Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns

Alvin Gentry out as Suns head coach


PHOENIX — The Suns and head coach Alvin Gentry have parted ways effective immediately, according to multiple reports. The official release from the team says that the two parties have mutually agreed to the decision, and given the talk around the team over the last week or so, that makes perfect sense.

There have been discussions about changing the player rotations to focus more on player development than on wins and losses. Gentry is a players’ coach, and a veteran of the game whose competitive fire wouldn’t be best suited in that situation, so the decision to go in another direction from a leadership standpoint is an understandable one.

Gentry talked about the situation a little bit on Thursday, and said that any choice made to deviate from competing solely to win games would be determined by the organization as a whole.

“Well yeah, it will be,” he said, when asked if it would be an organizational decision to move in more of a player development direction. “It’s not going to be something that I just decide. It will be something that’s going to be discussed with [president of basketball operations Lon Babby] and [team GM Lance Blanks] and [team owner Robert Sarver]. It’s not something that I’m just going to decide on my own to do because there will be other things that would have to be discussed also.

“We’ve talked about it,” he said. “We haven’t met formally about it, but we’ve talked about it some. It’s something that I’m sure at some stage we’d look at.”

Gentry also said that the move in that direction could be coming soon, especially considering the team’s schedule that doesn’t have them playing another game for six days.

“There’s a possibility we could sit down and talk, but I think there’s some other things that would have to be discussed along those lines too,” he said.

What Gentry kept referring to was clearly the fact that if Suns management determined that player development was to be more valued than wins and losses, his contract situation would need to be addressed first.

Gentry was in the final year of his deal, so obviously he would have liked to have some job security firmly in place before the losses continued to pile up with, for example, rookie point guard Kendall Marshall getting extended minutes when there are more talented options on the roster.

Gentry was asked if his future would need to be addressed, and he responded with “no comment.”

The Suns suffered another frustrating loss on Thursday, blowing an eight-point fourth quarter lead to a Bucks team that hadn’t won in Phoenix in over 25 years. The Suns are 13-28 on the season, dead last in the Western Conference standings.

A press conference is scheduled for this afternoon, and an interim head coach is expected to be named in the next 24-48 hours. Current Suns assistant coaches Elston Turner and Dan Majerle are potential candidates, as is player development coach Lindsey Hunter.

Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
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LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.