Kobe Bryant

Italian league working “intensely” to rearrange schedule for Kobe

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If only the sense of urgency and willingness to compromise we see from the Italian league in efforts to bring in Kobe Bryant could be seen from the NBA and its players union in talks to end the lockout.

Because in Italy they are doing whatever it takes to get a deal done.

We told you over the weekend Kobe and his people were working to find a way to share the money his playing would generate with teams around the league (that’s revenue sharing among owners). Now those teams are working “intensely” to rearrange schedules to accommodate Kobe’s arrival and get in more games during his time there, according to a released statement. So the Italian league is like the NBA in one sense — money talks and they’ll do just about anything for it. Integrity be damned.

According to Sportando, some of that rearranging has been done. Virtus Bologna has had it’s bye week pushed back to the eighth week of the Italian season — after Kobe will have gone back to the United States, after his proposed 40-day deal — and some midweek games have been added to their schedule.

Virtus Bologna owner Claudio Sabatini spoke to the media Monday about his efforts to sign Kobe, because Sabatini is a publicity whore trying to garner as much attention out of this as he can. (Yes, I know, we’re writing about him, I get the irony.)

“I hope that very shortly we’ll have a deal,” Sabatini said Monday, according to the ANSA news agency. “I want to thank Kobe, who demonstrated again overnight that he wants to return to Italy.”

Despite all that, I’ll believe it when I see Kobe lace up his Nikes and walk on an Italian court. I can come up with logical reasons it could happen — Kobe’s Italian roots, the international marketing possibilities, etc. — but I still would bet against it. However, at least they are trying.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.