Kobe Bryant

Latest On Lakers: Jackson, Buss, Pelinka, James, Bryant, Westbrook, Vogel

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been in frequent contact with owner Jeanie Buss regarding team matters all season long, according to The Athletic’s Bill Oram and Sam Amick.

It’s uncertain if Jackson, Buss’ ex-fiance, will eventually take a formal role in the future. However, she has relied upon trusted members of her inner circle throughout the team’s tumultuous season and will continue to lean on them to map out the franchise’s offseason approach. Jackson has taken a particular interest in the what The Athletic duo describes as the often uncomfortable dynamics surrounding the Russell Westbrook situation.

It’s unlikely that there will be a change at the top of the team’s front office structure, according to Oram and Amick. GM Rob Pelinka still has Buss’ full support and trust. Kurt Rambis, who works alongside Pelinka as a senior basketball advisor, also remains a strong and trusted voice with the organization.

The story also delves into several other hot topics regarding the Lakers:

  • Among LeBron James‘ inner circle, there are already discussions about the roster and what can be done to fix it for next season. Buss is eager to maintain the trust of James and wants to keep her biggest star happy. The post-All-Star break meeting with James’ representative, super-agent Rich Paul, was aimed at keeping both sides on good terms and quelling any controversies regarding James’ future. Sources close to James insist he does not have issues with the team’s power structure, per Oram and Amick.
  • Kobe Bryant, who was represented by Pelinka, would have been offered a hands-on role in the front office by Buss if not for his untimely death.
  • Coach Frank Vogel will likely be fired unless the team makes a surprising postseason run, per Oram and Amick. However, no final decision has been made.
  • The coaching staff made an unsuccessful push for Westbrook to be traded, according to The Athletic’s duo, who also confirm reports that there’s a growing disconnect between the point guard and the staff, even though Vogel has kept him in the starting lineup.

Lakers Notes: James, Davis, Pelinka, Identity

LeBron James needs to offer the Lakers a commitment before they decide what to do with him and the roster in general this offseason, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. James is eligible for a two-year extension after the season but otherwise would become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023. If James is intent on returning to Cleveland, their trade options would be limited, similar to what happened in Brooklyn when James Harden expressed his desire to play in Philadelphia.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Trading James is the Lakers’ only viable path to success in the coming years, according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, who contends that LeBron’s trade value offers the greatest rewards for the lowest risk, since no team wants Russell Westbrook‘s contract and declining production while Anthony Davis presents major injury concerns for would-be suitors. James could be a worthwhile one-year rental for a top contender and the Lakers could acquire some badly needed young talent.
  • James has wielded more power within the Lakers than Kobe Bryant ever did, sources inside the organization told Bill Oram of The Athletic. James and agent Rich Paul are putting the squeeze on GM Rob Pelinka and the front office with tensions at an all-time high. The Lakers’ front office doesn’t want to squabble with James, Oram adds, and Pelinka has insisted internally that there are no hard feelings between the two sides.
  • The season has gone too far along and there’s too many deficiencies for the Lakers to establish a positive identity the rest of the way, scouts told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

Kyrie Irving Pushes For Kobe Bryant To Be NBA Logo

After advocating for the change on Instagram, Nets guard Kyrie Irving doubled down on his belief that legend Kobe Bryant should be depicted on the NBA logo.

“We want to set a standard and precedent, like this is excellence,” Irving told reporters, including ESPN’s Malika Andrews after a win over the Kings on Thursday. “Kobe Bryant. Logo. Yes. Needs to happen. I don’t care what anyone says.”

Ever since Bryant tragically perished in a helicopter crash in Jan. 2020 with his daughter Gianna and seven others, there has been a movement to put the Hall-of-Famer on the NBA logo.

As Andrews notes, a Change.org petition to make the Lakers legend the NBA logo, started after Bryant’s untimely death, has garnered over 3.2 million signatures. However, it remains unlikely that the logo, currently depicting basketball legend Jerry West, is changed anytime soon. There are several other high-profile names that would likely get consideration if the logo were to be changed.

