Storyline: Bryant-Shaq Dynamic

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1 month ago via Maxim
What is your fondest memory of Kobe Bryant? Shaquille O’Neal: I really cherish the time I had with Kobe. We helped each other win the championship for the first time. That says it all. Without Kobe I would have never maximized my true potential. I like to think the same for him. But if I had to choose one moment it would be Kobe’s final game at the Staples Center. He looked so at peace while on the court. He was a free man with no pressure at all to score or deliver. He dropped 60 that game and I was there courtside to cheer him on.

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The Players’ Tribune: @KobeBryant and @SHAQ. Forces of nature, whether playing together or not. Full episode: http://playerstribu.ne/knuckleheadspod. In partnership with @HennessyUS. “Here is the thing. I get chastised a lot for being selfish, saying we just got to fit into a team, it’s about winning championships. I get it, I’m doing it, right? We won three straight. I got it. But I also knew that when my career is over they’re going to chastise me for the same thing: ‘Oh well, you’re only great because you played with Shaq.’ I’m like, ‘Whoa, hold up. You can’t have it both ways, bro?’ You know?”

Although they’ve since patched things up, things flared up when Kobe’s recent comments about Shaq ignited a Twitter feud between the two. On Tuesday, Bryant stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live to explain the remarks. “I think he did,” Kobe said at the interview’s 4-minute mark when asked if he thought Shaq took objection to his comments. “But here’s the thing: it was really a compliment. People missed the first whole half of that in which I said he was the most dominant player I’ve ever seen and I felt like he could’ve been the greatest of all time. So people kind of missed that part of it. They kind of caught on to the ‘lazy’ part. But I said that kind of like tongue-in-cheek.”

The good vibes culminated into a TNT segment Saturday night during All-Star Weekend with O’Neal interviewing Bryant. There were a lot of good moments during the piece, but one part got a little emotional. O’Neal blamed himself for their partnership dissolving. Their time with the Lakers lasted eight years and included three straight NBA titles. It could have been better and O’Neal said he had a moment of realization after they were named co-MVPs of the 2009 All-Star Game.

“You told me to take the trophy home and I took it home and gave it to Shareef. And I realized I may have messed something up,” O’Neal said. “A lot of times that our beef was going on, you know me. I’m the master marketer. I would just say it to keep it going. But when you did that when you didn’t have to do that, I said to myself, ‘Luckily, I won three out of four with this guy. But I was an [expletive] to this guy.’ “So, I owe you an apology. I’m going to give you an apology, but we don’t need to be doing all of that crying like Magic [Johnson] and Isiah [Thomas]. But thank you for that moment. Shareef loved that moment. I was going through a lot at the time. He loves you for it, and I love you for that moment. So thank you.”

The evening is intended to put a commemorative bow on a future Hall of Famer’s career, but when it comes to Bryant, some of us can’t help but rewind to the beginning. It’s an unavoidable instinct for me, because my last N.B.A. season as a full-time Southern California resident was Bryant’s rookie season with the Lakers, when a supersized teammate named Shaquille O’Neal nicknamed the teenager “Showboat.” The moniker was not a term of endearment. Even at 18, Bryant’s best-of-all-time aspirations were apparent to everyone. “Showboat” was O’Neal’s way of trying to keep Bryant humble — and letting the youngster know who was the team’s actual focal point. Instead, it just fueled Bryant even more. He was determined to prove to O’Neal and every other doubter that he would ultimately surpass all of the game’s greats.

“I did tell Kobe there would be a time when there would be some competition between him and Shaq,” Harris said. “People asking, ‘Whose team is it?’ and all that. I told him that he had an opportunity to make it work just like Magic Johnson did with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Magic publicly deferred to ‘Cap’ every chance he got. ”I told Kobe: ‘I don’t know if Magic believed that, but he knew it was good for the team and good for Kareem to say that. And I think it’ll work for you as well. You don’t have to mean it. You don’t have to believe it. Just say it.’ ” Harris added: “Kobe didn’t resist. He just never did it. It’s not a criticism of him, but just an observation of how deadly competitive he was. To ask him to do something like that just violated his focus.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Irving counts Bryant as a mentor and has talked to him about O’Neal in order to avoid the same mistakes with James. “It’s a tough balance,” Irving told ESPN. “Because everyone knows, Shaq was really dominant and [had] a lot of the individual accolades … unbelievable. And that’s who he was. And Kobe was just consistently working on his game and consistently trying to prove everyone all the time. And you got to commend somebody for that. That just shows the true testament of their will and what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to sacrifice, but I know I don’t want to look back and say that I let my selfishness get in the way of us winning championships, because we have unbelievable talent on this team and unbelievable players, and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted.

