Lakers Rumors

More Reactions To Kobe Bryant’s Death

Despite some speculation that Sunday night’s games might be cancelled in the wake of Kobe Bryant‘s death, the NBA moved forward with those contests. Moments of silence were held before the games, eight- and 24-second violations were committed in Bryant’s honor, and many players admitted to being preoccupied with thoughts of the longtime Lakers star.

Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, who played on multiple Team USA squads with Bryant, said that basketball “was the furthest thing on my mind,” but that he believed Kobe would have wanted him to play, per Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“This probably was the hardest game I ever had to play,” Anthony said after scoring 14 points in the Blazers’ home win over Indiana. “Just uh … I don’t know … whoooo. It was tough. It was tough.”

Kyrie Irving, who was held out of Sunday’s Nets contest in New York for “personal reasons,” was said to be devastated by the death of Bryant, who had been his idol growing up, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details. According to Lewis, Irving left the arena altogether after hearing the news.

“I was with him. I’ll keep [the scene] private, but they were very close,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Irving. “Tough, tough, tough, tough times.”

There were “heavy hearts” in the other Madison Square Garden locker room as well, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who suggests that many Knicks players didn’t feel like going forward with the game.

“Somebody said to me earlier, ‘Superman is not supposed to die,'” Knicks forward Marcus Morris said. “And to us, he was Superman. I just feel sorry for his family. And the other passengers on there, I feel sorry for their families. It’s just a tough day.”

Blake Murphy of The Athletic provides a look at the Spurs and Raptors players who were heartbroken by the news, while Chris Kirschner of The Athletic looks at the reaction of Hawks guard Trae Young, who received a congratulatory FaceTime call from Kobe and his daughter Gianna after he was named an All-Star starter. Young, who began the game wearing a No. 8 jersey, became the first player to record a 45-point double double on fewer than 25 field goal attempts since Bryant did it in 2006.

Here’s more:

  • According to a report from CBS Los Angeles, the nine people who were killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash have all been identified. Several of those victims have since been profiled by various outlets, with Alden Gonzalez of ESPN discussing Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, Scott Gleeson of USA Today writing about girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, and Molly Knight of The Athletic remembering Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gigi Bryant.
  • More details are emerging on the circumstances surrounding Sunday’s crash, according to Paula Lavigne of ESPN, who writes that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters on Sunday morning due to foggy conditions. It remains to be seen whether those visibility issues were the reason for the crash, and the full investigation may take weeks, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.
  • Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times explore how Lakers players reacted to the death of the franchise legend.
  • Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, who was one of a handful of full-time Lakers beat writers during Kobe’s early years, examines how Bryant evolved into an NBA icon.
  • The list of current players who looked up to Bryant and counted on him for advice is long, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic, who notes that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard were among the superstars who fit that bill.
  • An ESPN report details the worldwide impact of Bryant’s death, sharing reactions from around Europe and Asia.

Silver, Jordan, Others React To Kobe’s Passing

The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant has affected countless lives across the globe, with several prominent NBA figures releasing statements on social media to honor the 41-year-old legend.

Bryant, along with the pilot and seven other passengers (including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna), passed away in a horrific helicopter crash early Sunday morning. The crash occured in Calabases, California, with the helicopter reportedly in route to a travel basketball game.

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning.  He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary:  five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna. 

“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.”

Here are some other reactions from those closest to Bryant:

  • Hornets owner Michael Jordan released a statement expressing his sadness. “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much,” part of the statement read.
  • Lakers legend Magic Johnson also offered some words on Bryant (Twitter links): “As I try to write this post, my mind is racing. I’m in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken. I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court.”
  • NBA legend Jerry West released the following statement: “The news we’ve all received today is the most devastating news that anyone can imagine. I am so saddened for Kobe’s parents, Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, Capri, Kobe’s sisters and all of the NBA fans that hold Kobe in their heart. This loss of Kobe, Gianna, and everyone on board, is beyond tragic and incomprehensible. I will love Kobe forever and always cherish the time that I spent with him. I watched him grow from an energetic kid into the man he became, making a difference in so many people’s life. He has left the world a better place. Kobe’s legacy will live forever.”
  • Barack Obama, who served as president for several years during Bryant’s playing career, stated the following: “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
  • Dwyane Wade, Bryant’s longtime competitor and Olympic teammate, offered this heartfelt thought: Heroes come and go LEGENDS live forever #8 #24″
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced that no other Maverick will wear No. 24 in honor of Bryant. “We are shocked and saddened by the devastating news of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” he said. “Kobe was an ambassador for our game, a decorated legend and a global icon. Above all, he was a loving and dedicated father. Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball, and our organization has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick. Our hearts go out to all the lives lost and the families impacted by this terrible tragedy. We send our thoughts and prayers to Vanessa and the family, the Lakers organization and Kobe Bryant fans everywhere.”

