Kurt Helin

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant’s reaction to leading All-Star voting: “What the hell?”


Kobe Bryant isn’t just the leading vote getter for the 2016 NBA All-Star game, he is lapping the field. In the first numbers released by the league, Kobe received 719,235 votes. In second place is Stephen Curry with 510,202, third is LeBron James at 357,937.

It caught Kobe off guard.

I’m not sure it was that big a surprise; it was expected the fans would vote Kobe in for final All-Star game in this, his final season in the NBA.The volume with which they are doing it is a bit of a surprise, however.

If you have a problem with this, if you think Kobe’s play hasn’t warranted him getting the start over Kawhi Leonard or Draymond Green, let me remind you of this:

It’s an exhibition. For the fans. Give the people what they want and move on.

It’s not like the NBA does something ridiculous and puts home court advantage on the line for the winner of a mid-season exhibition game where the fans vote in the starters. That would be ludicrous.

Clippers starters need to work harder than expected, but beat Lakers

LOS ANGELES,CA - DECEMBER 25:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers goes up for the layup against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 25, 2015 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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This game looked exactly like everyone expected it to look, for Lakers fans a lot like like the Oklahoma City game a couple of nights before. The Clippers had won the previous seven meetings and 11-of-12, and this game was going to fit right in that mold.

The Clippers started to pull away in the middle of the first quarter when they went on a little 13-4 run, then just carried that over into the second — the Clippers were up 10 points after one quarter, 16 at the half. Kobe Bryant would make a few threes and thrill the crowd in his final Christmas Day game, but in general, he could not change the dynamic of this contest. The Lakers were getting crushed in the paint, and had zero fast break or second chance points in the first 24 minutes. The third saw more of the same from the Clippers, with a late 14-0 run stretching their lead to 28 after 36 minutes. Chris Paul had 21 points after three, Blake Griffin 13, and these two teams were not in the same class. Ballgame. The Clippers starters went to the bench and an enjoyable Christmas Day of basketball was going to end with 12 minutes of garbage time.

Except the Lakers’ reserves, led by Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell, didn’t know they were supposed to roll over. In a battle of reserves the Clippers’ bench — which has been unimpressive all season — the Lakers’ bench and young stars owned the Clips.

The Lakers went on a 25-4 run, which  forced Doc Rivers to re-insert his starters. Which he did, and eventually the bleeding was stopped and the Clippers got a 94-84 win. But on the first night of a back-to-back and having to travel to Utah to play a feisty Jazz team, the Clippers starters were not happy they had to come back in and save the day.

We’ve broken down in detail here what a mess the Clipper bench is. It is the principal thing holding the Clippers back from seeming like a real threat to Golden State or the Spurs — Los Angeles is great until you remove one starter from the equation. That was on full display to a national audience… well, the ones that hadn’t already turned this dud off.

This was not a game where it felt like we learned anything new. The Clippers starters are a force of nature, their bench a mess. The Lakers are not good, but their young players show moments of what could be in a few years (plus there are a handful of vintage Kobe moments). Chris Paul finished with 23 points and six assists, J.J. Redick had 14 points. On the other side, Russell led the Lakers with 16 points.

Maybe that fourth quarter run will get Byron Scott to start Russell and Randle again, although the real key for the youngsters is to stagger them minutes from Kobe — let them develop chemistry, not defer.


Rockets’ defend well, end Spurs’ 7-game streak with 88-84 win

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets had their best defensive performance of the season in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

The key is keeping it up.

James Harden had 20 points and the Rockets slowed down the soaring Spurs with an 88-84 victory. The improved Houston defense held San Antonio to a season low in points and snapped the Spurs’ season-best seven-game winning streak.

This, Harden said, is how they should play defense all the time.

“We’re more than capable,” he said. “So we have to find ourselves. We’ve got to find that energy, that consistent defensive togetherness every single night.”

Houston used an 8-2 run to take a 78-71 lead with about 5 minutes left. Tim Duncan made a hook shot after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer. A layup by Duncan came next before Harden brought the crowd to its feet with an off-balance 3-pointer from the corner that made it 84-75.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich thought those two 3-pointers were the key to the game.

“One of them we weren’t up the way we should have been on a switch and he got a free one,” Popovich said. “The next one, he was deep and (Duncan) was all over him and he made a great shot. Those two 3s really changed it.”

The Spurs resorted to the Hack-A-Howard tactic soon after that, intentionally fouling Dwight Howard on two straight possessions. He missed all four free throws, and a basket by LaMarcus Aldridge got the Spurs to 86-81.

Kawhi Leonard made a 3-pointer after two free throws by Houston to allow San Antonio to cut the lead to four, but he missed a shot a few seconds later and Houston held on for the victory.

Leonard had 20 points to lead San Antonio. The Spurs struggled on long-range shooting, making just 5 of 19 3-pointers.

It was the first time the Rockets have hosted a game on Christmas since they moved to Houston. The last time the franchise hosted a Christmas game was in 1967 when the team was in San Diego.

The Rockets led by one after three and scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, powered by five points from Jason Terry, to make it 70-60 with about 10 minutes remaining.

San Antonio got its first points of the quarter soon after that on a 3-pointer by David West to start a 9-0 run that cut it to 70-69. Leonard highlighted that run with a running two-handed dunk.

A layup by Aldridge pushed San Antonio’s lead to seven points early in the third quarter before Houston used a 13-4 run to take a 51-49 lead with about seven minutes left in the quarter. Pat Beverley got that spurt going with a 3-pointer and Harden made the next six points in that span.

The Spurs had turnovers on four straight possessions near the end of Houston’s run.

