Kobe Bryant likes to remind Shaq who has more rings

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When Kobe Bryant got ring number five, he couldn’t hide his glee at having more rings than his rival Shaquille O’Neal — he talked about it in his press conference minutes after the game ended.

Now, on the day the Lakers will retire Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey, Kobe told Marc Spears of Yahoo that he likes to remind the big man who has more hardware.

“I always remind him every time I see him,” Bryant, who’s won five championships with the Lakers, told Yahoo! Sports. “I saw him after the All-Star Game and said, ‘How you doing, ‘Four’ ?’ He said, ‘Oh, you [expletive].’ [Our relationship is] really good now. We have such a mutual respect for each other.”

It wasn’t that way for a long time.

Kobe was a budding superstar with a massive ego and chip on his shoulder. Shaq was the most dominant player in the NBA, bar none. Together they formed a powerhouse combo, but like Los Angeles itself it was always living on a fault line and an earthquake to knock it all down was just a matter of when, not if. Phil Jackson sided with Shaq because he had to — Shaq had the role-playing veterans on his side, he had the locker room.

Kobe took a lot of blame in some quarters for forcing the breakup of that team, but if Shaq had the free agency hammer he would have used it, too. Kobe had it, Jerry Buss had to choose and made the only logical call — the player seven years younger, entering his prime with a crazy-strong work ethic. It wasn’t really much of a choice, even if at the time a lot of Lakers fans didn’t get that (trust me, I had a Lakers blog back then, plenty thought the Buss family made the wrong call).

“It was inevitable,” Bryant said. “You can’t expect Michael [Jordan] to play with Wilt [Chamberlain] for his entire career. That’s just not going to work. I had too much talent and too much to showcase. And then there was a challenge issued by him about me not being able to win without him. That’s a challenge I couldn’t pass.

“But ultimately during those years I sacrificed a lot, numbers-wise, to play with him. The thing that always bothered me was people said, ‘Well, Kobe’s selfish.’ I’m not selfish. If I was selfish, I would have left. I gave up a lot to play with him.”

Time heals most wounds, and it did these as well. Kobe and Shaq are good now, there’s a respect as equals that was not there back in the day. Shaq’s ego wouldn’t let the Lakers become Kobe’s team, but he went to Miami where he did cede that to Dwyane Wade to win a ring. Shaq grew up, too.

Now they are all good. But that doesn’t mean the ribbing doesn’t stop.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.

Spurs’ David Lee will not need surgery on knee, will be ready for training camp in the fall

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David Lee was certainly not going to swing the series against the Warriors one way or another. However, the veteran forward with a varried offensive game still has an NBA role in the right setting.

He has a $1.6 million player option with the Spurs next season, and whatever he decides it’s good news that he will not need surgery to repair the knee injury that sidelined him in the Conference Finals. From Ramona Shelburn of ESPN.

Good news to end the week. David Lee doesn’t need surgery on his knee, per his agent Mark Bartelstein. He’s got a sprained patellar tendon that should heal in about six weeks.

As a big off the bench, David Lee can still help the right team. His game has limitations, but put him in the right situation and he can help. It’s just that due to injury, the Spurs had to ask more of him in the playoffs than he can deliver anymore.

Draymond Green says Warriors are “more relaxed” this season

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Last year, the Warriors entered the NBA Finals with the weight of expectations: Defending NBA champions, 73 regular season wins, if they got the title they would leap up the ladder of all-time great teams, lose and it would be a massive let down. We all know what happened from there.

The Warriors are back in the Finals, taking on the Cavaliers for the third year in a row — but this year things are going to be different. Mostly because of Kevin Durant changing the equation. But also the Warriors mindset is better if you ask Draymond Green. Which Mark Spears of ESPN did.

This makes sense. The Warriors to a man denied the pressure and how physically/mentally taxed they were by the chase for 73, but it clearly wore on them physically and mentally. Green was thrashing about and drawing techs, over-reacting to everything (although sometimes that feels like his default setting). Curry was injured but also tired. The Warriors opened the door, LeBron James and the Cavaliers stormed through it.

Will a rested Warriors make a difference this time around? Maybe. But again, Durant matters more than rest.

Report: Harlem Globetrotters to resume series with Washington Generals

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The Harlem Globetrotters dropped the Washington Generals as an opponent a couple years ago – a sad development for basketball traditionalists.

But the sport’s most-lopsided rivalry is returning.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

Sources said the Generals will be put into rotation to play the Globetrotters again as early as this summer and will take on a greater life than before as the lovable losers.

This just feels right. There’s a spirit about the Generals that complements the Globetrotters so well.