For Irving, however, a change involving Bryant would be the ultimate honor of his legacy.

“He was the standard for our generation and he will continue on,” Irving said. “And I want that to be something in history that is changed forever. That our generation was part of that change. And, you know, if that means that I have to lead that forward and get the conversation going, then great. But I think he deserves it, I think his family deserves it, I think we deserve it as seeing greatness personified, as Mamba. And anyone that’s coming into the league should know that that’s the example that was set.”

2020 Hall Of Fame Ceremony To Be Delayed Until 2021

The 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony won’t take place this August, as initially planned. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony will tentatively be pushed back to the spring of 2021, according to the chairman of the Hall’s board of governors, Jerry Colangelo (story via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN).

This year’s star-studded class of Hall of Fame inductees is headed by Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and the late Kobe Bryant. Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, former college coach Eddie Sutton, longtime WNBA star Tamika Catchings, former FIBA and IOC executive Patrick Baumann, and veteran women’s basketball coaches Kim Mulkey and Barbara Stevens are also part of the 2020 class.

The induction ceremony for the nine new members of the Hall had been scheduled for the weekend of August 28-30, with proposed alternate dates of October 10-12. However, Colangelo tells MacMullan that those dates are “just not feasible” due to COVID-19’s impact on large gatherings.

“We’re definitely canceling,” Colangelo said to ESPN. “It’s going to have to be the first quarter of next year. We’ll meet in a couple of weeks and look at the options of how and when and where.”

Despite the delay, Colangelo made it clear that the Basketball Hall of Fame doesn’t intend to eventually merge the 2020 class with its 2021 class, which figures to be announced next spring — the plan is still to hold two separate ceremonies.

“We won’t be combining them,” Colangelo said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

And-Ones: Game Ball, Mo Williams, Zion, Kobe

The NBA will be making a change to its on-court product starting in 2021/22 that figures to be felt by players — even if it’s hardly noticed by fans. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the NBA’s long-standing relationship with Spalding is coming to an end, as the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways. The league has reached a deal with Wilson to produce the NBA’s official game ball, starting in ’21/22.

As Haynes details, the NBA has been using Spalding balls since 1983, though Wilson manufactured the league’s game balls before that. Wilson, which will also begin producing balls for the WNBA and G League, is already the official game ball of the NCAA tournament.

According to Haynes, the NBA and NBPA will have a significant amount of input on the new game ball, and the leather and product specifications will remain unchanged, which should go a long way toward creating a smooth transition from Spalding to Wilson.

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

  • Former NBA guard Mo Williams has been hired by Alabama State as the school’s new men’s basketball head coach, according to a press release from the program. Williams, who had previously been an assistant coach at California State University at Northridge (CSUN), had a 13-year NBA career, earning an All-Star spot in 2009 and a championship in 2016, his final season.
  • The legal battle between Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and his former marketing representative – Prime Sports Marketing president Gina Ford – took another interesting step forward this week, as Ford’s attorneys are pushing to get Williamson to admit he accepted unauthorized benefits at Duke. Dana O’Neil and Diamond Leung of The Athletic and Michael McCann of SI.com have shared informative breakdowns explaining what to make of the latest developments in the case.
  • The facility previously known as the Mamba Sports Academy is dropping the “Mamba” moniker, announcing that it will retire that part of the name and “raise it to the rafters” in honor of the late Kobe Bryant. After initially stating that the decision was made out of respect for Kobe’s legacy, Sports Academy later clarified that “it was a mutual agreement made in accordance with the wishes of (Bryant’s) estate.”

And-Ones: Japan, Dinwiddie, Tavares, Kobe

Japan’s B.League may serve as a cautionary tale as the NBA weighs whether resuming its season will be possible, writes David Aldridge of The Athletic. As Aldridge details, Japan’s basketball league attempted to resume play in mid-March after suspending play in February, but only got in one weekend of games before the season was canceled for good on March 27.

