Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant

Kobe is frustrated, not sure teammates feel the same way

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Kobe Bryant’s way of dealing with adversity is simply to work harder. Get up more shots, work on more moves, get better. If you are not up for a challenge improve until you are.

The Lakers were not ready for the challenge of the Clippers Thursday night. For the Lakers (and their fans) it was a stark reminder of where their team is in comparison to a potential contender, and it’s not good.

Kobe was frustrated after the game, he told the media as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. What may have frustrated him more was his teammates reaction.

“Once things got difficult, we need to step up and meet that challenge. I’m not very happy right now, and hopefully my teammates feel the same way.”

The problem is, Bryant seemed to know before those words even left his mouth that his teammates’ minds weren’t in the same head space as his, as he tries desperately to turn this season around.

“After we lose by 20 or 30 points, we definitely can’t be laughing and joking around with a team that just kicked your ass, that’s for sure,” Bryant said.

Kobe wasn’t naming names, but you get the feeling this was about Dwight Howard. For Howard, much like a younger LeBron James in Cleveland, the game had to be fun for him or he doesn’t play with the same energy or passion. And just watching Howard the last few weeks, he clearly is not having a lot of fun on the court.

So Kobe was asked about his relationship with Howard. Kobe had really bonded a lot with Andrew Bynum last All-Star Game, so McMenamin asked if Kobe thought is relationship with Howard could be strengthened this same way.

“I don’t know how much more we need to strengthen it really,” Bryant said of his relationship with Dwight Howard. “I think it’s where it should be. The communication that I have with him is about execution and about what he needs to do on the court. That’s where it’s going to stay.”

Okay then.

So, still think the Lakers are going to make the playoffs this season?

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.