Kurt Helin

Byron Scott on Kobe finale: I’m “trying to get him as many shots as I think he can handle”

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LOS ANGELES — There hasn’t been anything close to this at Staples Center since the 2010 NBA Finals. If then.

The traffic around the arena, the inflated parking prices, the crowds in the thousands lined up more than an hour before the doors to the arena even opened, the crush of 400 or more local and national media (a huge number of them huddled around Kobe’s empty locker, filming/photographing it), the Kobe shirts on every seat inside the arena, the courtside seats holding a Kobe action figure for fans as well, and even the $12 souvenir Kobe cups at the concession stands. It’s all here.

Los Angeles has turned out to say farewell to Kobe Bryant, who plays his final NBA game Wednesday at Staples Center.

But in classic Los Angeles fashion, this is more spectacle than basketball game.

While Laker players tried to go through their normal warm-up routines — D'Angelo Russell working on his post game, or Robert Sacre practicing 30-footers because he can — coach Byron Scott understood the job ahead of him.

I’m trying to get him as many minutes as I think he can handle, trying to get him as many shots as I think he can handle, as well,” Scott said pregame. “It’s obviously going to be a focus on him — this is his night. We want him to enjoy it as much as possible.”

What Scott cherished so far was a private moment.

It was good when we walked in just to embrace him, talk for a quick second, and I think we’re both going to enjoy this night no matter what,” Scott said.

In a city and with a team known for spectacle, this may be near the top (if not a little over). But in Los Angeles, Kobe is a deity, with legions of vociferous fans who have supported him through the good times and the bad. They expect this kind of show and sendoff.

Those fans are here to thank him — and to cheer him on — one last time.

LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving all sitting out Cavaliers’ finale

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James looks on from the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Associated Press
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UPDATE: In a last minute change of plans, the Cavaliers decided to rest Kyrie Irving for the game as well, despite having previously announced him as a starter.

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James is getting another day to rest up for the playoffs by sitting out the Cavaliers’ regular-season finale against Detroit – Cleveland’s first-round opponent.

The Cavs clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference this week and coach Tyronn Lue will use the last game to keep James and starters Kevin Love and J.R. Smith fresh. Cleveland initially said point guard Kyrie Irving would also rest, then the team changed his status about three hours before the opening tip Wednesday night saying he would start, then just before the game changed that status again and decided to rest Irving.

Cleveland will face the Pistons in Game 1 this weekend.

The only other starter expected to play is Tristan Thompson, who will be appearing in his 370th consecutive game. Lue named Thompson his starter for the postseason, moving him into the lineup ahead of center Timofey Mozgov, who has had a disappointing season.

The Cavs also signed guard Dahntay Jones for the postseason. The 6-foot-6, 11-year veteran played for Grand Rapids in the NBA Development League. A first-round pick by Boston in 2003, Jones has played in 49 career postseason games and is a solid defender.

With Iman Shumpert slowed by an injured left knee, Jones gives the Cavs another perimeter defender.

Jones is excited about joining a team with a legitimate chance at winning a title.

“I’m still the same defensive-minded individual I was many years ago,” said Jones. “I had to adapt and make my niche throughout the league in that respect. I’m willing to do anything on the defensive end and help out and try to communicate and just try to be as vocal as possible.”

Report: Wizard players expect coach Randy Wittman to be fired

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The Wizards players are in a very long line on this one.

The feeling around the league is that Wizards coach Randy Wittman will be given his walking papers within a few days of the end of the season. The Wizards were a big disappointment this season, and while injuries were a part of that so was an attempted shift to play faster/smaller that is just not in old-school Wittman’s wheelhouse.

Wizards players are expecting the ax to fall, reports J. Michael at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

Of all of the players talked to by CSNmidatlantic.com, including following Wednesday’s morning shootaround at Verizon Center, none expect him to be retained even though Wittman is partially guaranteed for 2016-17….

Some players don’t believe Wittman takes into consideration their points of view on in-game adjustments. John Wall and Jared Dudley have spoken up about it, though they’re hardly alone.

“I don’t see how they could bring him back,” one player told CSN via phone.

Wittman has not been popular with the players for years, but the combination of wins in the playoffs (last season) and there still being years on his contract kept him employed. This season both of those things go away (there is a partial guarantee on his contract, but Ted Leonsis would not need to eat the entire thing).

The Wizards need a coach who wants to play fast and whose base offense will take better advantage of John Wall’s skill set. The question becomes will Leonsis be willing to pay what the big names ask, and would he give them the power over players they will demand? Or, are the Wizards looking for a top assistant and hoping they strike gold?

We should find out soon, the ax will fall on Wittman within a couple of days of the end of the season.

 

Clever Nike ad for Kobe Bryant’s farewell, he conducts the love/hate

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You knew Nike was going to nail “Mamba Day.”

Aside from getting current elite athletes such as Mike Trout to not-quite-still-elite-athletes like Charles Barkley to wear special black-and-gold Kobe-themed shoes on Wednesday, they released a new ad to commemorate his career.

As we’ve come to expect from Nike, they nailed it. Nice cameos by Paul Pierce and Phil Jackson, too.

PBT Extra: Warriors chasing legacy, snubbing critics with push for 73 wins

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The Golden State Warriors know Wednesday night is their chance. Their only chance.

The odds that they get to go after 73 wins again are infinitesimal — it takes a combination of health, luck, and incredible focus nightly to get near the Jordan Bulls’ record of 72 wins in an 82 game season. Think about it this way, next season the Warriors will likely not be close — they are not going to start the season 24-0, and with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green likely playing in the Olympics this summer rest will be more of a regular season priority.

But as much as it is about carving out a place in history, that nightly focus from Golden State came as an answer to their critics who said they got lucky last season. And it’s a shut-them-down answer.

All of which I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.