Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant dives for a loose ball during their NBA game against the Chicago Bulls in Los Angeles

ESPN bumps Lakers-Rockets for Suns-Timberwolves, Cavaliers-Wizards for Pacers-Trail Blazers


The Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a no-negotiation contract extension – in the exact opposite manner of this, to be clear – for many reasons.

One of them was undoubtedly the amount of money Kobe’s star power generates for the Lakers.

Regardless of how good Kobe is in the coming years or how good the Lakers are after spending what remains of their cap room, Kobe makes money for the team. Case in point, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

Los Angeles and Houston are obviously bigger markets than Phoenix and Minnesota. And, as their Christmas game with the Heat showed, the Lakers can still compete with teams like the Rockets.

But Kobe will still be injured Jan. 8, and with him sidelined, the appeal is obviously much lower.

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The Cavaliers and Wizards also lost their ESPN matchup Feb. 7, according to J. Michael of CSN Washington.

Cleveland and Washington didn’t do too much wrong to get booted. As both teams hoped, they’re squarely in the playoff race, though in the Eastern Conference, that means both have losing records.

Instead, the Pacers and Trail Blazers, who will get the Feb. 7 ESPN game, just made their matchup irresistible. Each team leads its respective conference, and though few are predicting an Indiana-Portland NBA Finals, the regular-season bout should definitely draw viewers.

Khris Middleton dunks, Jimmy Butler can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Khris Middleton has more expectations and more pressure on him after a breakout season in Milwaukee, followed by him getting him PAID this summer.

Well, he looked pretty good on this play against the Bulls, making the steal then throwing down despite Jimmy Butler‘s efforts to stop him.

Middleton finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Bucks. However, Butler had the last laugh as he went off for 23 points on 12 shots and led the Bulls to the (meaningless) preseason win.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.