Kobe Bryant

Lakers Notes: Howard, Davis, Kuzma

Years after a disappointing first tour of duty with the Lakers, Dwight Howard is back in Hollywood. While he’s no longer a superstar, Howard has excelled in his role off the bench, providing L.A. with solid defense and rebounding.

Unexpectedly, one of his biggest supporters is Kobe Bryant. The former teammates’ bad blood from their lone season together has been well documented from both sides. Bryant labeled Howard “soft” and the big man has said he hated the former NBA MVP “for years” for making that comment. However, watching from afar this time, Bryant is thrilled for Howard’s success.

“I’m happy for him because sometimes we don’t realize how much we love the game and miss the game until that window starts closing or its closed,” Bryant said to The Los Angeles Times’ Arash Markazi. “Then you’re like, ‘Oh damn, I really miss playing the game. I want another opportunity to show what I can do.’ Sometimes you don’t know if that opportunity will ever come again. For him, I really believe he’s appreciative of the opportunity and I think he’s going to make a hell of an impact because of the new appreciation he has for playing the game.”

Check out more Lakers notes below:

  • The acquisition of Anthony Davis has helped make the Lakers a legitimate Finals contender, but the All-Star is content doing less in Los Angeles so that both he and LeBron James can impact the game, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes.
  • There has been a lot of chatter about Davis and whether or not he’s more effective playing the power forward or center positions. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register opines that L.A.’s best lineup may include Davis at center and that the return of Kyle Kuzma only further accentuates that point.
  • Speaking of Kuzma, the forward made his season debut on Friday night, totaling nine points and three rebounds in nearly 19 minutes. Head coach Frank Vogel has noted that the team will patient with Kuzma as he reintegrates with the team. “It’ll be a little bit of a learning curve for him, but hopefully it doesn’t take too long,” Vogel said.

And-Ones: FT Rule, Jeezy, Kobe, Scola, Title Odds

According to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days, there are some concerns regarding the new free throw rule implemented in the G League for the 2019/20 season.

One concern is whether the decrease in rest time (which would occur during second or third free throw attempts) could lead to more injuries. Another is whether coaches will forget to send players in for substitutions before the first (and only) free throw.

One G League front office employee is also concerned that the game flow would impact assignment players – their free throw attempts, as well as their in-game rhythm – as they adjust back and forth between the G League and the NBA.

“For us, we want the G League game to model the NBA as closely as possible… I understand what the league is trying to do but there are other options to consider before this one.”

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

  • Rapper Jeezy is launching his own sports agency called “Sports 99” and will begin representing NBA and NFL players, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
  • Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic explore some details about the select group of players that participated in the Mamba Sports Pro Invitational, hosted by Kobe Bryant, at the end of August.
  • Veteran forward Luis Scola has signed a deal with EuroLeague’s Olimpia Milano, head coach Ettore Messina announced, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando.
  • Adam Zagoria of Forbes notes that the LakersClippers, and Bucks are early favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship.

And-Ones: Spain, Bryant, Nowitzki, Tampering

Following Spain’s 95-75 gold medal victory over Argentina in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Sunday morning, head coach Sergio Scariolo praised his team’s hard work, determination and efforts.

Spain wound up finishing first in the competition, despite not having the likes of Serge Ibaka, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol, surprising observers around the tournament.

“I can only be proud of what these guys did and feel that basketball was fair to these guys,” Scariolo said, as relayed by Sportando’s Nicola Lupo. “We weren’t the tallest, the most talented we weren’t in the odds when the competitions started but we worked hard. They worked hard, they prepared, they kept fighting in tough moments. There were some really tough moments during a couple of games and they didn’t lose faith in themselves. And then basketball rewarded them with this big award which they fully deserve.”

Spain was led by players such as World Cup MVP Ricky Rubio and veteran center Marc Gasol, among others, winning its first title since 2006. The team also did a tremendous job neutralizing red-hot Luis Scola in the gold medal game, limiting him to just eight points on 1-of-10 shooting.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Kobe Bryant believes it doesn’t matter which NBA team has the best duo entering the 2019/20 season, explaining his thoughts in a recent interview. “It doesn’t matter. I think it matters what they put around those two guys, and then what is the offensive and defensive system they’re going to be executing. You could have marquee names and put those marquee names together, and guess if they could play together or not, but it ultimately comes down to what system do you have them in and how does that affect the rest of the guys.”
  • Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki has been appointed Chair of the FIBA Players Commission for the 2019-23 term, FIBA Basketball announced. “Dirk is one of the greatest players to have ever played basketball, and is highly respected worldwide,” FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis said. “He has had an exceptional career both with the NBA and with his national team and will bring with him a huge amount of experience and knowledge.  He is the perfect person for this position and  we look forward to working closely with him over the next term of office.” 
  • The NBA is fighting a losing battle when it comes to the topic of tampering, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. “I think it’s pointless at the end of the day to have rules that we can’t enforce,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “It hurts the perception of integrity around the league if people say, ‘Well, you have that rule and it’s obvious that teams aren’t fully complying, so why do you have it?’ I think the sense in the (Board of Governors meeting) room was we should revisit those rules.”

