with stars like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love speaking out about their own battles with issues like depression and anxiety. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan is taking a deep dive into the subject this week with a five-part series on mental health and the NBA.

The first installment of MacMullan’s series featured some fascinating tidbits about individual players, along with an interesting note about the disagreement between the union and some team owners about how mental health issues ought to be handled. According to MacMullan, the player’s union insists that mental health treatment remain confidential, but multiple NBA owners want access to their players’ files, given their level of investment in those players. The NBA has sided with the players on issues of confidentiality.

For those interested in the subject, the second and third pieces in MacMullan’s series have also been published and are worth checking out. Parts four and five will go up later this week.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Which of the players eligible for rookie scale extensions this year are the best candidates to receive new deals? Tom Ziller of SBNation.com breaks it down, noting that Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are the only viable candidates for maximum-salary extensions now that Devin Booker has signed one.
  • Teams who lose a star player or find themselves trending downward after years of playoff contention should think long and hard before committing to tanking, according to Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders, who makes the case that an all-out tank isn’t always the best path for a rebuilding team to take.
  • The BIG3 announced several awards for its 2018 season, including Corey Maggette for MVP, Al Harrington for the “Too Hard to Guard” award, and – of course – Gary Payton for the title of Best Trash Talker (all Twitter links).

And-Ones: BIG3 Expansion, Chambers, Thunder

One of the co-founders of the BIG3 believes that the league is planning on expanding, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. Citing demand from players that would like to participate and the league’s own goal of expanding to new cities, Jeff Kwatinetz discussed the possibility when the league was in town over the weekend.

The idea of trying to figure the exact format for next year is something I think we will decide and wait a couple of weeks,” Kwatinetz said. “The demand is there and we’re not watering down the quality of the basketball. As long as we’re making it more competitive and incredible, then we will do that.”

One hurdle that the two-year-old league may face is managing its broadcasts, as only a few of the league’s games are televised on Fox Sports 1 on any given night. Adding more games would complicate that further.

Kwatinetz spoke about adding high profile NBA veterans to the Big3 as well as potentially cooperating with the league in a formal capacity. At this stage there have been no formal discussions between the two leagues.

There’s more from around the league:

  • It’s been ten years since the SuperSonics relocated from the Pacific Northwest to Oklahoma City. Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman wrote about the Thunder franchise’s impact on the city and the impact that the city’s identity has had on the club itself over the past decade.
  • Former NBA All-Star Tom Chambers has been charged with assault following an altercation at an Arizona restaurant, Bree Burkitt of The Arizona Republic writes.
  • As F5 Season winds down and NBA fans are left waiting for the start of training camp, now is your chance to get caught up on what has has (and what hasn’t) officially happened since July 1. We have a meticulously updated tool that tracks the player contract count for each NBA roster.

And-Ones: M. Brown, China, Evans, BIG3

Former NBA head coaches have been popular candidates for this spring’s coaching openings around the league, with David Fizdale, Steve Clifford, Frank Vogel, Mark Jackson, David Blatt, and Mike Woodson among the many names said to be under consideration for at least one job. Top Warriors assistant Mike Brown would fit comfortably in that group, but hasn’t yet been identified as a candidate for any head coaching jobs.

The former Cavaliers and Lakers head coach tells Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group that while he’d have interest in another head coaching opportunity, he’s perfectly happy to see things out with the Warriors as the club looks for its third title in four years.

“I want to be a head coach again. But if I hadn’t experienced that already and if I wasn’t in a situation that I’m already in right now, maybe the itch might be there more,” Brown said. “Maybe I might be focused more on that than the task at hand. But I’m really excited about trying to do what I can and do my part in helping us win again.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

And-Ones: Extension Candidates, BIG3, Sports Betting

With the NBA postseason set to tip off this weekend an equally intriguing offseason draws nearer. Recently, Keith Smith of RealGM took a nice, long look at the upcoming batch of players eligible to sign rookie contract extensions after July 1.

While some players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker are no-brainers for rich contract extensions, other players like Kristaps Porzingis and Myles Turner are intriguing cases.

