DIPO BACK: Prior to the final minute of last night’s game between Indiana and Chicago, Victor Oladipo had been going through a forgettable return from injury, shooting 1-for-7 from the floor and scoring just six points. Then, with 13 seconds remaining and Indiana down by three, Oladipo caught the ball on the wing with a defender near him, and after a brief hesitation, the All-Star guard rose up and attempted a deep three-pointer to tie the game. Nothing but net.
The Pacers would go on to win the contest 115-106, and afterwards, Oladipo discussed his game-tying shot, emotionally telling Fox Sports Indiana that he used his Mamba Mentality on that audacious jumper, and that he dedicated the three-pointer to Kobe Bryant, Gigi and the other victims of Sunday’s tragic accident. Oladipo’s courage on that crucial look definitely resembled Kobe’s, as the former Laker rarely let a rough shooting night deter him from attempting a clutch jumper. Oladipo didn’t either.
Indiana, now 31-17 on the season and sitting fifth in the East, is about to get a major boost from Oladipo’s return, as his shot-making prowess and defensive chops are going to make the Pacers even tougher.
KOBE TRIBUTE: Kobe’s late wife, Vanessa Bryant, made her first public comments since the tragic accident, thanking everyone for the support that has been sent their family’s way and discussing how devastating the entire ordeal has been.
Additionally, Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy talked about his relationship with Kobe and what it was like training Gianna and her teammates, among a lot of other Kobe-related topics.
Finally, multiple players are changing their jersey numbers away from No. 8 and No. 24 to honor the fallen legend. Here are all the ones we know of so far.
LOWERED PROJECTIONS: Woj reported late last night the league is telling teams that their projected future salary cap figures are likely to decrease, though by how much remains unclear. That may have to do with Daryl Morey’s now-infamous China tweet prior to the season, which cost the NBA their foothold in a massive market.
The NBA’s current salary cap is $109.1 million, with the 2021-22 salary cap projected to be at around $116 million, so we’ll have to wait and see how much that figure lessens. Depending on the decrease, that could change teams’ attitudes at this year’s trade deadline.
LATEST TRADE SCUTTLE: Speaking of the trade deadline, we got a few new rumors to discuss yesterday.
The Grizzlies remain confident they will get value in return for Andre Iguodala in a trade, and won’t have to buy out the veteran swingman.
The market on Andre Drummond has ground to a halt, likely due to the Pistons’ high demands. That could change as we get closer to the deadline, though.
Houston will be active in the trade market for a player who can carve out a role on their team, and their 2020 first-round pick could be up for grabs.
BEEF BREAKDOWN: The pettiness between Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook has been well-documented, particularly when the duo got double-technicals after the trash talk went on a little too long in a recent game. However, Lillard says it’s nothing but respect between him and the former league MVP; they’re both just really competitive.
ANOTHER BANNER NIGHT: Not only did the Knicks get blown out 127-106 by the Grizzlies at home last night, they got into an ugly fight in the game’s waning moments, heard fans chant “sell the team” at owner James Dolan, followed that up with Marcus Morris telling collected media that Jae Crowder is “woman-like” for flopping too much and then didn’t even provide Memphis with working showers in the locker room.
Pretty embarrassing night in New York City.
MVP RANKINGS: We’ve ranked the Top 10 players in the 2019-20 MVP race, with Giannis maintaining his firm grasp on the No. 1 spot and Ben Simmons joining the elite ranks for the first time.
MATCHING GREATNESS: Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry spoke to Michael Jordan when their two teams were in Paris last week, telling His Airness that he feels like Milwaukee can match the Bulls’ record for regular-season dominance this year. Jordan told him to focus on winning a championship instead. Solid advice, to be honest.
DRAFT WATCH: Elite 2020 draft prospect LaMelo Ball has returned to the United States in order to continue rehabbing his foot injury. Our aggregate mock draft has Ball as this year’s No. 2 prospect.