Warriors Notes: Green, Kobe, Cousins, Myers

A preseason encounter with Kobe Bryant helped Draymond Green prepare for the end of the Warriors‘ dynasty whenever it occurs, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Green had expected Bryant to be missing the game when they talked, but the former Lakers star was at peace with retirement and has moved on to the next chapter of his life.

“[Kobe is] not sitting in retirement like, ‘Man, I wish I can go be out there.’ No, he’s on to the next thing because [he] gave that one thing everything [he] had,” Green recounted. “And I think it will be very similar with this team. Whenever that point comes, we’re going to know that we gave it everything we got and you move on. But you feel good about moving on. You’re not sick about moving on.”

Golden State has faced more challenges than usual on its way to the top seed in the West. An early-season altercation between Green and Kevin Durant led to speculation that the Warriors would splinter apart, and the upcoming free agency for Durant, Klay Thompson and others threatens to break up a successful core.

“Whether it ends while we’re all together, whether it ends when everyone separates, it’s going to end at some point,” Green said. “That’s the nature of the game we play. The fact of the matter is whenever it ends, I think we maximized. Like, we’re going to have a feeling of we maximized what we could do.”

There’s more Warriors news to pass along:

  • Golden State’s five-year run of success can be traced back to a playoff loss to the Clippers in 2014, notes Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. After that series, the Warriors decided to fire Mark Jackson and replace him with Steve Kerr. Their young stars learned what it takes to succeed in the postseason, and former All-Star Andre Iguodala agreed to accept a role off the bench.
  • While his two former teams are making significant changes, DeMarcus Cousins is enjoying the first playoff series, Medina observes in a separate story. After 7 1/2 years of dysfunction in Sacramento and a poorly timed injury in New Orleans, Cousins is savoring the postseason experience, even though he hasn’t fully recovered from last year’s Achilles injury. “I’m not in tip-top shape where I’ve been at in my career. But I’m definitely headed in the right direction,” Cousins said. “I’m confident in my body. I’m confident with my movements. Obviously it’s not as crisp as I would like it to be. But everything is on the right path.”
  • Warriors president and GM Bob Myers laughs off rumors that he might be headed to L.A. to take over the Lakers, relays Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

And-Ones: Kobe, Wilkes, Young Cores

Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers and doesn’t regret doing so, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about what it would have been like to play for another franchise. In a Q&A with Frank Isola of The Athletic, Bryant suggested that the idea of playing for the Knicks was one that intrigued him.

“I always kind of dreamed about playing in New York and what that would have been like,” Bryant said. “It’s true. As a fan, the Garden was the historical arena. … There is like three historical arenas. Chicago Stadium and Boston Garden were torn down. The only thing left was MSG. So, I always wanted to be a part of that history and play in it. So, New York was a team … it would have been pretty good to play in that city.”

Bryant also shared some opinions on the Lakers, telling Isola that he thinks they’ll be “just fine” whether or not they decide to trade some of their younger players, and offered praise for Giannis Antetokounmpo (“He’s just scratching the surface”) and Zion Williamson (“Lot of potential”). He also laughed off Isola’s inquiry on whether he’d consider returning to the Lakers and teaming up with LeBron James.

“That’s an easy one … because I don’t want to play no more,” Kobe said. “I’m done.”

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

  • After testing the draft waters a year ago and ultimately returning to school, UCLA sophomore Kris Wilkes will sign with an agent and enter his name in the 2019 NBA draft, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Wilkes, the No. 67 prospect on ESPN’s big board, averaged 17.3 PPG on .432/.337/.671 shooting for the Bruins this year.
  • Which NBA teams appear to have the brightest futures based on their young talent? Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports tackles that question, identifying which clubs have the most promising young cores. The Sixers lead the way, while the Hawks, Bulls, and Suns fall outside of Goodwill’s top five.
  • A number of players who were bought out and/or waived last month have made an impact for new teams, according to Jordan Hicks of Basketball Insiders, who points to Wesley Matthews (Pacers) and Enes Kanter (Trail Blazers) as a couple veterans having success for their new clubs.