According to Aldridge, several players and at least one referee contracted COVID-19 following the resumption of the season, and multiple players refused to play any more games.

While Japan’s league didn’t attempt playing in a “bubble” city, all players and teams were practicing social distancing and games were being played without fans in attendance. Former NBA forward DaJuan Summers, who was playing in Japan this season, saw first-hand how the league’s attempt to restart was derailed, and isn’t sure that the NBA will be able to successfully pull it off this summer.

“I understand the risk,” Summers told Aldridge. “I don’t think it’s worth it. I don’t think it’s worth it right now. Of course, we all want see if LeBron (James) and A.D. (Anthony Davis) and those guys are gonna win a Finals. Or if (Giannis) Antetokounmpo is finally going to get to the Finals in the East without LeBron or Kawhi (Leonard) over there stopping him. There’s so many basketball lovers that’s hurting right now. But more importantly, there’s so many people dying.”

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

  • A Nigerian Basketball Federation official tells Colin Udoh of ESPN that conversations about adding Spencer Dinwiddie to Nigeria’s national team have been going on for about a year, despite the fact that the Nets guard has no obvious connection to the country. Dinwiddie is reportedly trying to acquire a Nigerian passport through naturalization to play for the team in the Tokyo Olympics.
  • Former Hawks and Cavaliers big man Walter (Edy) Tavares told Portuguese website DTudo1Pouco (hat tip to Nicola Lupo of Sportando) that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a return to the NBA, despite his current long-term contract with Real Madrid in Spain.
  • Family members of four passengers who died in the January helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the companies that owned and operated the aircraft, according to Brian Melley of The Associated Press. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, previously filed suit against Island Express Helicopters Inc. and its owner Island Express Holding Corp.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Kobe, Warriors, Clippers

With no end to the NBA’s hiatus in sight, the Lakers intend to ask a small group of senior-level staffers to voluntarily defer 20% of their salaries, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Dave McMenamin of ESPN explains in a full report, the team is attempting to shield lower-level employees from losing out on any salary. The approach is similar to the one taken by the NBA last month, when the league reduced salaries for about 100 of its top-earning executives by 20%.

The Sixers briefly considered reducing salaries for their full-time employees last month before a PR backlash prompted the team to reverse course. Philadelphia’s cuts would have targeted at-will employees earning at least $50K per year. If the Lakers are focused only on higher-earning staffers and intend to defer – rather than altogether eliminate – that 20%, they likely won’t face the same kind of backlash the 76ers did.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

Bryant, Garnett, Duncan Joined By Six Others In Hall Class

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have officially been named to the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 2020, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. They are joined by Rudy Tomjanovich, Eddie Sutton, long-time WNBA star Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens and Patrick Baumann, Bontemps adds.

In essence, every finalist for Hall of Fame consideration this year received enough votes for induction. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Word leaked on Friday that Bryant, Garnett, Duncan and Tomjanovich would be inducted, though it was a foregone conclusion that the late Bryant, Garnett and Duncan — three of the game’s all-time greats — would received the required votes.

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion, winning the MVP award in 2008 to go along with a pair of Finals MVPs. He is fourth on the league’s all-time scoring list and won scoring titles in 2006 and 2007.

Duncan won three Finals MVPs and five titles in total. Like Bryant, he was named to an All-NBA team 15 times over the course of his career. The longtime Spurs‘ big man was one of the best players of his era, ranking sixth on the NBA’s all-time rebounding list and fifth in blocked shots.

Garnett earned 15 All-Star nods, an MVP award (in 2004), a Defensive Player of the Year award (2008), and a title in 2008 with the Celtics. Garnett, who began his career with the Timberwolves, ranks in the NBA’s top 20 in career points, rebounds, blocks, and steals.

Tomjanovich is one of just three coaches to win both an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. He coached the Rockets to a pair of championships in the mid-1990s and had an impressive career as a Rockets player prior to his coaching days, earning five NBA All-Star nods in his 11-year career.