He used to be close to Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. They’d meet for lunches at California Pizza Kitchen or this Italian restaurant in Marina Del Rey. Before Buss passed away in 2013, he told Kobe he hoped he’d be a Laker for life. I ask what it meant to him that Buss chose him over Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. “Shaq demanded the trade first,” he says. “Right, but he actually traded him. He wouldn’t trade you.” “I look at it from a business perspective,” he says. “I would have made the same call. If you’re going to bet, you got to bet on the horse that you know is obsessive about what they do, day in and day out, and is going to be hell bent on trying to win a championship. If you’re going to bet on a horse, you always bet on the one that eats, sleeps and breathes the craft.”

I ask Shaq how he really felt about getting “ratted out by Kobe,” and if they ever really buried the hatchet. After all, less than a year after Kobe’s betrayal, Shaq had orchestrated a trade to the Miami Heat, where he won a championship opposite Dwyane Wade. “There never was a hatchet. I’m not worried about that,” responds Shaq. “That’s something that happened and I didn’t think it would’ve gone on, but there was never a hatchet. As a leader, sometimes you gotta do certain things, like, if I owned The Daily Beast and you came back with a bad article and I know your potential, I’d be like, ‘That’s some bullshit,’ and you’d either punk up and quit, or say, ‘Oh, it’s bullshit?’ and write a better piece. It was my job to get everyone to play at a high level. People want things to go perfectly, and if you really look at it, three out of four championships is pretty perfect. I’m glad and honored to be the most enigmatic, controversial, and dynamic one-two punch in Lakers and NBA history.”
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Although Black Lives Matter continues to get resistance from disingenuous people seeking to distort and diminish its purpose, the meaning in the message has remained consistent: the fight for equality should transcend partisan politics. The league doesn’t fear a backlash for embracing the phrase, believing that anyone upset enough to stop watching its games would be alienating themselves. Equality isn’t up for debate.
“We didn’t view ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a political matter. We viewed this as a broader movement. This is a human rights issue,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in a telephone interview with The Athletic. “Black Lives Matter has come to represent a broader movement around racial inequality and we support our players, our coaches, our staff, our teams, in speaking out on these critically important issues.”
Sure, there was money to be made for network partners but there also was the potential for something powerful to emerge for what they believed was a necessary distraction at this time. “Our league has a long history of addressing racial and social issues,” said Tatum, who is Black. “You go back to Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, and the lineage from those guys today, to LeBron (James). A guy like Malcolm Brogdon. A guy like Jaylen Brown. We have a responsibility and an obligation, given the prominence of our players and the influence that they have. We’ve always encouraged our players to take a stand on issues that are important to them and they are doing it.”
Storyline: Social Justice Messages
August 7, 2020 | 2:01 pm EDT Update
It started out as most of these things do: With an ill-advised tweet. On July 13 when the NBA announced the schedule for its restart games, the eyes of Toronto Raptors fans narrowed on an Aug. 9 date with the Memphis Grizzlies. In recent years following the franchise’s move from Vancouver to Memphis, Canada’s former second team has morphed into, well, Canada’s second team. Armed with former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas and exciting Canadians in Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke – with recent cameos from Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and Bruno Caboclo – the Grizzlies were a natural Western Conference rooting interest for Raptors fans.
When the Raptors and Grizzlies were awarded expansion franchises for the 1995-96 season, a healthy rivalry was anticipated. While some rivalries are built on playoff series and animosity, others are based on proximity. A pair of new Canadian teams expected to struggle out of the gate were natural to pit against each other, and putting something on the line was a clever way to make sure both sides had a chance at bragging rights during some lean years. The decision was made that the Raptors and Grizzlies would square off in each preseason, with the winner being awarded The Naismith Cup, in honour of the Canadian inventor of the sport, James Naismith.
