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


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.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.