Reactions To Kobe Bryant’s Passing

The NBA world was stunned today when future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Maria Onore Bryant died in a fatal helicopter crash that killed seven other people. The NBA sent out a confirmatory email verifying the passing of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter link).

Several key sites in Bryant’s life are already being flooded with tributes and fans. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets that hundreds of fans have arrived at the scene of the crash in Calabasas, with the wreckage still smoking. Rich Hoffman of The Athletic (Twitter link) documented a small shrine to Bryant developing at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, Bryant’s alma matter. The Athletic’s Brett Dawson took stock of mourners gathering at Staples Center (Twitter link), the Lakers’ current home arena.

ESPN.com compiled the reflections of several NBA players and non-basketball athletes (present and retired), including Joel Embiid, Tony Parker, Kareem Abdul-JabbarScottie Pippen, and Tom Brady.

Bryant’s two most important teammates, Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal (Twitter links) and future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol (Twitter link), also penned moving tributes.

Though all of today’s NBA games appear on track to continue, not all the players are up for logging time. Nets guard Kyrie Irving, famously close with Bryant, will be sitting out today’s tilt against the Knicks, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link).

Here are more reactions to Bryant’s death:

  • Scott Horner of the Indianapolis Star compiled many of the tributes from current and historic Pacers, including Reggie Miller and Myles Turner, plus other NBA and sports luminaries.
  • European football star Neymar dedicated his second goal this evening to Bryant, according to ESPN FC (Twitter link).
  • Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry paid tribute to Bryant’s appreciation for his legions of fans in comments to reporters, captured by Ben Golliver of the Washington Post (Twitter link). “The last game he was here he stood right there in that locker room and signed every piece of memorabilia,” Gentry said. “That’s the side of him that people didn’t see.”
  • Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, whose Celtics battled Bryant’s Lakers in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals, was in tears talking to reporters. “The news is just devastating to everybody who knew him,” Rivers said (video link via NBA TV). “He means a lot to me obviously… I was getting to know him more since he retired. This is a tough one.”
  • ESPN reporter J.A. Adande, who covered a vast majority of Bryant’s playoff games, spoke on Bryant’s legendary work ethic during a SportsCenter conversation. “Since the year 2000, he has been the predominant Los Angeles athlete,” Adande said. “LA fans have always appreciated hard work… he was a dedicated player, a hardworking player.” ESPN reporter Jay Williams paid tribute to Bryant on SportsCenter (Twitter link) as well.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated proposes having both All-Star teams this season wear tributary jerseys for Bryant’s two jersey numbers (Twitter link). Mannix proposed that Team LeBron could wear No. 8, while Team Giannis could wear No. 24.

Kobe Bryant Dies In Helicopter Crash

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning in Calabasas, California, according to a report from TMZ. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter) is among those who have confirmed the report.

Bryant and eight other people are dead after his private helicopter crashed and caught fire on a hillside in the Calabasas area, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (Twitter link). Initial reports from TMZ and others had indicated that Bryant was one of just five people on board, but Villanueva confirmed there were eight passengers, plus the pilot.

Kobe’s wife Vanessa Bryant wasn’t among the passengers on the helicopter, according to TMZ. However, reps for Bryant tell TMZ Sports that his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore was also on board and died in the crash.

TMZ’s report suggests that the helicopter was on the way to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball practice, while Wojnarowki reports that it was en route to a travel basketball game. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), another player and parent were also on board.

It’s a shocking and devastating development for the NBA community. Bryant, who was just 41 years old, is considered one of the league’s greatest players of all-time and is only four years removed from appearing in his final All-Star Game. Although Bryant was a Laker for his entire career, he’s connected in various ways to a number of franchises around the NBA, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic observes (via Twitter).

