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


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.

Stan Van Gundy goes off on officials: “We got absolutely screwed all night”

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The Pistons were likely to lose to the red-hot Trail Blazers on the road, and that came to be Saturday night 100-87, Portland 12th straight win. The Pistons shot 38.8 percent for the game and had a dreadful offensive rating of 93.8 (points per 100 possessions).

Portland is one the top five defensive teams in the NBA this season, but that’s not what Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy thought was the problem — he laid the blame on the officiating.

That’s going to be a fine.

Van Gundy is frustrated — with this game and with this season. So are Pistons fans, and seemingly so is Detroit owner Tom Gores after his lukewarm vote of confidence in Van Gundy recently. They should be, this team is a disappointment and the Blake Griffin trade was a big swing that has yet to work out. The Pistons are going to miss the playoffs. Around the league, the sense is that Van Gundy will lose his GM job to former super agent Arn Tellem, who was brought in to guide the Pistons into their new building but now whose talents would better serve the basketball side of the operation. The only question is will Van Gundy still be coaching in Detroit next season — just coaching, like Doc Rivers with the Clippers — or of the change will be more sweeping than that.

Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

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When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

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Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.