Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul

Rockets, Hornets stunned by Lakers dropping out of CP3 race

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After weeks of work that had a trade to send Chris Paul to the Lakers — a deal that was consummated once only to have David Stern crush it — the Lakers unexpectedly walked away from the deal Saturday.

Why? We’ll take a stab at that in a second.

But first, the Lakers move left the Rockets and Hornets shocked and with their plans for the future blown up, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

The Rockets, who were supposed to get Gasol in the various versions of the ill-fated, three-team Paul trade, were said to be disconsolate over the breakdown in the talks. League sources said Houston’s plan had been to acquire Gasol and follow it up by acquiring free-agent big man Nene with a four-year, $60-$64 million offer.

As disappointed as the Rockets and Lakers were, the Hornets’ coaching staff and front office were said to be in “collective shock,” according to a person in touch with key members of the team. The breakdown of the Paul trade sent the Hornets scrambling for another suitor for the All-Star point guard, who has made it clear he wants to be traded or will leave New Orleans as an unrestricted free agent after the season.

For the Rockets, it’s unclear if that bid would have been enough to land Nene, who reportedly has a $70 million offer from the Nets (although some sources dispute that figure). The Rockets would have been in the bidding and would have had an imposing front like of Gasol and Nene. But now, they have Luis Scola and Kevin Martin still.

For the Hornets, there are still suitors for CP3 but will they get a package as good as Odom, Scola and Martin (plus Goran Dragic and a pick)? The league said David Stern wanted younger players to rebuild, but those quality players could have been flipped for good young players in secondary trades. Just getting good young players is hard, teams don’t like to give them up. Besides, Chris Paul would re-sign with the Lakers so they would make that trade, but that may not be the case with the Clippers, Warriors or Celtics.

As for the Lakers and why they backed out? Here’s my guess.

Jim Buss, the guy running the team now and son of long time owner Jerry Buss, wants to make a splash and put his stamp on the franchise. That’s why the sharp move away from the triangle offense to Mike Brown in the coaching search. That’s why long-time staff perceived to be “Jackson people” were removed from the organization last summer.

Buss wanted Paul and Dwight Howard. He was greedy. And despite what Lakers fans (and L.A. sports talk radio hosts) think, that was never going to happen. If the original Chris Paul trade went through, the Lakers would not have had the pieces to get Howard in a trade. The price for Howard has always been to take on Hedo Turkoglu’s disastrous contract (without D-12 the Magic go into rebuilding mode and Turkoblu is an anchor on that). The Lakers would have had Chris Paul and could have offered Andrew Bynum, but they had no way to take back Turkoglu, too. They would have already surrendered Odom and Gasol.

With Howard pushing his way out in Orlando now, Buss got a picture of the true price of Howard, realized he needed Gasol to get him, and it came down to choosing Howard or Paul. He couldn’t have the dream of both. And the choice there is always Howard — great bigs are harder to come by. Howard is your bridge to the post-Kobe Bryant era.

So he pulled out. And left the Rockets and Hornets in limbo.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.