Many of today’s stars also grew up idolizing Kobe, a five-time NBA champion who earned 15 All-NBA nods, 18 All-Star berths, 12 All-Defensive honors, a pair of scoring titles, and is the league’s fourth all-time leading scorer, averaging 25.0 PPG in 1,346 career regular season games. Both of the uniform numbers he wore for the Lakers – Nos. 8 and 24 – have been retired by the franchise.

Following his retirement in 2016, Bryant hosted offseason camps for current NBA players, most recently in the summer of 2019. Besides stars like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving, young players such as Jamal Murray, John Collins, and Aaron Gordon participated in those camps.

News of Bryant’s death comes less than 24 hours after LeBron James passed him in all-time points. Bryant’s last tweet, published on Saturday, lauded James for “continuing to move the game forward.” LeBron, meanwhile, was effusive in his praise for Bryant this week.

“It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,” LeBron said, per ESPN. “Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling and it’s dope.

“Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.”

We at Hoops Rumors send our condolences to Bryant’s family and friends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Notes: Kuzma, LeBron, Howard, KCP

It’s too early to declare that Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma can’t be effective alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. He notes that Kuzma missed training camp because of a foot injury he suffered with Team USA and didn’t get a chance to develop chemistry with his All-Star teammates. Kuzma has been mentioned as a possible trade option, but coach Frank Vogel says his value to the team is increasing.

“His rhythm is growing, with our offense, with his new teammates, with the defensive schemes,” Vogel said. “All those things when they change frequently for a young player, it can be a challenge. But I think he is coming around … he has got to make the right plays. Sometimes that means you don’t take as many shots because the defense is rotating to you or double teaming you. That’s something we preach to the whole team … it’s not different with Kyle. Some nights he is going to facilitate more, some nights he is going to be the recipient more.”

Mannix believes the Lakers will decide to keep Kuzma and hope he becomes a consistent third scoring option. He points out that Kuzma is only 24 and is trying to find his role on a team that has undergone considerable changes in the last two offseasons.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • After James passed Kobe Bryant last night to move into third place on the career scoring list, the all-time record now seems attainable, states Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. James remains at the top of his game at age 35 and is averaging more than 25 PPG for the 16th straight season. He needs 4,733 points to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which would mean averaging about 20 PPG for three more years.
  • Sean Deveney of Heavy examines whether the Lakers are willing to pay Dwight Howard enough to keep him when he becomes a free agent this summer. A rival executive tells Deveney that Howard should be able to demand “a good part” of L.A.’s $9.7MM mid-level exception. “I am very happy here,” Howard said of L.A. “I like being here, I am having fun being here. I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but I know I can’t think about that or focus on it. I am just focused on being here.”
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has overcome a rough start to become an important contributor, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. He has also quieted the boos at Staples Center that were frequent when his shot was misfiring early in the season. “He trusts his talent,” assistant coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do, from coming off the bench to starting, to coming off again. That’s a true pro.”

Mavs Notes: Cauley-Stein, Broekhoff, Cash, Green

The Mavericks officially acquired Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors yesterday, but it’s not clear when he’ll start playing, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Cauley-Stein will report to the team today in Oklahoma City, but probably not in time for an afternoon practice. He may see a few minutes Monday against the Thunder or Tuesday against the Suns, but coach Rick Carlisle isn’t committing to either game.

“We’ll give him the crash course and try to simplify things for him initially, get him going and see where we are,” Carlisle said.

Forward Ryan Broekhoff could return tomorrow from a fractured left fibula, which lessens the need to use Cauley-Stein before he becomes familiar with the playbook. Carlisle said he spoke with his new center, who is excited to be joining the team.