Porzingis, Smith writes, could be a candidate for a conditional contract extension similar to the one Joel Embiid signed last summer. Turner, meanwhile, proved himself a worthy NBA starter early in his career but has dealt with injury setbacks of his own in the time since.

A number of the top lottery picks in the 2015 draft class aren’t likely to sign significant extensions, if they’re even eligible to do so at all. Two of the top five picks – Jahlil Okafor and Mario Hezonja – didn’t even have the fourth-year of their rookie deals picked up.

For a breakdown of all 30 first-round picks, how they fared through their first three seasons in the NBA and whether or not you can expect them to hit the restricted market in 2019, be sure to check out Smith’s full piece.

There’s more from around the NBA.

  • With discussion over the legalization of sports betting a hot topic these days, the NBA Player’s Association has issued a statement, urging consideration for players’ rights ahead of any consequent negotiations over associated fees. Ben Fawkes of ESPN has the latest about the pressing issue while Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors confirms that the NBA is open to having the union involved.
  • The BIG3 held its offseason draft last night in preparation for the league’s second season set to begin on June 22. Andre Owens, an international journeyman who played sparingly with the Jazz and Pacers over a decade ago was the first overall pick. Notable NBA alums, including Jason Maxiell, Quentin Richardson, the original Mike James and Bonzi Wells were also taken over the course of three rounds. Josh Peters of USA Today has a full breakdown of the draft.
  • The NBA draft order is set, ahead of the May 15th lottery that is. We broke down what happened when a series of tiebreakers decided the fates of 12 impacted teams.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, BIG3, Rice, Bolomboy

After his career year for the Celtics in 2016/17, Isaiah Thomas was traded to the Cavaliers before struggling in Cleveland being sent to the Lakers. Of those three teams, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype views the Lakers as the most likely to offer Thomas a new contract for 2018/19 this summer. However, L.A. won’t be the only potential fit for the high-scoring guard.

Urbina identifies the Bulls, Spurs, and Knicks as other teams that could potentially be landing spots for Thomas in free agency this offseason. In each case, Urbina views Thomas as a potential one- or two-year stopgap at the point guard position. For the Spurs, Urbina explains, Thomas could help bridge the gap between Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray, while in Chicago or New York, he could mentor youngsters Kris Dunn or Frank Ntilikina, respectively.

As we look forward to seeing which direction Thomas’ free agency takes, let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Ice Cube’s three-on-three BIG3 league is increasing its reach on the court, but the league has faced turmoil off the court within the last year. Rick Maese of The Washington Post breaks down the bizarre story of the BIG3’s off-court drama that includes Qatari investors, a fired commissioner (Roger Mason Jr.), and a billion-dollar lawsuit.
  • Top Israeli team Hapoel Holon has cut star player Glen Rice Jr. after he punched a teammate in the face, according to an Associated Press report. Rice, the son of former Heat star Glen Rice, had been the Israeli League’s leading scorer with more than 24 PPG this season.
  • Last week, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports presented a list of NBA assistant coaches who are viewed as potential head coaches by executives around the league. Former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale gave Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated a list of his own suggestions for head coaching candidates, with a focus on black assistants around the NBA.
  • Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow has shown interest in acquiring former NBA big man Joel Bolomboy for next season, a source tells Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. Bolomboy, who saw limited action for the Jazz and Bucks over the last two seasons, has also received interest from China, per Cauchi.

And-Ones: Andersen, Euroleague, Curry, Coaches

It wasn’t long ago that Chris Andersen was suiting up for the NBA’s defending champions — he appeared in his last NBA game in December 2016 for the Cavaliers. Less than a year and a half later, however, having not played for an NBA team this season, Andersen is eyeing a move to the BIG3.

The professional three-on-three league, entering its second season, recently announced (via Twitter) that Andersen has joined the 2018 draft pool. The 15-year NBA veteran known as Birdman appeared in nearly 700 total regular season games for Denver, Miami, New Orleans, Memphis, and Cleveland, averaging 5.4 PPG and 5.0 RPG.

