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Three Things to Know: Grizzlies sit frustrated Gasol in fourth, lose 8th straight

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Memphis has lost eight in a row, and benching Marc Gasol in fourth didn’t end that streak.
After today’s game — where Brooklyn beat Memphis 98-88 — the Nets and Grizzlies have the exact same record, 7-12. Let’s give the scrappy Nets credit — they are doing it without Jeremy Lin and now D’Angelo Russell. You have to be impressed with the way they compete (unless you’re a Cavaliers fan).

However, the wheels have come off in Memphis — they have lost eight in a row, Mike Conley is still out with a sore Achilles, and on Sunday Chandler Parsons went to the locker room after tweaking his knee in the first half and did not return due to “knee tightness.” Then, trying to ride the hot hands off the bench, coach David Fizdale sat his best player — Marc Gasol — for the entire fourth. So now Memphis’ best player is pissed off (and not in a good way).

David Fizdale is frustrated and grasping for answers — Gasol has been part of the problem as he has struggled to carry the offense in the wake of all the injuries around him, shooting 39.4 percent in his last 10 games, and he’s not the defender he once was. But is benching him and straining that relationship the right move? (Gasol handled it calmly and well postgame.) I don’t see how it is — struggling or not, Gasol is still their best player. With Conley sidelined, they need Gasol (and a better version of Gasol).

What they really need is more help around Gasol and Conley. The Grizzlies offense has been bottom 10 all season, they get a lot of shots at the rim but only one NBA team takes a higher percentage of its shots from the midrange, and the Grizzlies still are not a good three-point shooting team (32.3 percent as a team, 29th in the league). Bottom line, they don’t have enough shooting. Tell me if you’ve heard that before. Fizdale doesn’t have the piece he needs.

Their defense got them off to that 5-1 start and had the team afloat early, but in the last eight games that has come apart, too — 24th in the NBA over that stretch. Opponents are shooting well against them, getting to the line a lot, and getting the offensive rebound on 24.5 percent of their misses in the last eight games.

It’s too early to hit the panic button him Memphis, in a West with a lot of teams stumbling they are still just 1.5 games out of the playoffs. However, if the season continues like and other teams start calling to test the availability of Gasol and Conley, the Grizzlies have to listen to trade proposals. Not pull the trigger (depends on the offer), but listen and start to consider it is time to rebuild. The time for that is coming in Memphis, and the team’s play lately means that time may be sooner rather than later.

2) Tony Parker will be back with the Spurs Monday. Parker himself confirmed it on Sunday.

This is certainly good news for the 12-7 Spurs, adding depth to an already quality point guard core of Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray — and the Spurs have been better with Murray on the court this season (Mills has struggled with his shot, with a true shooting percentage of 47.9 this season). However, don’t think of this as season altering, Parker isn’t quite that guy anymore — last season his PER and True Shooting Percentage were below league average (and the rest of the starters played better with Mills than him). Still, it is good news in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich has more options now, and that could mean less Mills.

3) Derrick Rose is still not back with the Cavaliers, but he is talking to them. Derrick Rose’s existential crisis continues — does he want to battle through yet another injury, this time a sprained ankle, and get back on the court, or walk away — but meanwhile the Cavaliers have won seven in a row without him and their defense has improved.

The main revelation on Sunday was that this was not Rose going AWOL (as had been seen in New York), he’s in communication with the team. There still is no timetable for his return.

I still expect him to be back — he still has $80 million or so owed him by Adidas, if he walks away he leaves that on the table. As the kids say today, Rose is his own cat (okay, kids in the 1950s said that, not so much anymore), and he can be unpredictable. He is not money driven like some players… but $80 million? Still, see him returning. Now, whether another team will pick him up after this season is another question (probably, but it’s far from certain), but the question on this season should be about the timeline.

 

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.