Horace Grant: We were very close. One year Phil had us pull names from a hat for Christmas gifts. I pulled Kobe’s name, and I gave him a bible. And when I gave it to him he was like “man, thank you so much. This is exactly what I want and exactly what I need.” That’s what he said to me. From Day 1, we were close. Nothing but respect.
August 5, 2021 | 10:25 am EDT Update
Marc Stein: Numerous teams had free-agent interest in Nicolas Batum after his redemptive season with the Clippers … Golden State and Dallas prime among them. Realistically no one was luring him away from Clipperland as well as he played.
If Randle continues to play as well as he did this season, the Knicks will get him at a discount, even if he stays around to make $29.5 million in the last year of his deal, which is reportedly a player option. It also allows the Knicks to put more talent around him. They passed on retaining cap space for next summer with their deals this month and are already hovering around the expected cap number, according to Spotrac. They’ll also be able to offer RJ Barrett an extension after the 2021-22 season, which will kick in after the summer of 2023.
And what’s crazy is…. O.K., here’s the end of the story. So we’re in Detroit last season, on a road trip. And we fly in, I grab my bags, and like I said: it’s been my routine ever since that night in Dallas. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Like clockwork. Every city, though, it’s a new situation — there’s different places available. So what I’ll do is, I’ll have the team set up a spot in advance. And that way I can go straight there, however late it is, and get my workout in. On this particular trip, in Detroit, they had this little high school gym opened up for me. I love gyms like that — simple and old school. And I get to the building, and the guy who was there to let me in, I think he’s the athletic director of that school, we start talking a little bit. And he’s like, “It’s good to see you. Guys don’t really show up here to work out anymore. Matter of fact, the last guy to come in this late to shoot — man, that must have been years ago. It was Kobe.”
First thing I did was I started showing guys the value of watching tape, and the way to build all these good habits out of that. That was a lesson I learned from Isaiah Thomas, when IT and I were both with the Lakers. It was only about half a season together, but sometimes that’s all you need with a dude as knowledgeable as Isaiah. For real, that’s one of the best hoop minds I’ve ever been around. And probably the biggest lesson he taught me was how, watching tape, prepping for a new opponent’s tendencies each night, looking at the game under that microscope — it’s not bonus work. It’s not optional. It’s elemental. It’s part of any great player’s process.
Callie Caplan: Luka’s opening statement after Slovenia’s semifinal loss to France: “We might have surprised a lot of people … but we’re not giving up yet.” He’s got ice wrapped around his left wrist after crashing into the courtside plexiglass, but said it’s just precautionary.
Rodriguez and Lore may only hold a 20 percent stake in the team right now, but they are planning to hit the ground running. They will work with Casson and Tanke on any changes they want to implement right away, and Taylor will have the final say. Lore and Rodriguez are being counted on to bring a new energy and perspective to an organization that is trying to shock the system in the Twin Cities sports scene. “This was a big idea,” Ryan Tanke said. “To reinvent the organization, it had to be bold. I don’t know that you can find bolder or more transformational than Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez and that became a really great jumping-off point for the rest of the week.”
Even if Lore and Rodriguez did want to move the team, they would be powerless to do so for at least another two years. They have invested their first $250 million and will have two more call options over the next two years to increase their holdings. Until then, Taylor is still calling the shots. But Rodriguez and Lore will have significant influence in the direction of the franchise even before they own a majority of the team, and they say that Minnesota is where they want to be. “I think it’s one of the most underrated cities in the country,” Rodriguez said. “The summers, the lakes, we were just there for the Super Bowl a few years ago. I’m really excited. If this was somewhere else, I don’t think Marc and I would’ve done the deal. We certainly wouldn’t have been as excited.”
But they have been whisper-quiet in free agency to this point, and it appears they will rely heavily on internal improvement to move up from 13th in the Western Conference this season into the playoff conversation. In some respects, that makes the additions of the two owners-in-waiting even more important. Glen and Becky are still fixtures courtside during games, but the pandemic protocols have led to less direct interaction with the franchises. Lore and Rodriguez figure to be plugged into the day-to-day operations to try to push the teams forward. “I need them to be ambitious because I’m not there every day to lead them,” Taylor said. “You want somebody that believes like you do that we can grow this company, we can do better, we’re not satisfied with what’s happening.”