Kobe got run at the Drew League in the most Kobe of ways


We all knew about the happy ending — Kobe Bryant shows up at the Drew League (the legendary pro-am league in Los Angeles) where a bunch of people who can’t afford to sit close to the floor of a Lakers game got to see him in action. Got to see him score 43 points. Got to see him hit the game winner over James Harden.

But now the story of how Kobe got to play in that game is out, and it’s vintage Kobe.

Over at ESPNLosAngeles’ Laker blog, Andrew Kamenetzky (he and his brother are two of the best bloggers around) spoke with Dino Smiley, the commissioner of the Drew League. And he tells the story.

“We had our championship this past Saturday and prior to that, a couple days before, (Kobe’s) representatives called and said he wanted to play Saturday. I wouldn’t go for it. I’m like, “This is the championship and these guys have worked hard. We don’t want to just put the #1 ringer into the game. We would love to have him there, but it would set back the league, the integrity.”

“But we talked about it, and I said, “You know what? We haven’t set up an All-Star game. Why don’t we do an All-Star game on a Sunday night?” He was gonna be leaving out early Monday morning and coming back. Couldn’t do it. So finally, Sunday evening, I get a call. “Kobe wants to play the game, but wants to play at two o’clock on a Tuesday.” I’m like, “Two o’clock on a Tuesday? We don’t play Drew League games during the week.”

“It was ironic, because the team (Drew League All-Stars who will face the Goodman League All-Stars) was going to have practice that day at 6 pm. So I tell him, “The guys are coming down. Let me see if I can get them to come down early. I don’t want to put it on Twitter and I don’t want to put it out to the media or anything like that, and the guy doesn’t show up. You guys gotta give me a 110 percent that he’s coming.”

“And they were like, “No, he’s definitely coming. He definitely wants to play. And he only wants to play in the Drew league in that gym. He doesn’t want to play anywhere else.” And I know it’s because of LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant. They played and got a buzz. (Laughs) We were like, “Okay, let’s try to make it happen.”

Because of the players union meeting in Los Angeles that day — where Kobe was front and center — the game didn’t start until like 4:30. But it went off.

It’s a story that is just so Kobe. Durant and John Wall and others just call ahead and get in these runs all the time. Kobe sees the buzz LeBron and Durant get from the rec leagues and so wants in because he wants that same buzz. And because the Drew League is in L.A. and Kobe can pretty much walk on water in that city, a special game is set up just so he can play.

But a month from now, all anyone will remember is the happy ending.

Celtics: Kyrie Irving to undergo ‘minimally invasive procedure’ on injured knee

AP Photo/Jim Mone
Leave a comment

With uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving‘s knee injury, the Celtics announced a course of action.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that guard Kyrie Irving will tomorrow undergo a minimally invasive procedure to alleviate irritation in his left knee. Further information will be provided following tomorrow’s procedure, and the team will have no further comment until that time.

This is so vague. We barely know more than we did before.

Irving reportedly might need the pins removed from his knee, so that’d be the first guess at the type of procedure. But that’s just a guess.

The Celtics look vulnerable with Irving hobbled, which is big update from yesterday, when the Celtics looked vulnerable with Irving hobbled.

Tom Thibodeau denies report of Andrew Wiggins’ unhappiness as Timberwolves’ third option

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King
Leave a comment

As soon as a rumor emerged Andrew Wiggins told teammates he was unhappy as the Timberwolves’ third option behind Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, Kurt predicted denials from Minnesota.

Here they are – at least one.

Wiggins, via Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

“It’s just someone’s word of mouth. It wasn’t no quote from me. Everyone that knows me knows I don’t talk much, I just go with the flow … I don’t whisper. If I say something, I’m going to say it clearly and loudly.”

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau, via Zgoda:

“I know Andrew’s character. There’s no way in the world Andrew is saying any of that, particularly from a guy who’s taken the most shots on our team.”

Thibodeau sounds as if he’s just trying to shut down this talk, including maybe from Wiggins. That sure looks like a reminder to Wiggins that he leads Minnesota in shots. Thibodeau can’t know whether Wiggins complained to teammates. Thibodeau can defend his player publicly while implicitly warning his player to cut it out.

