When team USA scrimmaged this summer, Kobe Bryant often lined up opposite Russell Westbrook to guard him. To challenge him. And in vintage Kobe fashion, he talked a lot of smack.
Did you watch the first half of the Lakers loss to the Thunder Friday night? When Westbrook went off for 27 points and hit five three pointers in the first 24 minutes? Think he was a little fired up? Combine that with Westbrook being covered by Chris Duhon and you have a point explosion.
Ric Bucher of CSNBayArea.com says both Westbrook and Kevin Durant have a little extra motivation against the Lakers because Kobe wouldn’t stop talking during the Olympics.
…source says the Black Mamba talked relentless smack during the Olympics that the Thunder stars weren’t going back to the Finals after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and then added Dwight Howard right before the U.S. played Spain for the gold medal. Kobe also made a point of guarding Westbrook during practices and pumping him up, the theory being that he wanted to incite Russ to bump heads with KD over who the team’s best player is. (If you think that’s too conspiratorial to be real, you don’t know Kobe.) KD, in particular, got tired of hearing him. For what it’s worth: KD and Westbrook’s combined 69 points is the highest single-game total they’ve posted this season.
I’d take this with a little salt. Durant and Westbrook were fired up to play the Lakers and lately the Lakers defense looks like it consists of cardboard cutouts of the players. They were likely to have a big night no matter what.
But is it really hard to picture Kobe pushing and pushing and the more mild-mannered Durant getting peeved?
I bet Kobe wasn’t talking much Friday night. He’s got his own problems to worry about right now.
Minnesota is one of the NBA’s best positioned up-and-coming teams. They have a franchise cornerstone in Karl-Anthony Towns, a quality No. 2 in Andrew Wiggins, maybe like Zach LaVine can blossom into an All-Star, and players such as Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica could be part of the picture. Maybe Ricky Rubio, too, although he’s further along his career arc. A lot of people look at this team and think around 2020, when the Warriors fade (or break apart), the Timberwolves can step up to elite.
Tom Thibodeau is apparently not willing to be that patient — he’s looking to get in the Paul George/Jimmy Butler talks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
Thibodeau helped develop Butler in Chicago and they have a great relationship, he certainly makes the Timberwolves better next season. Same with George, although he’s a rental who almost certainly bolts after the coming season
My question to the Timberwolves: Why?
What was wrong with the building trajectory they are on? I get it, they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004, a ton of money was just sunk into upgrades at the Target Center, and the owner is not getting younger. Those are all non-basketball reasons to screw up what the basketball side is doing right. It’s the mistake of poor franchises to let that happen.
Could the Timberwolves use a point guard of the future, more depth on the wings and better defenders all around? You bet. But they don’t need to rush the development program either. If Minnesota can land Butler only giving up Rubio and a protected future first or something, sure, but the Bulls continue to ask a very high price for a deal.
Outside of personal feelings, why would the Timberwolves do that?
The Spurs trading LaMarcus Aldridge – they’re reportedly shopping him – could open enough cap space to sign Chris Paul.
But that isn’t the only reason San Antonio is trying to move Aldridge.
Sam Amick of USA Today:
According to a person with knowledge of the Spurs forward’s situation, it’s the 31-year-old’s unhappiness in San Antonio that is the driving force behind the Spurs’ trade talks on Thursday. The five-time All-Star, according to the person, is hopeful that San Antonio can find a better fit for his talents.
Rumors about the Spurs trading Aldridge emerged early in the season, as he was reportedly unhappy about Kawhi Leonard getting the spotlight. When Aldridge signed with San Antonio, it seemed Leonard could do the heavy lifting as the team’s best player and Aldridge could get outsized credit as the leading scorer. But Leonard has emerged as the go-to offensive player, pushing Aldridge into a supporting role both in reality and reputation. Gregg Popovich calling out Aldridge publicly during the playoffs surely didn’t improve relations.
Aldridge turns 32 this summer and will likely become a free agent after next season. Wanting to leave the Spurs – held up as the NBA’s best culture – will raise additional red flags.
San Antonio might not get as much as it hopes in a trade for Aldridge. If Chris Paul is coming, the Spurs wouldn’t need as much for Aldridge. But they won’t know about Paul until July.
San Antonio also values building a roster of players who’ve, as Popovich puts it, “gotten over themselves.” If that’s not Aldridge, the Spurs might not want to keep him around.
There are numerous factors to weigh and incomplete information, but this is the twisting road San Antonio is navigating.
Knicks president Phil Jackson’s asking price for Kristaps Porzingis is reportedly “massive.”
Just what does that mean?
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
According to a Knicks source, Jackson is asking for the third overall pick in Thursday’s draft as well as next year’s Brooklyn pick along with Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder. This version of the deal would not include Boston taking on Joakim Noah‘s contract.
All the Knicks fans who threatened to relinquish their fandom if the team traded Porzingis – most would love this deal.
Would the Celtics? I doubt it.
The question is whether there’s a middle ground between what New York wants and what Boston would do. It’s possible Jackson won’t budge and is just shopping Porzingis on the off chance someone accepts outlandish requests like these and to teach Porzingis a lesson for skipping his exit meeting.
Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.
Jay Williams of ESPN:
A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”
Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.
Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.