Lakers all kiss Kobe's a–

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Thumbnail image for Bryant_game2.jpgKobe Bryant can dominate the ball and take the Lakers out of their offense. In other breaking news, the sun rises in the East and Kirstie Alley may have put on a few pounds.

So Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles asked the Lakers shooting coach Craig Hodges if anyone stands up to Kobe on this team, if anyone who tells him to start moving the ball and sharing.

“No,” Hodges says flatly when I ask him at one point in the first half if any players on the team stand up to Kobe Bryant and critique him if he does something detrimental to the team. On this occasion it was Bryant not sprinting back on defense after turning the ball over with a bad pass.

“Not one. They all kiss his a–.”

Welcome to the modern NBA locker room — nobody really stands up to LeBron James, and Hodges admits nobody on his Bulls stood up to Jordan. Nobody barks at the Alpha Dog. And Phil Jackson just lets everybody figure things out for themselves, learning lessons that stick better that way.

Lakers fans may not like the waiting, may not like the lack-of-urgency, but Hodges expouses what other coaches ad players say — the Lakers are bored with the season but they can flip the switch fast.

More so than confidence, Hodges thought that the Lakers were just a little bored with the season.

“There’s enough games left now to really feel the need to be ready for the playoffs and our energy is getting to that playoff mentality.”

This is a really great piece by McMenamin. Hodges is honest and expresses his love for Andrew Bynum and his frustration that the Lakers don’t run the triangle well this season. He talks about Tex Winter (who coached Hodges in college). About how long Bryant can play.

Just don’t expect any Kobe bashing. Hodges kisses his a– plenty, too.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.