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NBA Draft Combine news and notes

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The NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is a big deal, and it isn’t.

For a guy like Kyrie Irving, him basically skipping the event other than to get measured doesn’t matter. He did have 10.2 percent body fat, pretty high for a guard, and that doesn’t matter. He will go No. 1 to Cleveland anyway. Most of the top prospects skipped out on the drills, something that will not impact their draft status if they look good in individual workouts going forward.

But for other guys father down the list, this can move them up in the draft, drop them or get them noticed at all.

After two days of reading Draft Express, watching the ESPN coverage and looking at everything else here are some notes of guys who got noticed at the combine. Follow this link to the full list of measurements from the combine.

• Enes Kanter, center, Turkey: You remember his as the guy who went to Kentucky but couldn’t play because he’d played for a professional team in Turkey at 16. Because he basically hasn’t played anywhere outside of the NIKE Hoop Summit in the last two years, scouts and GMs were watching closely. What they saw was pretty impressive athleticism, good touch, not much on the defensive end. What he did was probably work as hard or harder than any other center out there. That matters.

But there are also a report from Andy Katz of ESPN that Kanter stood up the Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee bucks for interviews. The Jazz are the team with the No. 3 pick. Interesting, and there are rumors he doesn’t want to play for them. Remember that Utah tried to chase Chris Paul around for an interview back in the day, and the fact they got sick of it was part of the reason they took Deron Williams ahead of him.

• Jeremy Tyler, center, he’s been everywhere: You may remember this story, Tyler was one of the leading prep prospects as a junior in San Diego and he skipped his senior year of high school and all of college to play overseas. Where he was almost invisible in Israel and Japan, not impressing in not very good leagues. He’s got size — 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan — and he just looks like an NBA player. There is some real buzz about him as he showed of a respectable midrange game and worked hard at the combine. That said his skill set seems to need a lot of work and after he floundered in mediocre leagues there should be questions. Might be a good second round pick as a project, he could develop into a rotation player (but expect a year in the D-League for him).

Nikola Vucevic, center, USC: He was the tallest player at the combine, 6’11” and 3/4, plus he showed surprising skill around the basket. Big, NBA ready body. Most people think he was a second rounder going in, but big men tend to move up as the draft gets closer, don’t be shocked to see him late in the first round.

• Marshon Brooks, guard, Providence: 6’5” with a massive 7’1” wingspan, he showed some real athleticism with some big dunks and blocks. But he also seemed to have a real feel for the game and be quite smooth. That should move him up. Then again, according to Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress Brooks referred to himself in the third person during interviews, turning some teams off.

• Kenneth Faried, forward, Morehead State: This guy had the Ronny Turiaf camp — he doesn’t have a lot of skill but he does know who he is on the court and wants to out work everyone. Turiaf was a guy diving two rows into the stands for the ball at Summer League, Faried could be that kind of guy. GMs love those kind of guys. Lots of good buzz, expect him to stay in the first round.

• Jordan Williams, forward/center, Maryland: He measured just 6’9” in shoes so thinking of him as a center isn’t going to work. But, he dropped about 15 pounds since the end of the season, showing he is taking the whole thing very seriously. He’s a second rounder but it’s things like the body transformation that keep him from dropping down and out.

• Klay Thompson, guard, Washington State: The son of former No. 1 overall Mychal Thompson came into the combine thought of as one of the better shooters in the draft and he didn’t disappoint. He knocked everything down. In a draft where teams drafting from 10 to 25 are looking for guys who can help a little, being a guy who can shoot gets you noticed. Think mid first round.

The time Kobe Bryant tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to the Lakers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 05:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks greets Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers after a game at American Airlines Center on November 5, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant has been loyal to the Lakers for 20 seasons (if you ignore some “trade me” tantrums along the way). He’s also been über competitive.

Those same qualities are what he most appreciates about Dirk Nowitzki.

Kobe talked a little Dirk during his All-Star media availability Friday.

“Dirk and I have always had a great relationship because we’re both extremely competitive. Also both extremely loyal to our teams,” Bryant said.

“I’ll tell you a story about Dirk. He was up for free agency, and I knew what his response was going to be. But out of respect, everybody’s looking around at all these free agents, I felt I’d shoot you a text, if you want to come to L.A. He goes, ‘I would love to play with you, but Dallas is my home. This is my team. I’m not leaving here.’ So he and I think a lot alike in that regard.”

Nowitzki’s last couple free agencies have been mere formalities, nobody around the league thought he would leave Mark Cuban or Dallas. The only questions were money and years — in 2014 the Lakers reportedly offered the max to Nowitzki, who took three-years, $25 million from Dallas so the Mavs could rebuild their roster. It’s all part of that loyalty — and it’s worked out, Nowitzki and Cuban have a ring.

Kobe’s respect for Nowitzki was clear when Dirk nailed a game winner against the Lakers this season, Kobe just nodded his approval from the bench.

One of the best things the past couple seasons about Kobe, and especially this season with just about to retire Kobe, is that he is giving honest answers. He doesn’t care what people think. That leads to honest moments and great stories.

Watch Kristaps Porzingis drop 30 at Rising Stars Challenge (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Knicks’ fans were in full throat at the Air Canada Centre Friday night. Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the Rising Stars Challenge (behind Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins).

Porzingis didn’t disappoint, dropping 30 and sparking a World Team comeback against the USA that just fell just short, with the USA winning 157-154.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

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TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.