Los Angeles Lakers' center Shaquille O'Neal (L) la

Shaq says he’s ‘sure’ Kobe will return early from Achilles injury, believes he’s targeting opening night

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Kobe Bryant has historically shown an unmatched work ethic where basketball is concerned, and there’s no question he’ll continue that level of perseverance as he’s undergoing rehabilitation for the torn Achilles injury he suffered in April near the end of the regular season.

Bryant has already said that he’s shattered the normal timetable for recovery from this type of injury, which would have had him returning to the court sometime near the end of December at the earliest. But one of his former teammates believes Bryant will do everything possible to be back on the floor much sooner than that.

From Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

Shaquille O’Neal expects Kobe Bryant to return from his Achilles’ injury for the Lakers’ season opener on Oct. 29.

“I’m sure Kobe is going to come back early,” said Shaquille O’Neal in a video interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet on Friday.  “Anything before nine months is early.  Him making the first game, I wish him well.  He’s a very, very competitive kid.  He loves the naysayers.  He loves proving people wrong.”When he put the rumor out there that he may be back the first game, best believe he’s trying to come back the first game,” continued O’Neal.

We know Bryant wants to play as early as possible, and Lakers fans want him back on the floor contributing as soon as he’s healthy enough to do so — with the caveat that he’s able to play somewhere close to the level that he could before the injury was sustained.

If Kobe comes back early and is a shell of his former self (yet still dominates the ball offensively and demands the same amount of touches), that’s going to hurt the team a lot more than would his absence for another couple of months.

Bryant will do everything he can to be back as soon as it’s physically possible — that much is certain. He just needs to be honest with himself about his abilities during the recovery process, and make the smart decision as to when the time to return would be best.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. However, those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings, and the team’s playoff chances have taken a serious hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers).

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and had said planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).