Expect to see facilitator Kobe in his return to Lakers


LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant is back — he was walking around the Lakers’ locker room pregame in uniform ready to go — and he is going to try to score. It’s what he does.

But don’t be surprised if on his return Sunday night against Toronto you see a lot of the dishing, facilitating Kobe for the Lakers. Mike D’Antoni suggested as much before the game.

“I think he will try to facilitate early, just to get into a rhythm,” D’Antoni said. “Again, I just want him to be able to read the situation and make the play.”

Kobe’s return means there will be some bumps in the road — it’s never perfectly smooth when a new No. 1 option in the offense is inserted back into the lineup.

“There’ll be a little bit of a sorting out process now, we’ll find out what we need to adjust and he needs to adjust to the team and visa versa and go from there…” D’Antoni said. “Obviously we want to keep our pace the same, but he practiced at that pace with the ball movement and all that.”

Teams have been known to have letdowns when their stars return, D’Antoni said he warned his team about that.

“I think the biggest thing we need to guard against is standing around and watching him play,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes you go to an All-Star Game and you watch somebody that you haven’t played with and you just sit there watching and you really don’t get into it. We can’t afford to have Nick Young take a step back, or Wesley Johnson — they have to take a step forward.”

That said, the only limits on Bryant will be his own.

“He’ll be limited by his conditioning and how he feels about the other parts of his body,” D’Antoni said. “His Achilles is fine, it’s just everything else. I’m guessing in the 20s (minutes).”

The Lakers are a team looking at trying to make a playoff run in the deep Western Conference. The Lakers went into Sunday night 10-9 and just one game out of the eighth slot in the West.

Whether the Lakers can make that cut with Kobe Bryant is up for debate, but they were not going to do it without him.

“Just be Kobe Bryant, I think that’s good enough…” D’Antoni said. “It might not be today, but down the line, finishing games, controlling games down the fourth quarter, putting us in a position to win games, I think he’s the best at it in the league. Before that he will draw so much attention it should make it easier for other players to score.”

It should. But now we will see if it will.

Report: Rockets will try to sign Alessandro Gentile next summer

Alessandro Gentile, Paulius Jankunas
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The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.

So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.

If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.

Report: Hawks co-owner made more money by exposing Danny Ferry’s Luol Deng comments

Michael Gearon, Bruce Levenson
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A terribly kept secret: Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. wanted to get rid of general manager Danny Ferry.

Many believe that’s why Gearon made such a big deal about Ferry’s pejorative “African” comment about Luol Deng – that Gearon was more concerned about ousting Ferry than showing real concern over racism.

Gearon had another, no less sinister, reason to raise concern over Ferry’s remarks.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

While Gearon felt that Ferry, as he wrote in the June 2014 email to Levenson, “put the entire franchise in jeopardy,” Gearon also figured to benefit financially from a Sterling-esque fallout.

In the spring of 2014, Gearon was in the process of selling more of his interest in the team to Levenson and the partners he had sold to in September. The agreed-upon price for roughly a third of Gearon’s remaining shares valued the Hawks at approximately $450 million, according to reports from sources.

“We accept your offer to buy the remaining 31 million,” Gearon wrote in an email to Levenson on April 17, 2014. “Let me know next steps so we can keep this simple as you suggested without a bunch of lawyers and bankers.”

Approximately five weeks later — just a little more than a week before the fateful conference call — Steve Ballmer agreed to pay $2 billion for the Clippers, a record-smashing price that completely changed the assessed value of NBA franchises. Gearon firmly maintains he was acting out of the sincerity of his convictions to safeguard the franchise from the Sterling stench, but such a spectacle also allowed him to wiggle out of selling his shares at far below market value.

Gearon and his legal team later challenged the notion that the sell-down was bound by any sort of contractual obligation and that any papers were signed. Once the organization became involved in the investigation, the sale of the shares was postponed.

Arnovitz and Windhorst did an incredible amount of reporting here. I suggest you read the full piece, which includes much more background on the Gearon-Ferry rift.

Considering the Hawks sold for $850 million, Gearon definitely made more money than if he’d sold his shares at a $450 million valuation.

Did that motivate him? Probably, though it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Most likely, his actions were derived from at least three desires – making more money, ousting Ferry and combating racism. Parsing how much each contributed is much more difficult.

What Ferry said was racist, whether or not he was looking at more racism on the sheet of paper in front of him. His comments deserved punishment.

But if Gearon didn’t have incentive to use them for his own benefit, would we even know about them? How many other teams, with more functional front offices, would have kept similar remarks under wraps or just ignored them?