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.

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.