Kobe Bryant hasn't got time for the finger pain

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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.

Bulls claim PG Kay Felder off waivers

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The Bulls’ point-guard position is a quagmire.

Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne are both injured (and not necessarily good). Jerian Grant is maybe an adequate backup pressed into starting. Ryan Arcidiacono is on a two-way contract.

Enter Kay Felder.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived forward Jarell Eddie and center Diamond Stone, and claimed guard Kay Felder off waivers.

Felder was waived by the Hawks, who acquired him in a salary-dump trade from the Cavaliers. Cleveland drafted Felder No. 54 last year, but ran out of roster spots this year.

Felder is only a moderate prospect. He impressed in the D-League, but at 5-foot-9, he has significant limitations. (His size also makes him incredibly fun to watch when he gets rolling.)

For Chicago, he’s a quite-noteworthy addition.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.