Kurt Helin

Long-time villain Kobe Bryant comfortable leaving stage as a hero

5 Comments

LOS ANGELES — Almost to the end, Kobe Bryant played the villain.

The day he walked away from the NBA, Nike produced a clever add of Kobe conducting the hate of fans from around the league, and that bringing a smile to his face.

He admitted that for much of his career, he wanted to be the villain, to be the guy who was hated, because that negativity fueled him.

“(The hatred) was extremely necessary, because that is what I fed off of, Bryant said after dropping 60 points in his final NBA game. “At that time, to be embraced, that would have been like kryptonite for me. The darkness, those dark emotions are what I used to drive me. That isolation, and that’s what I grew up comfortable with. So I refused to allow anything else but that. I’d even say things to create that kind of animosity, to just use that as fuel to propel me forward.”

This season, nobody can remember Kobe smiling this much. He made a point of savoring his farewell tour — the accolades and gifts he received in every city. From Boston to Sacramento, everywhere Kobe was once despised fans tipped their cap to him this season. And they came out to see him be Kobe one last time and put up some contested jumpers.

“It’s a weird year,” Bryant said. “You go from being a villain to being some type of a hero. And going from everybody saying ‘pass the ball’ to ‘shoot the ball.’ It was like, really strange.”

But he adapted and rolled with it.

So which is the real Kobe, the guy who thrives on the dark side, or the one basking in the light?

“I’m both. I’m both, just like everybody in this room,” Kobe said. “It’s a very simple concept, when you think about it, we all both. We all have a little hero and villain inside of us. It’s just depending on perspective.

“One day we’re driving back from school with my kids, we’re having a conversation about villains in movies, and we’re talking about Voldemort or something, and they ask ‘what makes a villain a villain?’ And I’m like ‘uh-oh’ this is one of those daddy moments where you can’t screw this up. Me and my kids, we’re all allergic to bees. So I asked, ‘If a bee is flying around your head, what are you going to do?’ She said, ‘I’m going to roll up a magazine and try and knock it out of the air.’ Okay, I said ‘To you, is the bee the hero or the villain?’ ‘The villain.’ ‘What about the bee that thinks it’s flying around minding it’s own business, to it are you the hero or the villain?’ ‘Well, I’m the villain.’ It’s all just a matter or perspective.

“It’s all just a matter or perspective.”

In Los Angeles, the perspective was he was almost always a hero (maybe not during the end of the Shaq/Kobe era, but he won his critics back over).

As parenthood has done to all of us, Kobe’s children have helped broaden and change his perspective. It’s helped him open up more.

His two daughters were cheering courtside as loud as anyone in Staples Center Wednesday night.

“The coolest thing is my kids actually saw me play like I used to play,” Kobe said. “It was like ‘whoa dad.’

“‘I said, ‘I used to do this pretty often.’

“And they’re like ‘really?’

“I’m like ‘Dude, YouTube it.’”

 

After tumultuous season, Kings finally fire coach George Karl

12 Comments

Sacramento GM Vlade Divac wanted to do this mid-season — it was obvious by then that the relationship between his coach George Karl and his star player DeMarcus Cousins was beyond repair. Frankly, that was obvious way back in July when Cousins was tweeting that Karl was a snake in the grass because it was the coach lobbying for the Kings to consider trading Cousins. Back in February, ownership blocked Vlade’s move to get a new coach.

Not this time around — the Sacramento Kings have fired Karl as their coach.

This had been expected (which may be an understatement). Sacramento finished the season at 33-49 — the most wins since Cousins has come to Sacramento. However, with the team heading to a stunning new arena in downtown Sacramento next season, owner Vivek Ranadive wants better than that — he wants a playoff team (the Kings have missed out for 10 years in a row). Under Karl, the Kings played at the fastest pace in the league, but that didn’t suit their personnel. The result was a decent offense but a bottom 10 NBA defense.

“While I would have loved to continue on this journey, I am very proud of our work and I want to thank Kings management for the opportunity to have coached this exciting team with such a bright future,” Karl said in a released statement. “It’s my heartfelt feeling that the magnificent new arena will be hosting many playoff runs and an eventual Championship, which the Sacramento fans, some of the most loyal and supportive people I’ve ever known in my many years in the NBA, very much deserve. With a profound humility, moving forward, I wish nothing but the best for this franchise and its players.”

The next coach the Kings hire will be Cousins’ sixth since joining the team. That’s dysfunction. The franchise needs to find stability and continuity or it will continue to flounder. Which means owner Ranadive needs to step back from the process and not be hands on — let the basketball people make basketball decisions.

The Kings are going to cast a wide net in their coaching search, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

My first bit of advice to Divac: Talk to Cousins about potential coaches. That doesn’t mean he gets to make the decision, but let his voice be heard. That matters and helps mend fences.

Divac will lean on former coach Rick Adelman to help with the search and talk candidates, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today. That’s a good move.

The Kings are expected to reach out to the big names on the market — Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Jeff Van Gundy — but the reality is all those guys have other options and will choose a more stable organization. The Kings are not seen as a top NBA coaching job. Ranadive isn’t going to buy a name coach with a larger paycheck (those coaches will get plenty of green anywhere they choose).

However, the Kings can do well with the next tier of coaches: Chris Mannix of The Vertical at Yahoo mentioned Kevin McHale, a big man Cousins should respect and who is very personable. Marc Stein mentioned Nate McMillan. There are quality up-and-coming assistant coaches who could be good fits.

