Kobe Bryant flies back to Los Angeles for Carmelo Anthony’s Lakers visit

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Carmelo Anthony’s free agent tour – which has already hit Chicago, Houston and Dallas – continues to Los Angeles today.

The Lakers can offer a max contract, a glamorous city and a proud tradition of winning.

And, for better or worse, Kobe Bryant.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Los Angeles Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant flew in late Wednesday night from a European vacation so he could attend and play a key part in the team’s pitch to free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony on Thursday, sources with knowledge of the situation said.

Sources indicate the Lakers are enamored with his game and believe he would complement Bryant well. The Lakers hope to pair the two wings with center Pau Gasol, whom they met with on the first day of free agency

the Lakers can pay Gasol more than any other team, and his fondness for the city and playing with Bryant should not be discounted. If the team can add to its roster with Anthony, sources said, Gasol would be far more inclined to re-sign with the Lakers.

Melo and Kobe are friends, so Kobe might actually be a plus here unlike with other free agents.

I’m just not sure Kobe is a total positive selling point. He’s 35 and hasn’t shown he can stay healthy. He’s still inclined to dominate the ball more than he should. And his massive contract extension will limit the Lakers’ ability to upgrade further.

Los Angeles has Pau Gasol’s bird rights, so keeping him is a little easier, but adding new pieces going forward won’t be so simple. And given Gasol’s prominent suitors – Heat, Spurs, Thunder and Bulls – retaining him is no cakewalk, even if Melo joins the fold.

Kobe, Melo and Gasol might be a solid team next year – though aging leaves potential for a massive 2012-13-level disappointment – and the Lakers would probably be thrilled with that trio. I doubt they’re willing to tank hard enough to keep their 2015 draft pick, which goes to the Suns unless it falls in the top five. At that point, nearly any steps toward immediate winning are worthwhile. The Lakers need to draw fans and sell their high-priced tickets.

But what’s in it for Melo, who could earn far more with the Knicks? Los Angeles has an advantage over many markets, but it’s not bigger than New York. And neither team faces a clear road to title contention.

If the Lakers have an edge, it’s Kobe, which is why he’s showing up today.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.