Confident Kobe: “It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs”

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Kobe Bryant has never lacked for confidence.

And although his Lakers are three games below .500 and 3.5 games back of the eight-seed Houston Rockets, Kobe is sure the Lakers can make the playoffs. And has no doubt that once there they can do damage. Basically because Kobe has no doubt.

From an interview with Sports Illustrated.

“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever. I have zero nervousness about that….

“But I’m not talking about just me. Us as a group. We will make the playoffs. And we will compete. And part of the reason I have that confidence is the Miami game [a 107-97 loss in Miami on Feb. 10]. We had control of the game. That was no fluke. We were playing very, very well. We were reading the defense, making the extra pass. OK, they have two great players [LeBron James and Dwayne Wade] who scored eight straight buckets and took control of the game. But we were right there. We can do it.”

The Lakers can make the playoffs, and it’s easy to picture that after the way Dwight Howard played and the Lakers as a team against the Celtics Wednesday. But they have not been consistent about that kind of play all season. And that’s the real challenge — the Lakers have started to find a flow an identity, but they can’t afford more setbacks. Or injured shoulders.

The Rockets remain on pace to win 44 games. Just to match that the Lakers would need to go 18-9 the rest of the way — and the Lakers have been on that pace lately, winning six of their last nine. During that stretch it has looked as if they are starting to figure out who they are and what they have to do as a group. They are starting to find an identity.

But they are going to need a sustained level of success we have not seen from them this season. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy either.

That never stopped Kobe. He’s confident.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.