Kurt Helin

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waits for a free throw during the first half against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on December 17, 2015 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 condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant farewell tour keeps Lakers as league’s top road draw


We know the fans aren’t turning out to see the stellar basketball.

Despite the Lakers’4-23 record, from the day that Kobe Bryant announced that he would be retiring, ticket demand for Lakers games — particularly on the road — skyrocketed. Everyone wants the chance to see Kobe Bryant one last time. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times laid it all out.

The Lakers are a weak 2-15 away from Staples Center but own the NBA’s best road attendance with an average of 19,223 fans. Cleveland is next at 18,979.

In the days after Bryant’s retirement announcement three weeks ago, ticket resales to see the Lakers spiked 85%, with an almost equal increase for home and away games, according to Ticketmaster. On top of it, the Lakers are screaming toward their worst-ever record and remain the second-most popular team in single-game sales on NBA League Pass, where viewers pay $6.99 to watch a live out-of-market game.

It’s the same on the secondary ticket market. If you want to see the Denver Nuggets face the Pelicans or Trail Blazers, tickets start at $28 and $20, respectively, on Stub Hub. Want to see the Nuggets host the Lakers and tickets start at $62 for the nose bleed areas, and a pair of courtside seats will set you back $3,920. In Charlotte tickets to see Kobe’s final stop start at $105, and down courtside range from $3,000 to $10,000 a pair.

Bryant has given fans a little bit of a show lately, averaging 18.6 points per game on a much-improved 48.6 percent shooting in his last five games. He’s shown flashes of his old self, even throwing down an impressive dunk. That’s all fans really will get, flashes of vintage Kobe.

But that brings with it a lot of memories. And people are willing to pay for those memories.

Jimmy Butler: “We probably have to be coached a lot harder at times”


The Chicago Bulls are still trying to figure out who they are under new coach Fred Hoiberg. After years of playing under a coach who held the reins tight, in came Fred Hoiberg to give the players offensive freedom — and the result is a bottom five NBA offense. The Bulls have beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs this season, but have had ugly losses as well, such as to the Suns, Hornets, and Saturday to the Knicks (Chicago was worn down for that one after playing four overtimes the night before, to be fair).

Hoiberg was brought to be a different kind of coach than Tom Thibodeau (and to get along with the Bulls front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson). But after that loss to the Knicks Sunday, the Bulls outspoken leader Jimmy Butler said he needs to see a little more Thibodeau in Hoiberg, as reported by Josh Newman at CSNChicago.com.

“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah, but I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times,” Jimmy Butler said after scoring just 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting one night after he played 56 minutes against the Pistons. “I know Fred is a laidback guy and I respect him for that, but when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you gotta get on guys, myself included. You gotta do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.

“We weren’t doing what we’re supposed to be doing, what we wrote on that board before the game. Nobody spoke up. I did, but probably not enough times. I think he has to hold everybody accountable, from the No. 1 player, all the way down. Everyone has to do their job.”

The Bulls are transitioning. Derrick Rose isn’t the player he once was (he’s shooting 37.5 percent this season and can’t finish inside like he once did0, and all the miles on Joakim Noah seem to have caught up with him. This is becoming Jimmy Butler’s team, but the transition has been awkward at times. Hoiberg is part of that transition, but as should be expected he is struggling with his transition from coaching college to being back in the NBA.

All of that has led to an inconsistent Bulls team.

The Bulls are in the logjam that is the second tier of the Eastern Conference — just three games separate second seed Indiana and 11th seed New York. Chicago has the talent to break out of that pack and be a clear second best team in the East, but they need to be a lot better on offense to make that happen (the defense is top five, despite no Thibodeau).

Hoiberg’s former-player nature is not to be a yeller; everyone describes him as “laid back.” And yelling may not be the answer, but among the things that needs to change for the Bulls is for Hoiberg to assert himself.

Paul George rips officials after Pacers win; he can expect fine

Indiana Pacers' Paul George goes up for a dunk during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Indianapolis. Indiana won 104-97. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Associated Press

It was easy to tell Paul George was frustrated Friday night — he was constantly barking at the officials about missed calls (some real, some imaginary). He wasn’t alone, Pacers coach Frank Vogel picked up a technical for his expressions of frustration. Even as the Pacers went on a 15-2 run in the fourth to take the lead and beat the Nets, George was chirping.