If the choice to award the Cup in exhibition games strikes you as strange, consider that the teams, in conjunction with NBA Canada, used it as an opportunity to host the events around the country. The five Naismith Cup matches held between 1995 and 2000 (the 1998 game was cancelled due to the lockout) were played in Winnipeg, Calgary, Halifax, Edmonton, and Ottawa. That’s a tradition the Raptors do their best to continue to this day, holding recent training camps in Victoria or Quebec City, and exhibition games in Montreal, Vancouver, and London. (They still owe St. John’s a game, as former Raptors general manager and current CEO of Canada Basketball Glen Grunwald is quick to remind us.) The touring Naismith Cup games were well-attended, ranging from 8,190 to 15,104 fans in attendance.
August 7, 2020 | 1:25 pm EDT Update
August 7, 2020 | 12:17 pm EDT Update
On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut: Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association. How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn’t mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it’s a non-starter for her.
The league’s attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you’d also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL. And I don’t think that’s dead, but there’s certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it’s fluid, and there’s nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams.
I’ve heard from players that the lack of a crowd feels awkward. The normal energy isn’t there. That stinks. But the quiet has benefits for TV viewers: We hear every “Hell no!” from bench players mocking opponent shooters. Those shooters hear it, too; the bubble is producing record levels of mean-mugging and bad words directed at bench jokesters. A reminder for refs: Shooters who return taunts at yappy benches should be immune from technical fouls.
August 7, 2020 | 9:23 am EDT Update
Durant believes Crawford can add a lot to a team even in a limited role. “You need people like that on your roster, even if they’re the 15th, 14th man,” he said. “I think Jamal can provide a lot for you in that role, you know what I’m saying? If you can throw somebody like him out there, end of a playoff game or end of a game, he can definitely win you a game, hit some shots. “And you minimize his role? Give him a few minutes with the third unit or the second unit? He’ll get buckets. He can swing a game, be an x-factor still.”
LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.” What did he mean? The food? The fishing? Tee times not abundant enough? I wrote down on a piece of paper what I thought he meant and showed it to him, and his answer was “Hell, nah.” So, whatever. It was an interesting thing to hear and there is obviously something on LeBron’s mind beyond Davis and his other teammates bending the rim with the bricks they’re throwing up there.
In 20 minutes against the Mavericks, Zubac put up a perfect: 21 points and 15 rebounds on 10/10 FGs. His play earned massive praise from his teammates. “Zu is like a little brother,” Paul George said. “He’s got a ton of upside. He really has tons of potential. He can do a lot of things. I’ve seen it. I’ve been on the other end when he was with the Lakers and he dominated.”
How did how does the knee feel right now? And as you project forward to the playoffs? Do you see it being any kind of, you know, inhibition to your ability? Kemba Walker: Well, it feels good man. That’s me being completely honest. You know, the whole reason I’m only stretching is to see how it reacts after every game. And it’s been it’s been doing well and it’s me feeling better and better after every game, so I’m definitely trending upwards. I think I’m gonna be fine. I think I’ll be fine.
Storyline: Kemba Walker Injury
Obviously the physical aspect of recovering from an Achilles tear and then an ACL tear is intense. When I saw you around the Lakers this year you looked like you were in great shape. How hard is the mental aspect of the recovery? DeMarcus Cousins: It’s tough, no lie. I’d be lying to say it’s been an easy journey or it hasn’t been tough. It’s definitely been a rough journey. But that’s the nature of this business. That’s what separates the guys that last 15 years in the league to the guys that have a short stint. The thing that I preach to a lot of young players and the younger generation in general, when it comes to being successful or being the best you can be in the business, whatever the field may be, it’s going to take a commitment. There’s going to be ups and downs but as long as you’re committed to whatever you’re doing in life, that’s what it’s going to take. I accept this is part of the business. All I can do is work my tail off to get back to where I want to be.
Do you feel like you’re missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience by deciding not to play? DeMarcus Cousins: I miss basketball in general. I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid, and I’ve never been away from it for this long, so I’m missing it more than ever. But due to the circumstances, it’s a different game right now. Nothing but respect to the guys who went out there to the bubble and are doing what they’re doing. For me, it just wasn’t the right situation or the right time to be trying to force myself. It’s already me battling to get healthy and the obstacles in front of me. On top of that to add the different elements that are amongst us, it wasn’t the right time for me. I look forward to next season.
August 7, 2020 | 1:39 am EDT Update

