Kobe sounds exactly like a guy ready to retire in two years

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It’s impossible to know what Kobe Bryant will be thinking in two years.

It’s not going to be easy for him to walk away from a sport he loves, to walk away from the locker room camaraderie, to refocus his competitive drive away from the basketball court that has been his home since childhood.

But more and more each time he speaks publicly about it, Kobe Bryant sounds like a guy who is going to hang up his Nikes when his current contract is up in two years.

Look at what he told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com in a fantastic profile about where Kobe is right now mentally as he enters his 17th NBA season.

“It’s just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health,” Bryant said. “That’s a lot of years. For a guard? That’s a lot of years….

“It’s not about health necessarily,” he said. “It’s about ‘Do I want to do it? Do I have that hunger to continue to prepare at a high level?’ “

If he is publically asking himself that question…

Kobe’s not going to be able to easily walk away from the game, but he also has been around long enough to see Michael Jordan come back as a Wizard and other great players hang on to become guys that played limited minutes and scored 12 points a night to chase a ring. Kobe’s ego is not going to let that happen.

But he also wants that sixth ring. He wants as many rings as Jordan. And my guess is he might sign a one-year deal after his current one if Steve Nash is still a Laker to chase it (or a seventh, depending on how things go).

However, that might be it. That might be the end.

Go read the entire story. Especially if you find the current players union battle between director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher for control of the organization interesting. Kobe weighs in on that, too. (And if you have to guess who he backs, you have not been paying attention.)

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?