I’m unsure whether Wiggins actually denied it – whether he’s noting that he didn’t say it or just didn’t say it directly to the reporter, Darren Wolfson.

Wolfson is credible, and I believe he didn’t just make this up. But these things can sometimes get overblown as they get passed through the grapevine. If Wiggins is generally content in his role but told teammates he was struggling to get in rhythm a particular day because Butler and Towns were getting more shots, would that be noteworthy?

Wiggins’ statements to teammates could be inconsequential. They could signal a major problem brewing.

His response to the report doesn’t exactly lower the alarm. Wiggins doesn’t strike me as someone who speaks up loudly and clearly when confronted with an issue. When everyone in the world knew the Cavaliers were trading him for Kevin Love, Wiggins deflected. He remained vague when asked about the delay in signing his contract extension. To be fair, those were sensitive issues. But so is this.

Denied or not, Wiggins’ contentment on a team with Butler and Towns warrants monitoring.

Report: Grizzlies laugh and joke in locker room after 61-point loss

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Marc Gasol lit into the Grizzlies.

And that was before their 61-point loss to the Hornets.

Gasol didn’t play in that one, but Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff took his turn with strong words after the game.

Bickerstaff, via Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:

“One thing when you’ve got a bunch of young guys is they don’t understand what it takes to survive in this league,” Bickerstaff said. “If you want to make it there’s a matter of bounce-back, a matter of pride, a matter of mental toughness that you have to show on every given night and every opportunity you get. What happened tonight… there’s no defending the way we played.

“You believe because there’s opportunities you can get out there, do whatever you want and it’s my turn to play. Everything in this league is hard earned. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice then you shouldn’t be in this league. If you can’t prove to people that that’s what you’re about then you won’t be in this league.”


Bickerstaff nor Gasol were in the locker room when it opened for media after the game. Perhaps that was a good thing because several Grizzlies players didn’t appear to take the loss hard given the amount of laughter and joking between them.

My question for anyone who has a problem with this: What would brooding and sulking do for these players? Seriously. How specifically would that help?

Also, what’s the appropriate waiting period for laughing and joking after a bad loss? A day? A week? Are these players just supposed to be miserable until they win next – which, the way things are going, might be next season?

I have no problem with players enjoying themselves in the midst of a long and dreadful season. Joy is important – to basketball and life.

Maybe the young Grizzlies aren’t appropriately dedicated to winning. That very well could be. I just don’t think a few minutes of locker room kidding proves that.

Besides, Memphis trailed by 30+ the entire second half. There was plenty of time to absorb the magnitude of this defeat and reflect on it before the locker room opened to the media.

It’s tough on players when everyone knows the Grizzlies are better off losing and improving draft position. Maybe nobody told the players to intentionally lose, but tanking manifests in an attitude throughout the organization. I doubt Memphis players enjoyed last night’s game.

I’m not going to scold them for moving on and lightening the mood afterward.

Texas A&M sophomore Robert Williams, a potential lottery pick, declares for NBA draft

AP Photo/Jae Hong
Leave a comment

A year ago, Robert Williams returned to Texas A&M despite looking like a probable first-round and potential lottery pick.

He cemented his place in the first round and increased his chances of going in the lottery this season. Now, he’s jumping to the NBA.

Austin Laymance of the Houston Chronicle:

Texas A&M sophomore forward Robert Williams is turning pro.

Williams announced his decision to enter the NBA draft and bypass his final two seasons of eligibility after the seventh-seeded Aggies lost to third-seeded Michigan 99-72 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night.

At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Williams should be a center at the next level. He’s a major leaper who puts that skill to good use blocking shots and finishing inside.

Texas A&M’s poor floor spacing – Williams often played with another big or two – did him no favors, but it clarified his role. Williams made important improvements as a defensive rebounder in his sophomore season. He also stalled as a jump shooter.

Williams will likely look better in the NBA. Though teams would love 3-point-shooting centers who also defend well, there aren’t enough to go around. When the other four positions provide spacing, shots open at the rim for players like Williams – whose rim protection is also valued in modern systems.