NBA’s Basketball Without Borders campaign to reach out to Taiwan, Italy, South Africa

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Basketball is a global game. It’s in the NBA’s interest to nurture that — not just going to the places that it’s already popular but to go to places where promoting the game is a challenge. These are camps for top young players and nurturing them is important, more importantly you might be able to unite some youth who might otherwise have been at odds, and you do it through sport.

That’s what Basketball without Borders is for the league. The NBA and some of its star players run clinics for youth players around the globe — 28 future NBA players have come out of those camps for the best in their countries

The league announced the stops for this summer: Taipei, Taiwan; Rome, Italy; Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rome is first up and in the Eternal City from June 2-5 will be Italian stars Danilo Gallinari (New York Knicks), Andrea Bargnani (New York Knicks), and Italian national team captain Gigi Datome, as well as Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks) and Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks). They will work with 50 young players from around Europe.

“Basketball without Borders helped me become the player and man I am today, both on and off the court,” Gallinari said in a released statement. “Learning basketball and life skills from NBA players and coaches is a special opportunity that I greatly appreciated in 2003, and that I know this year’s campers will greatly appreciate. I look forward to bringing the amazing BWB program back to Italy with some of my fellow countrymen, and to coaching some of the most talented teenagers in Europe. I can’t wait to get started.”

BWB then heads to Taipei from June 13 – 16 with John Salmons (Toronto Raptors), Ronny Turiaf (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Cody Zeller (Charlotte Bobcats), plus NBA legend Yao Ming will make an appearance. There will be 50 top young players from around Asia.

Finally BWB Africa will return to Johannesburg for the 11th time from August 5 – 8. Attending the camp will be Andrei Kirilenko (Brooklyn Nets) and Thabo Sefolosha (Oklahoma City Thunder), along with NBA head coaches Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors), Brian Shaw (Denver Nuggets), Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix Suns) plus NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo. They will work with 60 players from around Africa.

This is one of the league’s great international programs, it’s great to see it grow for this year.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.