Dwight Howard, Mike D’Antoni wisely dodge questions about Kobe’s role in loss to Wizards


In the aftermath of the Lakers’ embarrassing loss at the hands of the Wizards on Friday, any remotely astute observer could tell you that there was plenty of blame to be placed squarely on the shoulders of Kobe Bryant.

It’s not a bad thing in Bryant’s eyes; he’ll gladly take all of the heat anytime his team loses. In this particular case, it was well-deserved.

In addition to Bryant’s lack of team defense, which has been a consistent issue all season, his going into hero-mode offensively down the stretch made it easier than it needed to be for Washington to hang on for the victory.

We all saw it, and Bryant’s teammates and head coach saw it, too. Just don’t expect them to go on record as saying so.

Dwight Howard (as seen in the video clip above, via Shahan Ahmed of NBC Los Angeles) gave only a smirk as his response to a question of how Trevor Ariza, who torched the Lakers for 25 points and knocked down seven three-pointers, consistently got so wide open for those looks.

Mike D’Antoni had plenty to say in his postgame press conference, but stayed away from a pointed question where the response would have clearly been to blame Bryant for the team’s late-game staleness offensively.

The question was something to the effect of, what did he attribute to the ball sticking on offensive possessions late in that fourth quarter.

You can see D’Antoni’s response here, and it’s pretty hilarious.

“Oh, I don’t know, that’s a good question,” D’Antoni said, extremely sarcastically. “I wish I knew.”

D’Antoni’s expression told us that of course he knew. But there was no way he was going to say it.

“What, are you going to throw me a piece of dynamite,” he said, after a hearty laugh that suggested we were all in on the same joke.

Howard and D’Antoni handled the situation perfectly. There’s enough drama surrounding the otherworldly expectations placed on this Lakers team given the talent assembled on the roster, and the players and coaches don’t need to feed into that by calling out Bryant on a night where he hurt the team more than he helped on both ends of the floor.

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Can Thunder win 60 games?

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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are healthy — just how good will the Thunder be?

The bold prediction in this PBT Extra preview with Jenna Corrado is that the Thunder will win 60 games, something they have not yet done. I wouldn’t bet on them hitting that number — with a new coach, and them making sure Durant and Westbrook get rest coming off injuries, plus the fact they’re in the deep West, that number may be high.

I think they have a better chance to come out of the West than win 60 games. I think they have a good shot to come out of the West.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”