Kobe Bryant hasn't got time for the finger pain


Thumbnail image for Bryant_points.jpgIt’s pretty easy to predict what Kobe Bryant is going to say about his index finger Saturday at media day:

“It’s fine, it doesn’t affect what I do.” Ask a second question and he’ll laugh and say he answered that. A third and he glares at the reporter.

But the finger is an issue — Kobe did not have surgery on it this summer as some expected. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register explains why.

Despite some speculation that he’d have surgery to fix the right index finger that he called a “constant battle” for him last season, that didn’t happen. That’s because surgery wouldn’t really fix an arthritic finger that has so little cartilage with which to work, something Bryant found out even before July rolled around…

An array of finger exercises is making the best of a tough situation, improving Bryant’s range of motion and strength. The finger feels better than it did in June – and perhaps Bryant’s daughters have come to be connoisseurs of finger puppetry – but the finger also hasn’t had any 250-pound, hard-fouling dudes hacking it to make it swell.

The reality is that Bryant isn’t necessarily much better off than before, because this is a chronic situation. Arthritis is the wearing down of the cartilage in the joints, and the middle knuckle on Bryant’s index finger is flat-out worn down.

Kobe is going to be Kobe about this. No complaints. No excuses. He is Monty Python’s Black Knight, “Tis just a flesh wound.”

Kobe’s shooting numbers dipped last year in the regular season — his three point shooting fell from 35.1 percent two seasons ago to 32.9 last season. Although part of that was the arthritic knee that bothered him as well.

When it mattered, in the playoffs, Kobe was Kobe again. He scored 30 or more points in 11 of the last 12 Lakers playoff games, he shot 37.4 percent from three and his shooting numbers were up across the board. He was the finals MVP for a reason.

He’s still Kobe. He’s still the guy you want with the game on the line. His finger is what it is, and surgery wouldn’t have changed that. But nothing is changing Kobe.

Carmelo Anthony says he can play at high level 4-5 more years

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

Carmelo Anthony can flat-out score the rock — that has never been the question. Even hurting last season for many of the 40 games he played, he averaged 24.2 points a game, had a true shooting percentage of 53.1 percent (right near the league average) while having the entire weight of the Knicks offense on his shoulders (32.2 usage rate, fifth highest in the NBA). When people (or players) talk about him being overrated, the discussion turns to defense or if he makes his teammates better. But there should be no doubt Anthony is an elite scorer.

He thinks he will be for a while longer — like another five years. Via Ian Begley of ESPN:

In fact, the 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.

The Knicks better hope that’s true, they already made that bet with that massive five-year contract they gave him last summer.

Anthony’s age combined with him coming off knee surgery have a lot of people — myself included — expecting him to take a step back. Not a big one, but he is coming up at the point in his career where some open shots he used to get are now contested because he’s half-a-step slower, and some of those looks don’t fall as often. His jumper isn’t suddenly going to look like Rajon Rondo‘s, ‘Melo is going to get his points, but he may not be as efficient.

Fortunately, the Knicks have an improved supporting cast around him this season. That should take some offensive load off his shoulders, and maybe the Knicks offense will see better ball movement and start to resemble the triangle. If it’s just more isolation Anthony, it’s not going to be pretty.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.