A jump shot by Boris Diaw got San Antonio to 59-58 with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. After that both teams struggled to score and missed their next seven shots combined.

It was Diaw who finally ended the drought when he made a layup with less than a minute remaining. Ty Lawson made Houston’s first field goal in almost 4 minutes after that to leave the Rockets up 61-60 entering the fourth quarter.

San Antonio scored the last seven points of the second quarter to take a 43-38 lead at halftime.


Spurs: Aldridge added 18 points and rebounds. … Duncan had 12 points and 11 rebounds. … Leonard made just 8 of 19 shots, and Aldridge was 9 of 17.

Rockets: Howard had 11 points and 12 rebounds for his third double-double in the past five games. … The Rockets have won 18 straight games when holding an opponent to less than 90 points. … Houston’s bench outscored San Antonio’s 41-26.


Duncan on San Antonio’s struggles: “There were just too many mistakes down the stretch. A little bit of a sloppy game, we couldn’t get our rhythm and credit them for that. Defensively they were solid.”


Kobe Bryant leads way in first returns for All-Star voting

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22: Kobe Bryant (24) of the Los Angeles Lakers gives high fives to fans after the game at the Pepsi Center on December 22, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 111-107.  (Photo by Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant is going to be a starter in his 17th and final All-Star appearance.

That’s not locked in stone, but it’s clearly what you the fans want — Kobe Bryant leads all vote-getters in the first returns for the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto. Stephen Curry is second overall, while LeBron James is the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference.

Fans vote in the starters for the 65th All-Star game, set for Sunday, Feb. 14 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. A vote of coaches (or, to be honest, whomever they delegate the responsibility to) picks the reserves for each conference.

It’s an exhibition and if the fans want to see Kobe — even though on the court this season he has not been elite, scoring 17.4 points a game but on 34.4 percent shooting — then the fans should see Kobe. He has earned whatever accolades come his way after a remarkable 20-year NBA career.

It’s hard to argue with any of the starters — two guards, and three front court players — in either conference.

As it stands now, the starters in the East would be Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Paul George, Andre Drummond.

For the West, the current starters are Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin.

Traditionally, there is not a lot of shifting after the first vote; fans tend to stay pretty steady. It is possible in the East that Kyle Lowry of Toronto or Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks could climb into the starting group, but it’s going to take a push from their fans.

You can vote for the All-Stars a variety of ways: at NBA.com/vote; through the NBA App; on Twitter (use players’ name and hashtag #NBAVOTE); on Facebook (use players’ name and hashtag #NBAVOTE on your personal page); via Instagram (post an original photo and use the hashtag #NBAVOTE as well as the players’ name); and
you can text the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”).

Here is the full list of NBA votes so far:

Eastern Conference

1 LeBron James (Cle) 357,937
2 Paul George (Ind) 283,785
3 Andre Drummond (Det) 148,278
4 Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 132,119
5 Pau Gasol (Chi) 109,585
6 Kevin Love (Cle) 92,177
7 Chris Bosh (Mia) 91,896
8 Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 85,606
9 Hassan Whiteside (Mia) 72,923
10 Giannis Antetokounmpo (Mil) 25,926
11 Jonas Valanciunas (Tor) 12,341
12 Joakim Noah (Chi) 10,808
13 Paul Millsap (Atl) 10,501
14 Marcin Gortat (Was) 9,443
15 DeMarre Carroll (Tor) 8,885


1 Dwyane Wade (Mia) 300,595
2 Kyrie Irving (Cle) 138,191
3 Kyle Lowry (Tor) 128,131
4 Jimmy Butler (Chi) 111,220
5 John Wall (Was) 103,094
6 Derrick Rose (Chi) 72,709
7 DeMar DeRozan (Tor) 69,042
8 Jeremy Lin (Cha) 61,832
9 Isaiah Thomas (Bos) 45,014
10 Nicolas Batum (Cha) 20,596

Western Conference

1 Kobe Bryant (LAL) 719,235
2 Kevin Durant (OKC) 349,473
3 Blake Griffin (LAC) 182,107
4 Kawhi Leonard (SA) 164,521
5 Draymond Green (GS) 160,350
6 Anthony Davis (NO) 156,161
7 Tim Duncan (SA) 127,543
8 DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 101,930
9 Dwight Howard (Hou) 66,598
10 LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 65,019
11 Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 56,377
12 DeAndre Jordan (LAC) 49,696
13 Enes Kanter (OKC) 47,806
14 Harrison Barnes (GS) 43,343
15 Kevin Garnett (Min) 42,285


1 Stephen Curry (GS) 510,202
2 Russell Westbrook (OKC) 267,699
3 Chris Paul (LAC) 146,335
4 Klay Thompson (GS) 138,587
5 James Harden (Hou) 135,531
6 Rajon Rondo (Sac) 66,164
7 Andre Iguodala (GS) 62,407
8 Damian Lillard (Por) 47,615
9 Manu Ginobili (SA) 42,413
10 Tony Parker (SA) 40,693

Looking back at Kobe Bryant’s Christmas Day exploits (VIDEO)

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This season will be Kobe Bryant‘s 16th and final Christmas Day game — that’s more than any other player in NBA history. He’s scored 383 points on Christmas, also an NBA record.

Before the Christmas Day games tip off for 2015, let’s take a stroll down memory lane with Kobe on Christmas. Including the time he dropped 42 on the Heat and Shaq (the year after Shaq was traded). Thanks to the people at the NBA for compiling this.

Enjoy, and remember Kobe will try to lift the Lakers past the Clippers (or, at least, make the game interesting), starting at 10:30 ET on ESPN. (For more breakdowns of the Christmas Day slate, you can read this or listen to the PBT Podcast.)