Kemba Walker seriously considered the Knicks

Kemba Walker, the four-time All-Star point guard who joined the Boston Celtics in 2019 after eight years with the Charlotte Hornets, said the Knicks were “very serious” contenders for his services: “To be honest, yes. Yes, very serious. Very,” Walker said on The Ringer’s R2C2 podcast with Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia. “… Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks was one of my top priorities, actually, because I was thinking they were gonna get another player, but it didn’t work out.”
Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the supposed hierarchy system has somewhat been ignored, as concerned parties deemed that their pleas will be addressed quickly if they cut off the middleman. Instead of using the so-called “snitch hotline”, players are reaching out directly to Commissioner Adam Silver. “Much has been said about the anonymous tip hotline intended for players and staff to report violations inside the bubble. But what I found out was that players have been circumventing that process. Multiple players are personally calling Commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints about things they’re seeing in the bubble,” Haynes revealed during the third quarter of the Clippers-Mavericks game on Thursday.

Mo Bamba had coronavirus in June

In the last several months, Mo Bamba has employed his platform as a professional athlete to encourage children to stay in school, urge adults to vote in the upcoming election and ask people to donate money to provide food for children, the elderly and frontline workers in need. And now, he’s imploring you to do something else. Something he has learned from painful experience. He wants you to take precautions against the coronavirus. On Thursday, Bamba revealed to The Athletic that he suffered from COVID-19 in June.
The illness temporarily robbed him of his senses of smell and taste, made him unusually fatigued and caused muscle soreness. “I think the lesson is to take it seriously, to take it as seriously as possible,” said Bamba, who added he doesn’t know how he contracted the coronavirus. “I think we all play a part in making sure that we all stay safe. It’s going to take everyone.”
Storyline: Coronavirus Infections
After pausing, and then listing the five teams behind Milwaukee in the standings — Toronto, Boston, Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia — the NBA’s reigning and presumptive Most Valuable Player made his choice for who has the best chance of stopping the Bucks: Themselves. “I think the biggest challenge for us is ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said. “How are we going to play? How hard are we going to play? Are we going to play for one another? Are we going to defend hard? Are we going to be able to rebound the ball? Are we going to be able to make the extra effort? Are we going to dive on the floor? “It’s all about us. It’s all about us.”
“When it comes to the whole ‘all eyes are on me,’ I feel like a lot of eyes have been on me since high school, so that feeling was nothing new. I don’t consider it being thrown in the fire because I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. But it was definitely a dream come true to finally get thrown out there and enjoy the moment,” recalls Williamson. “If I’m being honest with you, it was very frustrating at first. I’m in the game and I feel like I could maybe change the outcome and you hear the horn go off. You know it ain’t for nobody but you because your time is up. It’s one of those sickening feelings, because I’m one of those players that if I could do anything to help my team win, I want to do it. So it was very frustrating at first from that perspective. But outside of that, it was a blast.”
13 hours ago via SLAM
“I have social media but I don’t let social media dictate my life. I will never let that happen,” he says. “But as far as winning Rookie of the Year and competing in that race, I’m a competitor. If there’s a chance that I could win it, I’m going to go after it. I’m not going to doubt that. Ja [Morant] has had an incredible season and he is the current front-runner, but it’s not over until they announce who it is, so, I’m going to keep battling for it. [A few weeks after our shoot, the NBA announced that performance in Orlando would not be taken into consideration for the player awards.—Ed.] But my top priority is getting into the playoffs first.”
13 hours ago via SLAM