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It was Kobe-mania with Lakers in China

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For years, every summer Kobe Bryant has gone over to China to build up his brand — he’s done clinics, media interviews, appearances, he has even set up his own charity to help specific causes in China.

The result is he is loved there — during the Beijing Olympics LeBron James and other Team USA players were taken aback by the level of Kobe mania. That hasn’t died, if anything it has grown in recent years.

The Lakers (and Warriors) found out about that first hand this past week around a couple of exhibition games.

The video above is just a taste. Watch the games and you could hear the crowd chant “Ko-be, Ko-be” despite the fact he was in a suit on the sidelines. Check out what Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report — who was in China for much of the Lakers trip — wrote about the experience.

It was asked in the postgame news conference of both Pau Gasol and Golden State star Stephen whether they were offended by the Chinese fans repeatedly chanting Kobe Bryant’s name while they, not he, played.

A lot of Chinese basketball reporters approached me for interviews or casual chats Tuesday, and it was interesting how they wondered whether Bryant is offended or put off by how rabid his fans in China are and how over the top some of them act…

I’ve written essay upon essay trying to explain Bryant’s immense popularity in China, and you know what it boils down to? His Chinese fans admire and deeply respect how hard he tries. They are also fascinated by how unafraid he is of failure, a rare trait in Asian culture.

That last paragraph is an interesting insight. I’ve long thought we tend to admire and even idolize people who do what we can’t — not just physically in the sports world, but mentally. I am drawn to the hard-boiled detectives of Raymond Chandler novels because they are radically different than me. We admire Michael Jordan because if we were given his physical gifts we wouldn’t have gotten as much out of them as he did. His competitiveness and single-minded obsessions does not make for a well-rounded person, that’s not who you want to chat with at a cocktail party, but it makes for a person who wins sporting events. We admire those different than us (in some ways, at least).

Whatever the reason, Kobe is wildly popular in China.

Kobe Bryant with spin move around LeBron James (VIDEO)

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The game itself went about how you’d expect one between a title contender and a high lottery team to go — the Cavaliers 120-111 win over the Lakers was never really in doubt.

But the fans in Cleveland wanted to see some vintage Kobe Bryant, and they got it late when he spun around LeBron James and hit the reverse lay-up.

LeBron had 29 points on the night, and Kyrie Irving had 35. Kobe finished with 17 and got a standing ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Suns’ Markieff Morris, Archie Goodwin get in scuffle on the bench

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Just another magical day in the Valley of the Sun, where clearly Jeff Hornacek was the problem….

During an early timeout in the Suns’ game at Golden State, Markieff Morris tried to explain something to Archie Goodwin, who is seated. This conversation gets heated quickly, and teammates eventually have to step in and separate the two teammates.

The Suns have shopped Morris around as the trade deadline approaches, this isn’t going to help his value.

After the game, Morris said the two are close (which is true) and this was just like two brothers having a fight — they will get over it quick.

Kawhi Leonard drains game winner to beat Orlando (VIDEO)

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This is how much Gregg Popovich trusts Kawhi Leonard on offense now: Tie game with 13.3 seconds remaining, and the play design is a 1-4 flat isolation for Leonard. It’s the kind of play teams will call for LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Popovich just called it for Leonard.

And he was rewarded with a game-winning bucket.

Leonard finished with 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 21, and the Spurs head into the All-Star break with a 45-8 record, on pace to win 70 games this season. And that still would only get them a two seed.

Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffers shoulder dislocation, leaves game

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had been back just six games after suffering a torn labrum in the preseason that required surgery. The Hornets had won four of those six, were playing improved defense, and looked like a potential playoff team in the East.

Now this.

He went straight to the locker room and did not return to the game (the Pacers got the win).

You can see the injury above. In a scramble for a loose ball, the Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi falls on MKG’s arm, dislocating his shoulder.

We don’t know the severity of all this and if MKG is going to miss time beyond this game. But it isn’t good.