Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

Oh, Kobe Bryant missed practice Friday … wait, what?

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Hey, remember when Kobe Bryant stayed around after going 2 of 6 to close the game against the Heat including three wretchedly decided upon shots to prove how dedicated he was and work on the same wretchedly decided upon shots? And we all talked about how awesome it was that he was so committed to improving and so fiercely competitive and how it was a statement to the Heat that he would work harder?

Yeah, he skipped practice Friday.

Hidden quietly in Mike Bresnahan’s practice report was a delicate mention of Bryant missing practice a day after his little exhibition which held reporters breathless like they were in that scene from “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” when the aliens show up.  Because shooting jumpers at 11 p.m. looks totally different from doing it at 10 a.m.. Bryant was at practice, so he didn’t miss it for a personal reason. Phil Jackson said there was “no way” he would participate in practice after his late night session.  But the fact that Bryant missed practice could be for one of four reasons, conceivably.

1. Phil Jackson didn’t like his little stunt and held him out to make sure he didn’t exhaust himself, which is the equivalent of your mom excusing you from chores during your winter break freshman year of college because you went out drinking too much the night before. Sure, Bryant was working on his game, but he’s still having his mom get him out of work.

2. Bryant was exhausted after playing 40 minutes on Thursday night, then working on his shot for over an hour, then going to work in the weight room. It’s almost as if he’s not superhuman and that the body isn’t exactly snapping back at age 33. It’s entirely possible that he was dealing with some physical tweaks the day after that weren’t present when he was nailing 40-foot 3-pointers unguarded. Being hurt, regardless of what he did the night before, is a perfectly valid reason not to practice. But then, working out with an injury probably would have exacerbated or may have led to it, making the whole thing that much more unnecessary.

3. He didn’t feel like it. After all, we’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game, practice.

It’s not like Bryant needs practice, especially with the Zen Master shouting out the same things in March as he was in November. But what  the Lakers needed was to work on their team game. Things like passing. Specifically, passing to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, when they’re being guarded by people like Chris Bosh, Erick Dampier, and Juwan Howard.  This isn’t a big deal, it just looks ridiculous after the little dramatic session Bryant put on that had everyone talking about how hard he wants to work.

Oh, he wants to work all right.

Just only on the things he wants to.

Of course, there’s a fourth reason reason Bryant could have missed practice. His parents were in Tokyo yesterday during the deadly earthquake and aftershocks that rocked Japan. His parents were evacuated but were unhurt. It’s possible Bryant had been dealing with that situation and simply didn’t feel up to practicing, which would be completely understandable. It just doesn’t seem likely, given all the variables.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.

Report: No, J.R. Smith isn’t talking to Sixers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.

The latest silliness follows this logic:

This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).

The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.

The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.

So…

No. Not happening.

Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.

I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?

Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.