Kobe Bryant is NBA’s leading scorer and D’Antoni could keep him there

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Kobe Bryant had a pretty standard night for himself Friday against the Suns compared to his past couple seasons — 31 points on a not terribly efficient 10-of-24 shooting but getting to the line a lot (10-of-11 from the stripe).

With that night, Kobe has averaged 26.9 points per game and moved past James Harden into the NBA’s per game scoring lead. The two big guns — LeBron James (24.8) and Kevin Durant (24.5) and hanging back there and could move up the list.

Before the season we all assumed Durant would win the scoring title again because… well, he is the best pure scorer walking the face of the earth right now and his team needs him to produce. LeBron would put up points but he’s as likely to kick it to Norris Cole with the game on the line as shoot. (As ESPN noted, did you see LeBron do exactly that against the Nuggets on national television and nobody even questioned his manhood? Rings change things.)

But Kobe wasn’t seen as a threat — he was too old plus he has Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard around him to soak up shot attempts and buckets. Plus you knew Metta World Peace needed his touches whether he should get them or not.

Mike D’Antoni may have changed that.

He said at his introductory press conference he expects the Lakers to score 110 to 115 points a night — a lofty goal that most don’t think the Lakers at their age can achieve. They are probably right. But they are going to score more per game.

If the Lakers are pushing the tempo, scoring more points and playing more just on basketball instincts not micromanaged plays, Kobe could be the guy to beat in the scoring race.

Especially if he continues to be efficient — he is shooting 53.1 percent on the season (up from 43 percent last season), and 41 percent from three (30 percent last season). He was getting his shots closer to the basket — 19.3 percent of his shots this season have come on post ups and he’s shooting 43.9 percent on those and getting the and-1 on 10 percent, according to Synergy Sports — taking fewer contested long twos or threes, and the result of the good looks was more efficient scoring.

While the numbers he put up against the Suns wouldn’t have had you blink last season, this season they stand out as different from the rest.

It should be noted Kobe is going to spend more time as the pick-and-roll ball handler and he has shot 46 percent doing that this season and 37 percent from three in that role. Watching him for a couple games, he is comfortable in that role.

If Kobe continues to be efficient, if the Lakers put up a lot of points, Kobe could well lead the league in scoring at the age of 35. With D’Antoni at the helm it is possible. Kobe will downplay it — he’ll say he doesn’t care, it’s only about the rings, and he’ll mean it — but this could happen.

Kevin Durant on White House visit with Donald Trump: “Nah, I won’t do that”

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It’s not much of a surprise, but at least we have confirmation. If the Golden State Warriors are invited to the White House for a championship visit with Donald Trump, at least one star won’t be going: Kevin Durant.

Speaking in an ESPN article published on a Thursday, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP said he didn’t respect who currently held the office of president.

Durant was interviewed as part of his Kevin Durant Day in his local Washington D.C. area suburb of Seat Pleasant, Maryland.

He is not the first NBA player to come forward and speak out about Trump in the aftermath of Charlottesville. LeBron James, Jabari Parker, and other NBA players have denounced the tone of Trump’s politics and positions in the public sphere.

The Warriors star had a lot to say on the subject, but I think this was most poignant.

Via ESPN:

“Nah, I won’t do that,” said Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP. “I don’t respect who’s in office right now.”

“I don’t agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” said Durant, who said it wasn’t an organizational decision. “That’s just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they’ll all agree with me.”

“He’s definitely driving it,” Durant said. “I feel ever since he’s got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided and it’s not a coincidence. When [Barack] Obama was in office, things were looking up. We had so much hope in our communities where I come from because we had a black president, and that was a first.

“So to see that and to be where we are now, it just felt like we took a turn for the worse, man. It all comes from who is in the administration. It comes from the top. Leadership trickles down to the rest of us. So, you know, if we have someone in office that doesn’t care about all people, then we won’t go anywhere as a country. In my opinion, until we get him out of here, we won’t see any progress.”

Durant also mentioned the need for more sports stars to come out and voice their opinions as a matter of leadership and as role models in the community.

That is definitely a huge part of the impact that sports stars can have. We all know how important NBA players are to pop culture and the culture of basketball itself. Couple that with how much influence they have as individual brands, as major players in the corporate sphere, and hopefully it will help them make a positive impact.

It’s great that NBA players are coming out and standing up against this kind of violence, and good on the NBA for making sure their voices as individuals aren’t silenced.

Chris Bosh to ‘host’ players-union awards revealed via tweets

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The NBA didn’t reveal its major regular-season awards until after the playoffs and draft – until most fans had turned the page toward the offseason. But at least the league got a revenue-drawing nationally televised award show out of the delay.

What is the players union doing, and how does Chris Bosh come into play?

National Basketball Players Association release:

CHRIS BOSH TO HOST NBPA “PLAYERS VOICE AWARDS”

11-Time All-Star to Reveal Awards Via Social Media

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that 2017 Players Voice Awards will be revealed exclusively via social media tomorrow beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.

The Players Voice Awards are voted on solely by NBA players

The awards and videos will be revealed via @theNBPA on Twitter, and NBPA.com will curate all of the content throughout the day.

Voting took place at the end of the regular season and did not consider postseason performances.

The full list of Players Voice Awards includes:

  • Best Rookie
  • Comeback Player of the Year
  • Best Off the Bench
  • Best Defender
  • Hardest to Guard
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team
  • Best Dressed
  • Home Court Advantage
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For
  • Clutch Performer
  • Best Social Media Follow
  • Most Influential Veteran
  • Global Impact
  • Most Valuable Player
  • Best Teammate (one per team)

I’m still not sure how Bosh is hosting tweets or what took so long for the union to get to this. The players-union awards, which debuted two years ago, haven’t gained much steam. I don’t think this will help.

On the other hand, not much is happening this time of year. Diehard basketball fans are thirsting for activity, and this provides some.

But they’d care at any time. I don’t think this moves the needle at all for casual fans.

As a hardcore basketball follower, though, I am curious who wins – and how Bosh fits into all of this.

Malik Monk: I thought Knicks would draft me

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Malik Monk to the Knicks was predicted and reported as a possibility. And when the No. 8 pick came up, the Kentucky guard was still on the board.

But New York – then still run by Phil Jackson – passed on Monk to draft Frank Ntilikina.

Monk, who wound up being drafted No. 11 by the Hornets, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

“Me, my agent, everybody in my agency, my family — we thought we were going to New York,” Monk told the Daily News last week after a posing for his Panini trading card. “It was here, my agent is here (based in New York), a great agent, everybody thought it was going to be here. Went to dinner with (Jackson), had a great workout, everything was positive.”

Naiveté and/or wishful thinking by someone who had never been through the draft process before? Perhaps.

But Monk’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, is quite experienced.

What did the Knicks do to make the Monk camp believe they’d draft him? Misleading in those situations can grate agents, though if Jackson did that, at least New York eradicated the problem.

Report: Kyrie Irving and LeBron James didn’t meet in Miami

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Another day, another disputed rumor involving LeBron James.

This time it’s one about him meeting with Kyrie Irving in Miami.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

I just got off the phone with folks about an hour ago. They said LeBron James and Kyrie Irving never met at all. They were both in the city of Miami. But, I was told, it is quite possible to be in the same city and not see each other. They never met. They never talked.

Whether or not they’ve already met, Irving and LeBron might need to address their problems soon

The Cavaliers might not have their high asking price for Irving met before the season, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert already discussed the possibility of Irving returning. LeBron and Irving might have to reconcile a future as teammates.