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.”

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.

Enraged Jason Smith restrained from Mario Chalmers (video)

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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During the Wizards’ win over the Grizzlies last night, Mario Chalmers tried to stop Jason Smith from shooting after Smith had been called for travelling. It’s a fairly common tactic, one pioneered by Kevin Garnett. Players don’t want their opponents to gain confidence by seeing the ball go through the net, even after play stops.

But Chalmers held onto Smith’s arm, and Smith took umbrage.

NBC Sports Washington:

I think it’s more likely, after halting Smith’s shot, Chalmers was trying to hold up Smith rather than yank him down. But I can’t know Chalmers’ intentions, and holding up a falling person by his arm isn’t very effective.

The double technical foul called seems about fair.

PBT Extra: Two months from trade deadline watch DeAndre Jordan and… Paul George?

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The NBA trade deadline got moved up this season to Feb. 8 so the league can avoid the spectacle of DeMarcus Cousins being traded during the All-Star Game and then doing an uncomfortable press interview afterward where he had to be told of the situation.

That means we are less than two months away from the trade deadline, and in this PBT Extra I look at the big names that could be on the market.

The Clippers seem likely to move DeAndre Jordan, the only questions are where and what will they get back? But three other teams have big decisions to make about their stars: Oklahoma City with Paul George, New Orleans with DeMarcus Cousins, and Memphis with Marc Gasol. Right now none of those guys are on the market, but that could change.