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If there is some good to come out of the rotator cuff injury that sidelined Kobe Bryant for the remainder of the season, it is that the Lakers could lose a whole lot of games the rest of the way and finally be in position to draft a Kobe guy—this time, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson. Several times in recent years, Bryant has formed a connection with a top prospect in the upcoming draft, with an introduction and the possibility of workouts and friendship. Those players wind up signing with Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka. Such was the case with Dante Exum last year, Derrick Williams in 2011 and James Harden in 2009. But the Lakers could, finally, wind up with a Kobe draftee. According to league sources, Pelinka is in position to sign the fast-rising Johnson, should Johnson do the inevitable and leave school early. As Arizona has pushed its way up the rankings—they’re 18-2 and currently No. 6—Johnson’s stock has soared. Sporting News

January 25, 2015 Updates
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When the University of Washington played Cal last week, there was, in attendance, a growing flock of stone-faced note-takers observing. They were NBA scouts—about a dozen of them—and while both the Huskies and the Bears have players who have garnered interest, there should be no doubt about who was headlining: Washington’s 7-0 center, Robert Upshaw. “I would agree that he was a sleeper to start this season, maybe,” one league scout told SN. “He is not a sleeper anymore.” Sporting News

Upshaw wound up at Fresno State, but he was immature and probably stayed too close to home. He failed to do much on the court, averaging 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds, struggling to keep up in practices and in the classroom. He was suspended twice and dismissed from the team the summer after his freshman year. He also had some knee problems, which will surely be monitored by league executives. Upshaw spent that summer working with former NBA star John Lucas, and transferred to Washington last year, which required that he sit out last season. While there were rumors he might not last with the Huskies, either, he managed to pull himself together—on and off the court—during his time off. Sporting News

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