One more time Kobe Bryant unites Los Angeles, thrills fans as jerseys retired

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles is spread out. It’s diverse. It’s urban and suburban. Like all big cities, it can be hard to get a consensus on what direction the ocean is, let alone complex issues.

Except love of Kobe Bryant.

Monday night Kobe wasn’t even suiting up, yet there was a packed “Kobeland” area outside Staples Center filled with games, a DJ, a Ferris Wheel — and thousands of people. It was the most people outside the arena since the 2010 NBA Finals. Inside Staples it was the loudest it has been since Kobe’s final game, where he dropped 60. Almost everyone was wearing an 8 or 24 jersey.

Kobe is still the man in Los Angeles.

Monday night the Lakers retired both of Kobe’s numbers, 8 and 24, and the fans reveled in the nostalgia. Lakers fans have always loved him, appreciated him, and had his back. It was that way again Monday.

“We’re here to celebrate the greatest ever to wear the purple and gold…” said Lakers president Magic Johnson, the other person who could lay claim to that title. He talked about how the nation could use someone like Kobe, someone to bring them together. “There will never be another Kobe Bryant.”

Kobe brought Los Angeles together, but he was divisive most of his career outside the City of Angels. He was a brash young Laker wearing No. 8 who paired with Shaquille O’Neal to win three titles, his attitude and extreme confidence turned off some. Then came Colorado and the rape allegations. After that Kobe changed to No. 24, became the “love me or hate me you have to respect me” player who wore his competitiveness on his sleeve, and won two more titles paired with Pau Gasol. Jeanie Buss said the Lakers retired both numbers because in each era of his career he put up Hall of Fame numbers.

Which was better, 8 or 24?

“Eight will have something 24 will never, ever, ever, ever have — the ability to grown hair,” Bryant joked. “It’s really tough for me (to choose between 8 and 24), but 24 was tougher. And I tend to gravitate toward things that are harder to do.”

The spotlight was on Kobe one last time and he was philosophical about the honor of seeing his jersey next to Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, and all the other Lakers’ greats.

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

Those were Kobe Bryant’s words to his three daughters during his jersey retirement. Really, those words were the theme of the night.

For example, the halftime ceremony (watched by players from both teams), started with Kobe’s “Dear Basketball” short animated movie. It seems fitting that after being a Laker Kobe would take on Los Angeles’ other major export — movies. And he’s doing that well, “Dear Basketball” has some Oscar buzz.

When Kobe spoke, he talked about focusing on legacy and the process.

“It’s not about the jerseys hanging up there for me, it’s the jerseys that were hanging up there before… they pushed me,” Kobe said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Staples Center was filled with those inspirational basketball legends for the night — Jerry West, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson — and Kobe’s former teammates such as Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, and even Slava Medvedenko amongst others were all there.

Kobe was always about the task at hand, and he kept looking to the future and not his past.

“What we’ve done is awesome, but I think what’s really important is how our legacy impacts the generation to come,” Kobe had said earlier. “The jerseys that hang in the rafters now, and how they impacted me, which led to us being here in this moment now. I think that’s the true mark of a legacy, how it impacts the next generation.”

Kobe is a sounding board for the current generation of players — recently Stephen Curry reached out to him about how Kobe played through injuries. Others (including Luke Walton) text him all the time.

Kobe’s former teammates were telling stories. Walton’s may have been the definitive Kobe story.

“Kobe was one of the most intelligent basketball player’s I’ve ever seen, and I could talk to him about what I had seen and what he was seeing,” Walton said. “I joke, he sees everything, but when the game starts a lot of times he doesn’t want to hear it. I’d say ‘Kobe we talked about this yesterday, if they do this then I’m going to throw the ball over here,’ and it’s like, ‘NO. Give me the ball.’ ‘Sure.’”

It was Kobe’s team and Kobe’s city. For one more night, it still was.

Former President George H.W. Bush says he’s more concerned with Rockets beating Timberwolves than his own health issues

AP Photo/Rick Bowmen
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Former President George H.W. Bush is hospitalized with an infection.

Spokesman Jim McGrath:

The Rockets, up 3-1, play the Timberwolves in Game 5 tonight.

Warriors players upset with team’s handling of media member taking security manager’s jacket

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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After the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the Spurs, Draymond Green was asked about video of a jacket incident. Green:

Obviously it’s unfortunate. I think, you know, what it boils down to it, it’s a jacket but I think it’s more so the principle. You’re in your own space and you want to return your jacket, and all of us do and so I think it’s more so the principle than the actual thing.
Like, you know, if I got a dollar sitting here, it’s a dollar, but it’s my dollar. I wouldn’t expect nobody to take it. That’s an unfortunate situation. We got a great front office and great media PR staff that will figure it all out.

Green was talking about a video of KGO-TV sports anchor Mike Shumann.

Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Shumann, the former 49ers receiver who has been with KGO since 1994, was in San Antonio last week to provide coverage of the Warriors-Spurs playoff series. He was captured on video after practice last Thursday bending over, picking up a jacket, folding it and walking out of AT&T Center. The jacket, it was later, confirmed, belonged to Warriors security manager Ralph Walker, who had not given Shumann permission to take it.

Approached about the incident, Shumann returned the jacket, apologized and also tried to explain his actions, essentially saying he wasn’t thinking clearly.

Insofar as Shumann is a Disney Company employee — Disney owns ABC and ESPN — the matter put the Warriors organization in a compromised position. Disney’s contract with the NBA gives ABC affiliates exclusive access on specific telecasts, something the Warriors take seriously. In their attempt to control the damage and preserve status quo with Shumann, they wanted to consider the matter a benign misunderstanding.

The players were not in such a forgiving mood. They urged that action be taken, partly out of loyalty to Walker but largely because of their belief the incident would not have been taken so lightly likely if the jacket had been removed by a person of color.

They smelled a double standard.

I’ve been professionally acquainted with Mike for years and had never formed an opinion of his character. I heard what had happened, followed up with a few people and became aware of how the team felt. I saw the video and considered it bizarre behavior on his part.

Maybe that’s all it is. Or maybe there is some medical or psychological explanation.

Some Warriors were merely bothered by the entire episode, others were outraged — mostly about the attempt to bury it.

My inclination in most circumstances is to give people the benefit of the doubt absent other information. Maybe this was an innocent mistake, a joke gone awry or, as Poole wondered, a medical or psychological episode.

But I also recognize that white people are more likely to receive that benefit of the doubt-.

The solution isn’t to throw Schumann under the bus without a better understanding of what happened. It’s to extend everyone that courtesy. Fairness doesn’t require extending vindictiveness.

This is only complicated by the NBA’s relationship with Schumann’s company. When justice and business interests align, it’s easier. When they diverge, it gets harder.

The Warriors have developed a cohesiveness throughout their organization (also easier done while winning). They must manage this incident to avoid undermining those bonds.

Report: Kawhi Leonard and Spurs must repair ‘broken’ relationship before San Antonio offers super-max extension

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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The Spurs can offer Kawhi Leonard a super-max contract extension – which projects to be worth $219 million over five years – this offseason.

Will they?

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

The relationship between Kawhi Leonard is broken, and it’s got to be put back together again before the Spurs are going to make that kind of commitment to a player. And that’s going to take a lot of talking, communication and some comprise here in the next few months before the Spurs can make that offer. But the idea that an organization like the Spurs are going to just blindly walk in and give the biggest contract in franchise history to a player who has behaved the last few months like he doesn’t want to be a part of them, it’s not going to happen that way. So, there’s a lot of repairing that’s going to be done before they even make that offer, I believe.

Leonard will reportedly meet with San Antonio for an exit interview, and that’s the next big step toward mending fences.

Remember, LaMarcus Aldridge requested a trade last summer. Then, he and Gregg Popovich talked and got on the same page. Aldridge just had an excellent season for the Spurs. Handling unhappy players is part of the job. When they’re as good as Aldridge and Leonard, it’s worth making the effort to find common ground.

If San Antonio finds enough with Leonard to offer him the super-max extension, the next question becomes: Will he sign it? He might prefer to move on.

But nobody is that far. The big benchmark in this process is the Spurs offering or not offering the super-max extension. They must determine whether or not they will.

Report: Heat to explore Hassan Whiteside trade options

Associated Press
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Is there much demand for Hassan Whiteside around the NBA marketplace?

The pro-Whiteside camp can point to some raw numbers: He averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this season (and 17 and 14 a season ago), he shot 54 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 24.1.

However, his shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs. In the first two games, when Philadelphia played small, Whiteside didn’t have a place on the court and saw limited minutes. When Joel Embiid returned things got worse — in the three games matched up against Embiid, when Whiteside was on the court the Heat were outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Whiteside played just 10 minutes in Game 5, where he was 0-of-4 from the field, picked up three fouls, and was -14. All through the series, Whiteside complained about his lack of minutes.

Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra are not on the same page, and the Heat would like to move him in a trade… but good luck with that. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat is expected to explore a Whiteside trade, with the center due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two years of his contract.

In a tight financial market, the Heat are going to struggle to find a team with the space (or willing to create the space) to take on $51.5 million over two seasons. Even if they do, the Heat are going to have to attach sweeteners — multiple first round picks, or a pick and young players that interest teams (Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo, for example). It’s going to be a lot to give up to get out of that contract. Maybe in the summer of 2019, when the market loosens up and Whiteside is an expiring contract, they more easily can find a deal. This summer it would be difficult.

But expect the Heat (and Whiteside’s agent) to look for a trade. It’s time to part ways, it just may not be that simple to do.