Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant says don’t assume he wants to take a pay cut to help Lakers next summer

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Actually, yes he will.

This is just a negotiating stance.

Follow along for some background on what we’re talking about: Every Laker player on the roster this season comes off the books at the end of next season . That includes Kobe Bryant and his league-high $30 million salary this season. His contract ends, Kobe will be a free agent. In the wake of Dwight Howard’s exit the Lakers are going to use all that money to rebuild a winner.

The conventional wisdom says the Lakers will bring back Kobe Bryant for the 2014-15 season (and maybe one beyond that) but he will take a pay cut from the $30 million salary he has this season to help the Lakers have room to attract more top players. It’s what Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett did with their last contracts.

But Kobe told Serena Winters of Lakers Nation not to bet on that big cut.

“I’m not taking any at all – that’s the negotiation that you have to have.” Kobe Bryant told Lakers Nation in an exclusive interview at his Kobe Basketball Academy on Wednesday. “For me to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just going to take a huge pay cut. Nah, I’m going to try to get as much as I possibly can.”

He’s taking a pay cut.

Well, he is if he is as serious about winning another title.

We don’t know what the salary cap number will be a year from now, but a safe bet is $60 million or a little less. Nash is on the books for $9.7 million for 2014. If Kobe took no pay cut and demanded another $30 million, the Lakers are now basically at $40 million in salary for two players. That’s room for essentially one max deal, then a lot of minimum ones. Good luck convincing LeBron James to leave Miami or Carmelo Anthony to leave New York for a team of 40-year-old Nash, 36-year-old Kobe and a bunch of minimum salary guys.

Kobe wants to win another ring and he knows how this works. He’s also ultra-competitive Kobe, so he has to spin the negotiations as a win. So he’s playing tough now but don’t be shocked if he takes a contract at $10 million or less, giving the Lakers room to chase a couple of max players, or to spread that wealth around a little for quality players to go around their stars. Whoever they are.

But that only works if Kobe plays ball. And no matter what he says now, he will when it comes to make a sacrifice for the team. Because he knows it’s the only way he gets ring No. 6.

LeBron James: No statement by not staying at Trump-branded hotel

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the banner raising and ring ceremony before the game against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James said he wasn’t trying to make a statement by not staying at a Donald Trump-branded hotel with the Cleveland Cavaliers, calling it a personal preference.

“It would be the same if I went to a restaurant and decided to eat chicken and not steak,” James said.

James and some other players didn’t stay with the team at the Trump SoHo in lower Manhattan before the Cavs’ game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. James said it was the first time in his career he hasn’t stayed with his team, though he said he rode the bus to the morning shootaround as usual with the squad.

James endorsed Hillary Clinton and campaigned with her in Ohio. Several of his teammates, including Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and others have expressed their disappointment about Trump’s win.

“At the end of the day I hope he’s one of the best presidents ever, for all of our sake,” James said. “For my family, for all us.”

A team spokesman didn’t say how many players opted not to stay in the team hotel and wasn’t sure how James met up with the bus.

Coach Tyronn Lue, who stayed with the team, was asked if it was odd to have the players split up on the road.

“It’s not normal, but considering the circumstances that’s what we have,” Lue said. “But that’s not my main objective. My main thing is to try to get this team to stay on track and play the right way and try to get back on track by playing Cleveland Cavalier basketball.”

James wouldn’t talk about Knicks President Phil Jackson, who angered the All-Star forward last month by referring to his friends and business partners in an ESPN interview as a “posse.”

Boston’s Marcus Smart gets flopping warning from NBA

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 17:  Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden on October 17, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Boston’s Marcus Smart is one of the league’s more notorious floppers.

He was at it again Monday night against the Houston Rockets — and the league called him on it and gave him a warning.

It happened on the game’s final play — you were probably focused elsewhere, wondering how Al Horford could miss the game-winning layup. But watch Smart as he gets in position for the rebound on that shot.

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The referees didn’t buy it then.

This warning is barely a slap on the wrist. If — in his case, when — Smart gets caught a second time this season he will get a $5,000 fine from the league. Smart is making $3.6 million this season.

Happy birthday Larry Bird. We celebrate with some highlights.

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Larry Bird — the Celtics legend, three-time NBA champion, three-time MVP, 10-time All-NBA — turns 60 on Wednesday.

We celebrate by looking back at his 60-point game March 12, 1985, against the Hawks (video above, and yes that game was played in New Orleans).

Want more Larry the Legend highlights? We got you covered.

Hawks’ Mike Scott sent to D-League on rehab assignment

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Mike Scott #32 of the Atlanta Hawks poses during media day on September 26, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott is expected to play at least two games in the NBA Development League as he comes back from a knee injury that kept him out of training camp and the first 18 games of the season.

Scott played 15 minutes for the Delaware 87ers in Tuesday night’s loss to the Santa Cruz Warriors. He scored four points on 2-of-7 shooting, missing all four of his attempts from 3-point range.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer says the D-League is the best way for Scott to get “meaningful, competitive minutes” after undergoing a non-surgical procedure on his left knee.

Scott has played three games for Atlanta since his return. In 28 minutes, he has two points on 1-of-9 attempts, to go along with eight rebounds and six assists.