Los Angeles Lakers Bryant leaves the court against the Portland Trail Blazers after their NBA game in Portland

Kobe says he can play five more years… but don’t bet on it


Often with guards, once they reach their mid-30s, you expect their production to fall off a cliff. Which has made what Kobe Bryant has done this season all the more impressive. The reasons he seems to defy Father Time are clear — his commitment to conditioning and to the fundamentals of the game (his post footwork is as good as any big in the league) give him an edge lost on most his age. Or those a decade younger.

How much longer could Kobe play?

He said five years in an interview on Time Warner Sports Net (the cable network that paid so much money to get the Lakers’ broadcast rights it spun the head of every other owner in the league). Eric Pincus at the Los Angeles Times has the transcription.

“I can probably play another five years,” said Bryant to Kevin Frazier on “Connected With…Kobe Bryant,” which aired on Wednesday night via Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

“I’m not saying I’m going to play five years…but physically I could play,” he continued.

But the question with Kobe never was “could he?” It was “will he want to?” Will he continue to want to put in the long hours of effort — in the season and out of it — to stay in elite condition and improve his game?

“Right now, no,” said Bryant, who has one more year left on his contract. “It might change but right now, no. It’s too much.”

It’s too much work for not much payoff, he should say.

Kobe isn’t going to sign another deal (next season is the last on his contract) and go through all this so he can fight for an eight seed. He’s in it for the rings. (And the idea of him jumping teams to chase rings is highly unlikely. He’ll retire a Laker.)

While Kobe has said he will make a decision on what to do before next season starts, I think in reality how close the Lakers are go being a contender after next season will be the deciding factor. If he’s going to put in all that work, will he see a payoff?

Another season like this and he probably will retire.

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Don’t expect more wins in Toronto

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After winning the Atlantic Division then getting thumped in the playoff two years running, the powers that be in Toronto decided it was time for a change.

The added DeMarre Carroll and made shifts to make this a more defensive-minded team, all because of dreams of playoff success (which for the Raptors would be making the second round). What this changeover is not going to mean is an improvement off the 49 regular season wins the Raptors had last season — they sacrificed some scoring to get this defense, and there is a trade-off.

That said, I still expect the Raptors to win the Atlantic. Maybe they make the second round of the playoffs (way too early to make that call).

How many regular season wins they get — and if they win a postseason series — for me is going to come down to if Jonas Valanciunas takes a step forward. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will be strong, Carroll is an upgrade, but the big man in the middle will be the hinge for everything.

Mike Budenholzer smirks at lawyer calling Thabo Sefolosha ‘NBA superstar’

Mike Budenholzer, Thabo Sefolosha
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The funny part, via Robert Silverman:

The substantive part:

NEW YORK (AP) — NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, who was arrested outside a New York City nightclub in April following a confrontation with police officer, has a character “of the highest order,” his head coach, Mike Budenholzer, testified Thursday.

Taking the stand as the final defense witness in Sefolosha’s trial, Budenholzer described the Atlanta Hawks guard-forward as “highly intelligent” and a “hard worker.”

When asked by defense attorney Alex Spiro to describe his character, he said it was, “of the highest order.”

“Thabo is of the highest character,” he said during brief testimony in Manhattan Criminal Court.

The Swiss national is charged with misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges stemming from a confrontation with officers outside a trendy Manhattan nightclub early in the morning on April 8. He has pleaded not guilty.

Officers testified this week that Sefolosha and former teammate Pero Antic repeatedly disobeyed their orders to move off the block and away from a crime scene that had been established following the earlier stabbing of another NBA player, Chris Copeland, and two women.

One of the officers also said Sefolosha lunged at an officer with his arm extended but was intercepted before making contact, eventually taken to the ground and arrested.

Sefolosha has testified that he was complying with orders and moving up the block as a particularly aggressive officer screamed profanities at him.

His attorney has argued that his client was singled out by the officer, who is white, because Sefolosha is black.

Sefolosha testified Thursday that he was trying to give money to a panhandler before entering an awaiting car when he was grabbed by police. He said his leg was kicked in the scuffle and he was taken to the ground, handcuffed and hauled to a police precinct. He suffered a fractured right leg, which forced him to miss the playoffs.

The case is the second one involving high-profile athletes accusing New York Police Department officers of wrongdoing this year. On Wednesday, the city agency charged with investigating police misconduct substantiated claims by former tennis star James Blake that an officer used excessive force when he took him to the ground last month after mistkaing Blake for a fraud suspect.