“We think he’s a guy that has some really unique abilities,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to get him integrated and get him ready. He’s a rim-protector. He’s a rim-roller. His rebounding is good. We feel there’s areas that he can get better. I talked to him a little bit about those things. We’ll coach him hard, and with a lot of respect, and we’ll see where we can help his game go from here.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • The Mavericks received an A-minus grade on the deal from Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, who notes that Cauley-Stein is an above-average pick-and-roll threat who will benefit from a chance to play alongside Luka Doncic. He adds that Cauley-Stein is a better rebounder than Dwight Powell, who was lost for the season with an Achilles injury this week.
  • Dallas received $800K in cash from the Thunder in a separate deal that sent Isaiah Roby to Oklahoma City in exchange for Justin Patton, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Patton was waived to open a roster spot for Cauley-Stein.
  • Danny Green talked to ESPN’s Zach Lowe on The Lowe Post podcast this week about the Mavericks’ pursuit of him in free agency over the summer. Green signed a two-year, $30MM deal with the Lakers, but said if L.A. would have used that money to sign Kawhi Leonard, then Dallas would have been his next choice.

LeBron On Possible Trades: "We Have Enough Right Now"

  • Asked by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link) if the Lakers need one more piece to cement their place as a championship contender, LeBron James declined to lobby for an upgrade. We have enough right now,” he replied.

Howard Will Be Dunking On All-Star Weekend

  • In an unusual decision for a player of his age, Dwight Howard has decided to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend, according to a league press release. Howard, who has turned into a valuable member of the Lakers’ bench, participated in three previous dunk contests early in his career but hasn’t been in one since 2009.

Knicks Notes: Rebuilding, Development, Davis, Smith Jr.

Following their failure to land a star on the free agent market last summer, the Knicks are in the midst of another long rebuild, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. Their young players have not shown signs of future stardom and the seven veteran free agents signed over the summer have failed to lift the franchise from the bottom of the standings, Popper continues. Most of the young players, as well as the veterans, are on the trading block. That includes Julius Randle, the only free agent who received a full guarantee on the second year of his contract.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • The club is struggling with the dilemma of improving its chances of winning by playing veterans and devoting more time to toward developing young players, as Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic details. The Knicks have doled approximately 40% of their minutes to players 22 years old or younger, second in the NBA behind only the Hawks, but have relied on their veterans in recent games.
  • The home game against the Lakers on Wednesday provided the only opportunity this season for fans to show some love for potential free agent Anthony Davis, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. Signing with the woeful Knicks doesn’t appear to be on Davis’ radar but the Knicks will have plenty of cap room and Berman, citing sources, claims Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, would one day like to bring his superstar client to New York.
  • Guard Dennis Smith Jr. was available to play on Wednesday, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets. Smith missed the last 13 games due to an oblique strain.

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Clippers, Frank, Kings

When his name popped up in Anthony Davis-related trade rumors a year ago, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma followed the NBA rumor mill with interest, but ultimately stayed put even when the team swung a deal for Davis in the summer. Kuzma has once again been identified as a potential trade candidate this season, but he believes he has gotten better at blocking out that speculation this time around, per Bill Oram of The Athletic.

“I consumed it more last year,” he said. “This year is different I don’t care at all, but last year it was new and foreign, so it was like more of a can’t-really-escape-it thing. But for me it’s a little bit easier now. I don’t really have my Twitter like that. I don’t really use it.”

As Oram notes, the Lakers are no longer in developmental mode like they were in Kuzma’s first year or two in the league, and the third-year forward is one of the only young players left on the roster. As such, the club needs Kuzma to be on its timeline, which has put some added pressure on him this season. He has done his best to live up to those expectations.

“Everybody knows that I’m a learner and I want to become a good player,” Kuzma said. “So everybody’s helping me. I think it reflects in my game all the way down from my defense learning from Avery (Bradley), Dwight (Howard), A.D. and offensively just slowing down, develop my pick-and-roll game from other guys.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Clippers have moved into a tie for second place in the Western Conference with a 30-13 record, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the franchise in the first season of its new super-team era, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. After a first half that saw players express frustration about a lack of cohesion and Doc Rivers express annoyance at inconsistent effort, the club will be looking to put it all together in the second half as the postseason approaches.
  • Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Lawrence Frank ascended to the top of the Clippers‘ front office after a long career as a coach. As Iseman details, the Clippers’ current president of basketball operations was initially reluctant to take on the role due to his lack of management experience.
  • The Kings have already made one significant trade this winter, sending three players to Portland for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, and two second-round picks. However, they may not be done. James Ham of NBC Sports California previews the trade deadline for Sacramento, exploring what moves could be coming next.