When the game ended, he didn’t let it go. Here’s a what George said in his post-game interview on Fox Sports Indiana.

“The stripes (were) terrible.We (had to) go out and just play. The way this game was going and how they (were) calling it, we had to play… It’s frustrating, but hopefully the league does a better job of looking at s— like this.”

He added this back in the locker room, via the Indy Star:

“It’s frustrating when the guys I’m matched up with have less fouls than I do and they’re not attacking as much as I’m attacking,” said George, who could be fined or suspended by the league for his comment about the referees Friday. “It’s very frustrating and it’s been going on for a long time.”

George can break out his checkbook now, that’s going to net him a fine (not a suspension). Doesn’t matter if you agree with him and think the referees might as well have been Oompa Loompas, criticize them publicly and you get fined.

George is a veteran, he knew the fine was coming the second he opened his mouth. Hopefully he got his money’s worth. The Pacers played angry and won, so he’s probably good with it.

Warriors fans mock Bucks 10-18 record with T-shirts

10-18 T-shirts

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors fans showed they can get into the T-shirt message game, too.

A week after Milwaukee fans predicted Golden State’s first loss with “24-1” T-shirts, a handful of Warriors fans responded by wearing shirts with “10-18” written on the front for the rematch with the Bucks.

Milwaukee, which handed Golden State its first loss after 24 wins to open the season last Saturday, came into this game with a 10-17 mark.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd says he takes it as a compliment that Warriors fans are concerned with his team: “They took the time out to waste money on the T-shirt, which is cool.”

Warriors coach Luke Walton says he didn’t see the shirts in Milwaukee until watching highlights after but found them funny.

The Warriors won the game 121-112.

Spurs hold off Clippers, improve to 15-0 at home

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker shoots past Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 115-107. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Tony Parker scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the San Antonio Spurs held off the Los Angeles Clippers 115-107 on Friday night to remain undefeated at home.

San Antonio leads the league in several defensive categories, but offense dominated the first matchup between the teams since the Clippers eliminated the then-defending champions in the first round of last season’s playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard had 19 points, Tim Duncan added 14 and Danny Green had 10 for the Spurs, who are 15-0 at home this season.

Chris Paul had 27 points and 10 assists for the Clippers. Blake Griffin added 25 points and DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 17 rebounds.

San Antonio opened the final quarter on an 11-0 run, beginning with Patty Mills‘ layup on the fifth pass of the possession after the Spurs passed up three 3-pointers. Parker’s 3-pointer closed the run and gave San Antonio a 96-88 lead with 9:17 remaining.

The Spurs then resumed intentionally fouling Jordan, and it disrupted their offense as much as it limited the Clippers.

San Antonio would not score until Parker hit another 3-pointer with 6:08 remaining, but the Spurs were able to maintain a 99-93 advantage. Parker also drained a 15-footer with 1:19 remaining and ran down a long rebound off Manu Ginobili‘s miss with 53.9 seconds.

San Antonio entered the game holding opponents to 88.2 points, but the Clippers matched that in taking an 88-85 lead entering the fourth.

The Clippers continually used screens to put a smaller defender on Griffin, and the 6-foot-10 forward took advantage by shooting over Parker, Ginobili, Green and other wings. Griffin was 10-for-19 shooting, including going 4 for 6 in scoring 10 points in the opening quarter.

The Clippers were physical defensively, throwing the Spurs’ multi-pass offense off rhythm early.

The Spurs matched the aggression in the second quarter, crashing the boards. Mills missed a 3-pointer, Boris Diaw soared over Jamal Crawford for the rebound, tip-toed near the baseline and flung a pass to Green, who drained a 3-pointer. On the next possession, Duncan charged down the center of the lane to tip in a miss and earn a three-point play.


Clippers: Griffin had 13 points in the first half. It was the 22nd time he has scored in double figures in the first half, which leads the league. … The Clippers will play just four games at home this month, which is the least in a single month in franchise history since playing three games in January 1992.

Spurs: The Spurs have won nine games by 20-plus points, which is the most in the league this season. Oklahoma City is second with five wins of 20-plus. … Parker became incensed early in the third quarter when he was knocked to the court on a drive and no foul was called by official Ed Malloy. After driving into the lane and drawing a foul by Jordan on the next possession, he rose and flung an arm in anger. He then spoke to Malloy for about 15 seconds before taking his free throws.