Sutton is a four-time National Coach of the Year and was the first coach to lead four different schools to the NCAA Tournament.

Catchings is a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. She was also named WNBA MVP in 2011. Mulkey has coached Baylor to three NCAA national championships, including last season. Stevens has coached in the collegiate ranks for over 40 years and is the fifth coach in NCAA women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 career wins. Baumann is a longtime FIBA executive.

It remains to be seen if this year’s induction ceremony will take place as scheduled on August 29 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Kobe, Duncan, Garnett, Tomjanovich To Be Inducted Into Hall Of Fame

Former NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).

This year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony figures to be an emotional affair, with Bryant headlining the 2020 class just months after his tragic passing. The Lakers‘ legend was an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion, winning the MVP award in 2008 to go along with a pair of Finals MVPs. He is fourth on the league’s all-time scoring list and won scoring titles in 2006 and 2007.

Bryant will be joined by a pair of fellow NBA champions, including Duncan, who won three Finals MVPs and five titles in total. Like Bryant, he was named to an All-NBA team 15 times over the course of his career. The longtime Spurs‘ big man was one of the best players of his era, ranking sixth on the NBA’s all-time rebounding list and fifth in blocked shots.

While Garnett’s résumé isn’t quite as decorated as that of Bryant and Duncan, he earned 15 All-Star nods, an MVP award (in 2004), a Defensive Player of the Year award (2008), and a title in 2008 with the Celtics. Garnett, who began his career with the Timberwolves, ranks in the NBA’s top 20 in career points, rebounds, blocks, and steals.

Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett may be this year’s headliners, but they aren’t the only ones being inducted into the Hall of Fame. According to Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link), former Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich has also been elected.

Tomjanovich is one of just three coaches to win both an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. He coached Houston to a pair of championships in the mid-1990s and had an impressive career as a Rockets player prior to his coaching days, earning five NBA All-Star nods in his 11-year career.

Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, Eddie Sutton, and Barbara Stevens were announced as Hall of Fame finalists in February — it’s unclear if anyone from that group will be inducted into the 2020 class alongside Bryant, Duncan, Garnett, and Tomjanovich. The official announcement will happen on Saturday.

It remains to be seen what form this year’s induction ceremony will take. It’s scheduled to happen on August 29 in Springfield, Massachusetts, but there’s no guarantee that the coronavirus situation will have improved enough by then to hold large-scale gatherings.

Lakers Notes: Kobe’s Memorial, Waiters, Roster

Nearly a month after Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were killed in a tragic helicopter crash, a memorial service was held today at the Staples Center to honor their memory. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Hornets owner Michael Jordan, and Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant were among those who spoke at the emotional event, as an ESPN story outlines.

In addition to publicly mourning her late husband on Monday, Vanessa Bryant has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters Inc. and the “representative or successor” of pilot Ara Zobayan, per an ESPN and Associated Press report. The lawsuit claims that Zobayan was careless and negligent by flying in poor weather conditions rather than aborting the flight.

Here’s more on the Lakers and their late superstar:

  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN has an in-depth look at how Lakers players and staffers found out about Bryant’s death on January 26. The team was flying from Philadelphia to Los Angeles following a five-game road trip when the news broke, making for a somber, miserable cross-country flight.
  • On his latest Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirms that the Lakers met with Dion Waiters last week, as was expected. According to Windhorst (hat tip to RealGM), the team is “mulling” the idea of signing him, since it could use “perimeter player who can score a little bit.” However, L.A. will want to see what sort of condition the veteran guard is in. An earlier report suggested the Lakers may have to be won over by Waiters in the same way they were by Dwight Howard last summer.
  • In case you missed it, the Lakers officially signed Markieff Morris on Sunday, waiving DeMarcus Cousins to make room on the roster. As we relayed earlier today, Cousins and the Lakers are said to have mutual interest in a new deal in the offseason.