And-Ones: 2019 World Cup, Bryant, 2019 Draft

With the 2019 World Cup in China now just 10 months away, FIBA has announced that Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming will serve as global ambassadors for the event, taking part in activities leading up to next year’s tournament to help promote the event.

“Growing up in Italy and spending many years visiting China, I have always appreciated the global impact that basketball has had on the positive development of young people,” said Bryant, who has long been one of the NBA’s most popular players in China. “I’m honored FIBA has invited me to serve as an ambassador for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. I hope my participation inspires and motivates the best players from the 32 participating teams to represent their respective country on the world’s biggest stage. I look forward to seeing who will lift the trophy next year.”

Team USA hasn’t technically qualified for the 2019 World Cup yet, but is in position to do so comfortably, with a 7-1 record in qualifying games so far.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The struggling Cavaliers were the first NBA team to make major changes during the 2018/19 campaign, parting ways with Tyronn Lue and making major adjustments to their rotation just a handful of games into the season. Matt John of Basketball Insiders explores which teams around the league might be next to shake things up.
  • Firing a head coach is generally the simplest way a team can shake things up when it’s struggling, but the coach isn’t always to blame, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Meanwhile, an NBA.com panel explores which coaches might be feeling the heat next in the wake of Lue’s dismissal.
  • ESPN’s NBA draft gurus continued to examine the 2019 class this week, with Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz offering up their positional rankings for next year’s draft, while Givony, Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton attempt to answer some big questions about 2019’s class. Within that latter discussion, Givony suggests that none of the candidates for the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 have emerged as a lock.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Green, Cousins, Cauley-Stein

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant played a key role in bringing LeBron James to Los Angeles this summer, Sam Amick of The Athletic reveals in a new story.

Bryant, who spent his entire 20-season career with the Lakers, met with team owner Jeanie Buss in February of 2017 to deliver strong advice: Shake up the front office, start new and bring a new culture to the franchise.

“Jeanie, I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this s–t going on,” Bryant said, according to Amick. “It’s not going to happen. So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. You have the new practice facility (the UCLA Health Training Center) that we’re just moving into (in the summer of 2017). We’ve got new management, and off we go. But that player is not coming here unless you do that.

“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career,” Bryant explained. “You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bull—-, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp. You don’t want to do that. So I said, ‘You’ve got to start anew.’”

Buss listened to Bryant’s advice, firing older brother Jim Buss and letting go of general manager Mitch Kupchak. In turn, the team promoted Magic Johnson to president of basketball operations and hired Rob Pelinka as new general manager. Fast forward to July of 2018, and the new-look Lakers convinced James to sign a free-agent contract.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

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.

L.A. Notes: Gallinari, Kalamian, Berry, Kobe

After being slowed by injuries throughout last season, Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari has proclaimed himself healthy as he prepares for this weekend’s NBA Africa Game, relays Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Hand and glute issues limited Gallinari to 21 games in his first season with the Clippers after being acquired in an offseason trade. It’s a familiar story for Gallinari, who has only reached 70 games in a season twice in his career.

“Of course I will play. I got to show you some of the Gallo magic,” Gallinari joked in Wednesday’s conference call with reporters. “Yeah, yeah, everything is good. I’m very excited. I’m healthy now, body is good. So I can’t wait to start.”

Gallinari still has two years remaining on a three-year, $65MM deal he signed prior to a three-team trade that brought him from Denver to L.A. last summer. He will make $21,587,579 this season and $22,615,559 in 2019/20 with no team or player option on the final year. Gallinari fractured his right hand late in the season, but says it has fully healed.

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • Former Raptors assistant Rex Kalamian has officially joined the Clippers‘ coaching staff, the team announced on its website. Kalamian, who broke into the NBA as a scout with the Clippers in 1992, worked under Dwane Casey in Toronto for the past three years. L.A. also promoted G League coach Casey Hill to an assistant role with the NBA team.
  • Lakers guard Joel Berry has a huge goal for a player who wasn’t drafted. In an interview with Drew Ruiz of Hoops Hype, Berry said he hopes to be among the contenders for Rookie of the Year and talks about the feeling of being passed over on draft night. “It was pretty tough,” he recalled. “It’s always a dream to hear your name get called, but honestly, I’ve always taken the path where I was always overlooked and my game is not the flashiest – I just win – and that speaks more than being a flashy player.”
  • Kobe Bryant‘s wife is quashing any speculation that he might be thinking of a comeback, according to Alysha Tsuji of USA Today. Shaquille O’Neal sparked rumors of a return in a TMZ interview over the weekend, but Vanessa Bryant made it clear that it won’t happen. “Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again,” she wrote on Instagram. “He doesn’t want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without the crazy game schedule interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events.”