Los Angeles Lakers NBA star Kobe Bryant poses with young players for pictures during a corporate event in Shanghai

Kobe says what motivates him is “six”

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This is Kobe Bryant saying exactly what you expect Kobe Bryant to say.

Put an obstacle in front of Kobe — say, returning from a Achilles injury at age 35 next season — and you have motivated him. He wants to prove doubters wrong, haters wrong and father time wrong. He wants to prove a silly thing like a ruptured Achilles can’t stand in the way of his ultimate goal.

And what is it that motivates him, he was asked in an interview broadcast in China (where he is on his annual trip promoting his brand).

“Six.”

(As in a sixth ring, as if you needed me to tell you that.)

You can count me among the Lakers doubters for this upcoming season. While they will likely be within a few wins of last season’s total of 45 (and that could slide them into the seven or eight seed), I think they are going to miss the playoffs completely. I think there will be an adjustment period for Kobe, I think health (and depth) will be a key problem, and I think their defense will be their undoing.

As you would expect, Kobe is turning paragraphs like that last one into fuel.

“I’m excited about this upcoming year because there are a lot of question marks, a lot of people doubting and giving us challenges…” Kobe said.

“That’s the exciting part about it, facing those type of challenges. That’s what excites me, that’s what excites us going into the season. We know, just like in anything, it doesn’t matter how many star players you have as long as you have a group of players that play well together and are focused on getting to the common goal together. That’s really what matters the most.”

While I have my doubts, we’ve all know better than to count Kobe out. He’s a special player.

Dwyane Wade with dagger dunk to seal Bulls win vs. Suns (VIDEO)

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The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.

The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.

The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.

DeMarre Carroll shoves Isaiah Thomas to ground on break, tempers flare

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Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.

With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.

Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.

Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.

Seth Curry puts up career high 31 against Timberwolves (VIDEO)

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When Stephen Curry wore a headband through the All-Star Game last weekend, West coach Steve Kerr jokingly called him “Seth” all night.

Dallas’ Seth Curry came out of the week-long break playing like an All-Star. He dropped 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a career high for him. He hit 13-of-17 from the field, including three from beyond the arc, but did a lot of his damage in the midrange.

It wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves got a comfortable 97-84 win behind 27 points from Andrew Wiggins and 26 from Karl-Anthony Towns. Nerlens Noel was not yet with his new team in time to play for the Mavs in this game.

Spurs kick off rust from layoff to beat Clippers 105-97 in Chris Paul’s return

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard dunks during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points despite foul trouble and the San Antonio Spurs shook off the rust from a nine-day layoff to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Pau Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in his return from a 15-game absence because of a fractured finger. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 12 rebounds.

Blake Griffin scored 29 points for the Clippers, who have dropped consecutive games to the league’s two winningest teams since the All-Star break ended. They lost by 10 points at Golden State a night earlier. The Spurs have the league’s second-best record at 44-13.

Chris Paul added 17 points in his return after missing five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.