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.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.

Report: Sixers Joel Embiid “very likely” to undergo off-season surgery on knee

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When the Philadelphia 76ers formally announced they were shutting down Joel Embiid for the season, the team’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said:

“The assessment of Monday’s follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid’s left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

That meniscus may require off-season surgery, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

As described, this would be a minor surgery that likely has a 4-6 week recovery period. That said, you know the Sixers will bring him along slowly after this. Also, that’s just time Embiid is not on a practice court or in a pick-up game with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and the rest of the team’s young core. That’s the time the foundations of chemistry on a team are built.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.

Hopefully getting his knee cleaned up now means Embiid will be able to play in more games next season.

Report: Kevin Durant’s recovery going well, could return before end of season

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Back on Feb. 28, the Warriors’ leading scorer Kevin Durant suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise, an injury that happened when Zaza Pachulia fell into his knee. They planned to evaluate him at the end of the month, but this injury is often a 6-8 week issue, which would have him back around the start of the playoffs or in the first round.

The Warriors are optimistic it will be earlier than that, probably by the end of the season, reports Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors aren’t scheduled to formally update the status of Kevin Durant’s left knee until next week, but there is cautious optimism within the organization that Durant — should he maintain his current recovery arc — will indeed be able to return to the court before the end of the regular season, according to league sources.

While noting that Durant is roughly at the halfway stage of his recovery journey, sources told ESPN.com that the Warriors are encouraged by the progress Durant has made in the 22 days since he suffered a sprained MCL and tibial bone bruise in his left knee on Feb. 28.

Durant was getting in some on-court work before the Warriors took on the Mavericks Tuesday.

The Warriors lost Durant at the start of their toughest schedule stretch of the season, and they stumbled some through that. However, after getting home (and playing some lesser teams in that stretch) the Warriors have gotten right, Stephen Curry is shooting well again, Matt Barnes and Patrick McCaw are playing well enough, and the Warriors have won five in a row. They are in the driver’s seat to be the No. 1 seed in the West (the biggest challenge to that is a road back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio next week, get a split there and the Warriors become tough to catch).

Between the end of the season and an easy first round — neither Denver nor Portland play enough good defense to slow the Warriors — the Warriors will have time to blend Durant back into the fold. If the Warriors can find their stride again with him, they are the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.