Report: Kobe Bryant already vacationing in France as Lakers end ugly season

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Would you want to stick around for the end of this disaster?

This Lakers team has racked up more losses (55) than any team in franchise history and Kobe Bryant wants nothing to do with it — he has not been around the team much as this season wore on, as the losses piled up, as he recovered from a fractured knee.

Now as the Lakers prepare to take on the Spurs in their final game Kobe Bryant isn’t even on the continent — he’s in France on vacation, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Bryant went to France with family members either Tuesday or Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times has learned. The Lakers conclude their season Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs….

Bryant has been in a surly mood since the team’s fortunes started sagging, muttering under his breath at last month’s team photo that he doesn’t like associating with a team so many games under .500.

Contrast that with Pau Gasol, who was injured and out the last few games of the season but traveled with the Lakers on this road trip and spoke with Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report about it.

Asked why he made the trip in his condition, Gasol shrugged and said: “Be a good teammate, be a good professional.” I asked him if he considered not coming, and Gasol said he was medically cleared by the doctor to fly, so he did. He also mentioned he was one of the team captains and wanted to support the guys.

Who is showing more leadership here?

Kobe’s “leadership through intimidation” tactics don’t work with everyone (he was always more effective with Derek Fisher’s good cop to his bad cop, Steve Nash couldn’t really fill that locker room role). This is Kobe’s team still — the two-year, $48.5 million extension he got that keeps him the highest paid player in the league ensures that — but it hasn’t been the second half of this year.

The Lakers are going to be very different next season. Different coach most likely. Certainly roster changes (though maybe not the major ones Kobe is hoping for, it’s a tough market right now).

Will they be better? We’ll see. Just having Bryant back for the majority of games would help considerably, but it’s going to take more than just that.

Which is to say Kobe may not be happy at the end of next season either, but hopefully he’s healthy and not sitting in Bordeaux. Or wherever.

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.