Kobe says he’s “probably weeks” away from returning, talks new contract

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Kobe Bryant was in a good mood — of course if you just signed a new $48.5 million contract you would be too.

Bryant spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday since signing his new contract (the press conference was broadcast on Time Warner Sportsnet in Los Angeles). Kobe was in Washington with the Lakers, where they will take on the Wizards.

But even with the new deal he’s not getting back on the court immediately. Kobe said he feels strong but it will be “probably weeks” before his returns, adding he hasn’t felt he has his explosiveness back to where he wants it. The Lakers have a lighter schedule next week with three practices and he said that will give him a better idea of his timetable.

“I need more practices to measure it, test it, (to see if) some of the limitations I had in the first couple of practices come back and see if they are still there,” Bryant said. “If not, go from there.”

Kobe also knows he’s going to be on a bit of a minutes limit when he returns, and he’s good with that.

As for his contract, Kobe talked about his personal relationship with the Buss family and his loyalty to the Lakers organization. He reiterated that from his end there were no negotiations.

“We had no conversation whatsoever,” Bryant said. “The only number I saw was the one that I agreed to.”

Criticism of the deal from fans and media has been that it is too large — at $23.5 million next year and $25 million the final year it will cut into the ability of the Lakers to lure enough elite talent to play with Kobe to win him the sixth ring he so covets.

Not surprisingly, Bryant agrees with Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak that there is enough flexibility to make a deal.

“From what I saw absolutely (they can build a contender),” Bryant said. “I think the fans are, God bless them, they are fans and they have good intentions and a good spirit about it, but I don’t think they understand the cap, or strategically what the Lakers are trying to do better than the Lakers do. I think we’ll be alright.”

Kobe admitted that it would not likely have been a two-year extension if he hadn’t ruptured his Achilles, putting a new obstacle in his path and motivating him to keep going.

So is this his last contract?

“Probably.”

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.