Kobe Bryant will be back when he’s back, and when he is you can expect him to play like Kobe Bryant — he’s not changing.
But what else can you expect from the Lakers this season? What about next summer?
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak met with the media on Wednesday and basically reiterated previous answers in new words. For example, he said once again they franchise is “100 percent” behind Mike D’Antoni as coach. Of course, what else is he going to say?
In the short term, Kupchak said to expect a lot more of Pau Gasol down on the block (via reporters Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report and Mike Trudell of Lakers.com):
Mitch on @paugasol: "If he's healthy, he's going to be an All-Star player. He'll be the focal point of our play in the paint."
Gasol is incredibly skilled as a scorer and passer on the block and for the past couple of seasons (due to Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard) he has been pushed into more of a power forward role. This season he goes back to his strengths, so long as Mike D’Antoni lets him.
As for Kobe, Kupchak said there is no timetable and again said he is not even running at 100 percent yet. Kupchak didn’t sound like a guy who expects Kobe to be in uniform opening night.
Most Lakers fans are not focused on this season but the next summer — that is when a lot of Lakers salary comes off the books (including Gasol and Kobe) and the franchise can rebuild with free agents. Kupchak said the Lakers plan to bring back Kobe Bryant, but they have not discussed a price with him yet.
Mitch Kupchak on Kobe: "He intends to retire a Laker. … We feel the same way."
But Kupchak is realistic about getting the big names (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others) to come to L.A. next summer. Kupchak has said before the plan is less for the summer of 2014 and more about 2015 and beyond and he echoed those thoughts again.
Kupchak on free agency next summer: “It’s going to be tough to get players to move. It really is.”
The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butlerto injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.
But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.
With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.
Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.
This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.
As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.
NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul
The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.
The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)
Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.
Since we're in the subject! I think it's crazy that the @NBA can make a rule without even discussing it with the players. No input at all
Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.
If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.
Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.
Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”
Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.
But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.
The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.
His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.
I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.
But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.