While he hasn’t officially announced his retirement as an NBA player, Andersen’s move to the BIG3 may signal that one last NBA run isn’t in the cards for the veteran big man.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • There’s no question that the NBA is the world’s best basketball league, but for many former NBA players, life in the Euroleague isn’t so bad. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated spoke to a handful of those veterans who are playing international ball to see why they’ve decided to continue their respective careers overseas. “I have had more than a couple opportunities to go back,” said Real Madrid big man Anthony Randolph. “For me personally, I have stated to the teams that I talk to that I would want to have a significant role when I come back and I wanted to play. … I don’t want to go back to the NBA to sit on the bench and kind of waste a year or two of my career. I enjoy playing. I enjoy competing against guys. The competition has gotten so much better over here that I’m challenged every night playing overseas. I’m 100% at peace if I don’t go back to the NBA.”
  • While returning from his knee injury is Stephen Curry‘s top priority at the moment, the Warriors star is “definitely” still interested in getting involved in an ownership group for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Connor Letourneau of SFGate.com writes.
  • Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune examines how stress is taking a toll on head coaches around the NBA, including Steve Clifford of the Hornets and Tyronn Lue of the Cavaliers.
  • Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press explores the fine line between tanking and “player development” for some of the NBA’s worst teams.

And-Ones: NCAA Prospects, BIG3 Draft, McDaniels

Trae Young‘s late-season struggles have put Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on even terms with the much-hyped Oklahoma freshman for the status of top point guard in the draft. That’s one of the observations made by ESPN’s Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony in a look at first-round prospects whose teams were knocked out early in the NCAA tournament.

Missouri forward Michael Porter will have to show more than other players projected in the top half of the lottery during predraft workouts to solidify his status after a back injury sidelined him most of the season, according to Givony. Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s poor and abbreviated performance against Syracuse Sunday didn’t help the Michigan State freshman’s cause in comparisons to the draft’s other top big men, in Givony’s opinion.

In other news:

  • The BIG3 league will hold a combine on April 11th and its draft the following evening, according to a league press release. Approximately 100 players will compete for 19 available roster spots at the combine. All but two of the league’s eight teams will fill three roster spots during the draft. Championship team Trilogy must retain its existing roster to defend its title, while runner-up 3-Headed Monsters exercised its option to retain Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Kwame Brown and elected to place Eddie Basden back into the draft pool.
  • San Diego State freshman forward Jalen McDaniels will declare for the draft but won’t hire an agent, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.  He averaged 10.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG this season.
  • Hoops Rumors’ Arthur Hill provided insights on the Spurs, Wizards and top prospects in the NCAA tournament in his weekly mailbag column. Check it out here.

Clyde Drexler Named BIG3 Commissioner

Former Trail Blazers and Rockets star Clyde Drexler has been named the new commissioner of the BIG3 basketball league, according to a press release (via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today). Drexler was involved with the league last season as the coach of BIG3 team Power.

“Clyde is a consummate professional, revered businessman and indisputably one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball,” BIG3 co-founders and co-CEOs Jeff Kwatinetz and Ice Cube said in a statement. “We were thrilled to have his early support as a coach for our inaugural season and couldn’t be more pleased to welcome him to the executive team as BIG3 Commissioner.”

Ice Cube had been serving as the BIG3’s interim commissioner following the dismissal of Roger Mason Jr., who was recently fired by the league. Reports indicated that an alleged corruption scandal was the reason for Mason’s ouster, though the former veteran guard issued a statement this week refuting that idea, and calling the BIG3 work environment “hostile and racist.” Drexler will be tasked with moving the league beyond that scandal as it prepares for its second season this summer.

The BIG3, a three-on-three league that played its inaugural season in 2017, is made up almost exclusively of former NBA players, and has added several intriguing names to its initial player pool over the last few months. Metta World Peace, Amar’e Stoudemire, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Carlos Boozer, Baron Davis, Eddy Curry, and Greg Oden are among the former NBA vets expected to play in the BIG3 in 2018.