Kobe says this is most talented Lakers team he has been on

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Kobe Bryant has been on Lakers teams with amazing talent — Shaquille O’Neal in his prime, Glen Rice, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum.

But he said he has never been on a more talented team than this one, which has a likely starting five of Steve Nash, Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard (once everyone is healthy).

That’s an impressive (and expensive) superteam. One that could contend for a title. Kobe talked about it with Marc Spears of Yahoo.

“On its face, it’s the best talent I’ve been around,” Bryant said. “Whether that translates into winning a championship remains to be seen. But just on paper you’re talking Defensive Player of the Years, MVPs, All-Stars. You’re talking about a myriad of things. Guys who are at the top of their position at one point or another. It’s pretty dope.”

He’s right.

This is more talented than the 2004 team (with Payton and Malone, a team that fell short in the finals to a hot Pistons squad), because this team has more guys near their peak. Nash is not young but he is still as good as anyone alive running the pick-and-roll. Howard can score and is a defensive monster — and defense is the key for the Lakers. Gasol will make it work because he’s versatile and besides, that’s his personality. He fits in. And Kobe will do what it takes to win.

The team needs to come together, no doubt. There are a lot of “on paper” questions about the Lakers that still need to be answered. (And probably will in the affirmative — these are veteran players whose skills don’t overlap. They likely figure it out.)

It’s going to be fun to watch because they will be one of the best teams in the league, but if it goes south it could be a firey train wreck. Howard knows all about being in one of those.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.