NBA All-Star Bryant of the Lakers blocks a shot by All-Star James of the Heat in the fourth quarter during the 2013 NBA All Star basketball game in Houston

Kobe Bryant gets two blocks on LeBron James late in 2013 NBA All-Star game (VIDEO)


HOUSTON — The All-Star game was a competitive one down the stretch, and not surprisingly, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were the ones competing hardest, and doing so against one another with the contest hanging in the balance.

Bryant got the best of James on two possessions, twice blocking the shot of the reigning league MVP in the game’s final three minutes.

The first one was the most impressive. James seemed to think that Bryant got caught on the screen from Chris Bosh, and pulled up for a 20-foot jump shot once he dribbled past him.

But Bryant came from the side and was able to cleanly block James as he went up, and Kevin Durant picked up the pieces and turned them into an uncontested dunk that put the West up 10 with two and a half minutes to play in the game.

Durant was sincerely impressed.

“I don’t know,” Durant said, when asked when was the last time he saw James get one of his jump shots blocked. “It was a great block. I haven’t really seen any MVP get a jumper blocked like that. It was a really great play. Kobe is a great player.”

Bryant was asked about his competitive nature in locking up LeBron late, but anyone who’s paid any attention to how Kobe operates should already know the answer.

“Well, I mean, just taking the challenge and defending a little bit,” he said. “[The game] gets close, it’s just … It’s fun. I enjoy it.”

It appeared that some friendly words were exchanged between Bryant and James, but Kobe refused to classify it as trash talk.

“Me? Trash talk? Never,” Bryant said with a huge smile. “Never. I don’t do that. I’m a nice guy.”

Alright, then what exactly was LeBron’s reaction to those two plays?

“He didn’t really say much,” Bryant said. “He said I fouled him, and then I said well yeah, I pretty much foul every play. I’m an 80s baby, you know what I mean? That’s what we do.”

James didn’t seem to have any ill will about the way things went down afterward. But at the same time, he wasn’t at all surprised by Bryant’s motivation to give everything he had defensively to try to help his team win, while personally taking on the responsibility of stopping the game’s best player in the process.

“I am absolutely not surprised,” James said. “It was all in good spirit. It was just two guys who love to compete, love to go at it. It was a lot of fun.”

Rumor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope demanding more than $20 million annually to sign contract extension with Pistons

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 27:  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #5 of the Detroit Pistons reacts after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading andor using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Pistons owner Tom Gores said he’d pay the luxury tax if a contract extension for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put Detroit over next season.

Yet, Caldwell-Pope hasn’t signed an extension with the deadline six days away.

What will it take?

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

There was gossip over the summer that it would take a deal worth north of $20 million per year to get Caldwell-Pope’s signature.

That’s not an unreasonable demand. It’s up to Caldwell-Pope whether he’d accept less in exchange for more security, but I think he’d get even more as a restricted free agent next summer – maybe even a max contract, which projects to start at more than $24 million.

Caldwell-Pope is a good shooting guard in a league with a dearth of quality wings and a greater need for them as teams go smaller. He’ll be just 24 next offseason, so his next deal should last through his prime.

His preseason didn’t foreshadow a breakout year. He remains a good defender and streaky 3-point shooter. But it’s possible Caldwell-Pope steadies his outside stroke and/or becomes an even more impactful defender. He could also improve his off-the-dribble skills, though his bread is buttered as a 3-and-D player.

Still, it won’t take massive improvements for Caldwell-Pope to hold value. To some degree, the Pistons could view every dollar under the max on a Caldwell-Pope extension as savings.

If his demands remain high, the Pistons could always take another year to evaluate the fourth-year guard. With matching rights, they can always re-sign him in the offseason.

NBA sets record with 113 international players, a plurality from Canada, on opening-night rosters

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 21: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs go after a loose ball during the first quarter of the game on November 21, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Spurs defeated the Timberwolves 121-92. 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 Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Until last season, the NBA set or tied its record for number of international players on opening-night rosters the previous three years.

But after peaking at 101 in 2014-15, the number dropped to 100 last season.

A sign the league has hit its foreign saturation point?

Probably not.

The NBA boasts a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories to begin this season. Canada, with 11, leads the league for the third straight year.

A count of international players in the NBA on opening night:

  • 2016-17: 113
  • 2015-16: 100
  • 2014-15: 101
  • 2013-14: 92
  • 2012-13: 84

Here’s a full list of 2016-17 international players, but before you read it, take our quizzes on opening-night rosters.

Trivia: Name every player on a 2016-17 NBA roster

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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NBA teams cut their rosters to a maximum of 15 players yesterday. Only one team, the Bulls, has just 14 players.

That means there are 449 players in the NBA as the season tips off tonight.

How many of them can you name?

Take these two quizzes, one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. Players are in a random order within their teams.

Chandler Parsons out for Grizzlies’ opener

Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons poses for a picture on NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Parsons signed with the Grizzlies in July. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Chandler Parsons missed the Mavericks’ final 18 games last season, including the playoffs, due to knee problems.

Now with the Grizzlies, his games missed streak will hit 19.

Michael Wallace of

Maybe this is just a blip. Parsons will get healthy soon enough and diversify Memphis’ offense.

But Dallas didn’t make a stronger push to keep Parsons due to his knees. We could look back on this and chastise the Grizzlies for signing someone to a max contract who wasn’t even ready to play in the first place. They have big plans for Parsons, but he must play for those to work.

Brandan Wright just can’t get healthy. Maybe Memphis will believe this injury warrants missing time.