The keys are these: Pick a style of play first, and being up-tempo with Cousins is not the answer; then pick a coach who can best implement that style; and finally stick with that coach for at least two or three seasons. Let them build a culture (as Mike Malone had done) and don’t decide on a whim to go another direction mid-stream. Keep the owner at arm’s length — Ranadive needs to check his ego and stay out of the way. Try continuity.

We’ll see if the Kings are up to that task.

Watch highlights of Kobe Bryant’s postgame press conference

Leave a comment

Short of winning a title (ala John Elway), Kobe Bryant left the game in the best way possible.

Bryant had Staples Center standing and at full throat one last time as he scored 60 points — including hitting the go ahead and dagger shots late — to give the Lakers a win against Utah.

After the game, he spoke to the crowd. Not long after, still wearing a jersey he admitted he didn’t want to take off, Bryant came in and talked to the media about this game and his journey through two decades in the league. Here are a few highlights of what was a nearly 30-minute press conference.

Here is the complete first round playoff schedule

Larry O'Brien trophy
2 Comments

The playoffs are here.

Starting Saturday, no key players sitting for rest. No players taking mental vacations for a night… well, fewer players taking mental vacations for a night. More focused game plans and the chess match of adjustments. Crowds that are into the game and loud. We’re ready for all of it.

Here is the full schedule for the first round of the playoffs. Set your DVRs accordingly.

All times listed are Eastern, and the television broadcast is listed where it’s known. The asterisk means “if necessary.”

Western Conference

Golden State vs. Houston
Game 1 – Sat April 16 at Golden State 3:30PM ABC
Game 2 – Mon April 18 at Golden State 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 21 at Houston 9:30PM TNT
Game 4 – Sun April 24 at Houston 3:30PM ABC
Game 5 * Wed April 27 at Golden State TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 29 at Houston TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 1 at Golden State TBD

San Antonio vs. Memphis
Game 1 – Sun April 17 at San Antonio 8:00PM TNT
Game 2 – Tue April 19 at San Antonio 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 22 at Memphis 9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 24 at Memphis 1:00PM ABC
Game 5 * Tue April 26 at San Antonio TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 28 at Memphis TBD
Game 7 * Sat April 30 at San Antonio TBD TNT

Oklahoma City vs. Dallas

Game 1 – Sat April 16 at Oklahoma City 9:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Mon April 18 at Oklahoma City 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 21 at Dallas 7:00PM TNT
Game 4 – Sat April at Dallas 8:00PM ESPN
Game 5 * Mon April 25 at Oklahoma City TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 28 at Dallas TBD
Game 7 * Sat April 30 at Oklahoma City TBD TNT

L.A. Clippers vs. Portland

Game 1 – Sun April 17 at L.A. Clippers 10:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 20 at L.A. Clippers 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Sat April 23 at Portland 10:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Mon April 25 at Portland 10:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Wed April 27 at L.A. Clippers TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 29 at Portland TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 1 at L.A. Clippers TBD

Eastern Conference

Cleveland vs. Detroit
Game 1 – Sun April 17 at Cleveland 3:00PM ABC
Game 2 – Wed April 20 at Cleveland 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 22 at Detroit 7:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 24 at Detroit 8:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 26 at Cleveland TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 28 at Detroit TBD
Game 7 * Sat April 30 at Cleveland TBD TNT

Toronto vs. Indiana
Game 1 – Sat April 16 at Toronto 12:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Mon April 18 at Toronto 7:00PM NBA TV
Game 3 – Thu April 21 at Indiana 7:30PM NBA TV
Game 4 – Sat April 23 at Indiana 3:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 26 at Toronto TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 29 at Indiana TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 1 at Toronto TBD

Miami vs. Charlotte
Game 1 – Sun April 17 at Miami 5:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 20 at Miami 7:00PM NBA TV
Game 3 – Sat April 23 at Charlotte 5:30PM TNT
Game 4 – Mon April 25 at Charlotte TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 27 at Miami TBD
Game 6 * Fri April 29 at Charlotte TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 1 at Miami TBD

Atlanta vs. Boston
Game 1 – Sat April 16 at Atlanta 7:00PM ESPN
Game 2 – Tue April 19 at Atlanta 7:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 22 at Boston 8:00PM ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun April 24 at Boston 6:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 26 at Atlanta TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 28 at Boston TBD
Game 7 * Sat April 30 at Atlanta TBD TNT

Timberwolves let Sam Mitchell go as coach

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 09:  Sam Mitchell of the Minnesota Timberwolves calls out to his players during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 9, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
8 Comments

It had been rumored that Sam Mitchell was on shaky ground as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves head coach — when the owner gives the GM a public vote of confidence saying he will be on the job at least through the summer, but won’t do that for you, it’s not a good sign.

But Minnesota moved more quickly than expected and let Mitchell go just hours after the team’s final game this season (a 144-109 victory against New Orleans).

Minnesota was 29-53 under Mitchell this season, who had to step in as head coach when Flip Saunders had to step away due to the illness that, not much later, took his life. The Timberwolves had a solid offense and improved over the course of the season — highlighted by a late-season victory over the Warriors — but the team had a bottom five defense.

This is going to be one of the most sought after coaching jobs in the NBA this summer because Minnesota has the best young core in the NBA with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, and more. This team is poised to be very good in a few seasons.

Minnesota will be able to get interviews with the biggest name coaches available — Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau would take a long look at this job if offered, for example. Owner Glen Taylor also is rumored to like the idea of giving that kind of coach final say on player personnel, ala Stan Van Gundy or Doc Rivers. GM Milt Newton will stay on in his job, but depending on the coaching hire could have a new boss.