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

19 Comments

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.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

Leave a comment

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

Leave a comment

Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

Leave a comment

There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.