Kobe Bryant doesn’t think the Clippers are a rival, but was proud of Lakers’ performance

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Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers picked up a 96-91 victory over their Staples Center roommates on Wednesday night, but don’t get it twisted: Kobe Bryant and Co. certainly don’t view a victory over the Clippers as a big win in a rivalry game.

“Please,” Bryant said when asked about what the rivalry victory meant to the Lakers’ superstar. “We’ve got five championships. … Rivals come from the playoffs.”

Bryant mentioned that and more during an overly-honest interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski following the Lakers snapping of a three-game losing streak. The ‘Black Mamba’ showed quite a different side than most are used to seeing — especially those that have been tuning into ‘Kobe System’ shoe advertisements — but it showed a cutthroat mentality that isn’t seen as often in the new era of the NBA.

The 13-time All-Star declared his Lakers don’t have a rivalry following a game that saw six technical fouls, a couple shoving matches, an ejection and a flagrant to boot, but he wasn’t shy about standing up for his teammates following the raucous affair. The Clippers took offense to some of the actions that Lakers’ Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol took part in, but Bryant said that was exactly what needed to happen.

Bryant told Yahoo! that “There’s a couple [expletives] in this league you don’t mess with – and Metta is one of them.”

“Hey, you better talk to them,” Bryant advised the Clippers’ Chauncey Billups, according to Wojnarowski. “You better tell them to leave Ron alone. Someone is going to get their ass knocked out in front of everybody.”

Gasol showed that he wasn’t soft during the game, either, though it was through a simple pat on the head of Clippers point guard Chris Paul in a move that the latter apparently decided was a bit too patronizing for his liking. Bryant was unable to calm Paul down, but he told Yahoo! Sports that it was good to see a bit of fight from his big man.

“Pau’s not a patronizing guy,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “I’d do some stuff like that, but not him. That’s just not him.

“Chris doesn’t like that stuff. He’s got that little-man complex. I do that to his head all the time. Man, he just hates it. But he’s a tough little [expletive], and he’s not going to let that [expletive] slide, accident or not.”

It was only a start for Bryant and the Lakers as they’re still trying to shake off the effects of a shortened-preseason and the retirement of head coach Phil Jackson that caused them to begin the season with a middling 11-8 record, but it seems Wednesday night’s win was certainly a step in the right direction.

Instead of the media discussing the effects of Mike Brown’s offense, the poor play of the Lakers’ backcourt or if Bryant still has what it takes to put the team on his back when they need a big win, the topic of discussion following Wednesday night’s win was about how the Lakers looked like a tough team that are willing to do whatever it takes to get a win — even if the game does get a little dirty.

And that, judging by Bryant’s comments, is exactly what he wants the team to do every time they step out on the court.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.