Kurt Helin

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant ranks 2010 title against Celtics as his No. 1

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Kobe Bryant is a historian of the game. He grew up with a father who played the game and loved it from an early age, with that came his search for his place in it.

That backdrop helps explain why, when on the NBA on TNT Thursday night, when Kobe was asked about his favorite championship, he went back to the Lakers/Celtics rivalry (thanks to Ryan Ward of the Lakers Examiner for posting these).

That was also a Finals that went a dramatic seven games, featured Kobe’s good friend Pau Gasol, and required a lot of Metta World Peace in that Game 7 to get the win.

Kobe also had interesting answers to other questions encompassing his career.

LeBron James needs help in Cleveland, is cavalry on way?

LeBron James
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Friday night in the fourth quarter in New Orleans LeBron James looked every bit the guy who has worn the crown of “best player in the world.” On one level, his 23 points in the fourth quarter felt like a message to the anointed next best player in the universe Anthony Davis, a reminder that LeBron still can play at a level few could ever match, and he will not give up even an early December game without a fight.

But more than that, that dominance was what LeBron had to do to get the Cavaliers near a win — Cleveland had trailed by 13 midway through the fourth and LeBron single-handedly dragged them back and into the lead.

It wasn’t enough. Jrue Holiday drained a three tie it, then in overtime Davis had six points (31 for the game) while LeBron went scoreless, the result being a Pelicans upset win. Cleveland coach David Blatt summed it up well, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We needed to give him a little bit more help,” said Cavs coach David Blatt.

LeBron, as do all true competitors, would have none of that.

“I hope we don’t think that way,” James said. “It’s never that way. When you get your guys back, you prepare just as you prepare before. It’s only one guy in the world, ever, where everything will be all right when he comes back, and that’s Jesus Christ. Other than that, you can’t bank on nobody … .”

But the Cavaliers should be able to bank on the returns of their starting backcourt, Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. The cavalry is coming. In Irving’s case, he’s been cleared to practice and is likely just a few weeks away from a return.

Bringing back an All-Star point guard will change the dynamic for the Cavaliers, as will the defense of Shumpert when he returns (likely after the first of the year). They need those two, the Cavs have questions to answer. From the last three games of the Finals last season through Cleveland’s loss to Washington this week, the team has struggled against small ball lineups (Washington went basically five out against the Cavs, and it worked). But if that remains the case when Irving and Shumpert are healthy, when the Cavs could play a front line of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson together to counter, remains to be seen.

What LeBron has worked to bring to Cleveland the past year plus is the mentality he learned in Miami — the one evident so long in San Antonio — and part of that is they can grind you down and win no matter who is on the court. It doesn’t always work, but when the Spurs rest a star (or when LeBron’s Heat teams did) nobody assumes a loss. Someone else will step up. That has not held the same way in Cleveland, the consistency is not there from the role players. So LeBron is calling a team meeting after a loss in Toronto, he needs to get these messages through to a younger team and show them the way. Miami taught LeBron how to win as an organization; he’s trying to instill that in Cleveland. Right now the Cavaliers feel more like a collection of individuals and not a team.

There is an urgency with LeBron because he knows the Cavaliers are the best team in the East (despite Chicago being ahead of them in the standings as of this writing), but he looks up at Golden State right now and they have that mentality — Harrison Barnes is missing time, Klay Thompson is battling injuries, Andrew Bogut missed time, it just doesn’t matter. Golden State’s swagger is undeniable. If LeBron wants to bring a title to Cleveland this season he sees where the bar is set and realizes right now his Cavaliers can’t clear that. He’s got until June to change that.

Getting Irving and Shumpert back is part of it. But it’s not all of it.

Quote of the Day: In Russia, they ride bears

Timofey Mozgov
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The quote of the day comes from Russian center Timofey Mozgov, the Cavaliers’ big man.

It was part of a pregame conversation before the Cavaliers went out and were flat again, losing to the Pelicans Friday night. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Top that.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis put on show in New Orleans (VIDEO)

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After a slow start to the season, Anthony Davis has been back to his vintage self — he certainly was against the Cavaliers on Friday night. Davis had 31 points on 22 shots, plus pulled down 12 rebounds as the Pelicans pulled away to a comfortable lead against the Cavaliers.

Well, not all that comfortable because LeBron James took over scoring 23 of his 37 points (he also had eight assists and seven rebounds) and it looked like the Cavaliers were going to steal a win thanks to him.

Davis and LeBron put on a show, as you can see in the video.

Then Jrue Holiday tried to steal their thunder with the shot of the night.

Davis scored six of his points in the OT while LeBron didn’t hit a shot, and New Orleans picked up the upset win 114-108.

The loss dropped the Cavaliers to second place in the East by percentage points, they are now looking up at the Bu

Anthony has 28, Knicks rout Nets 108-91 to get back to .500

Kristaps Porzingis, Thaddeus Young
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NEW YORK (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis hit one 3-pointer and then another, with hardly a Brooklyn player in sight.

“He’s 7-, 8-feet tall, so I don’t how they missed him,” Carmelo Anthony said.

They missed just about everybody in Knicks uniforms until it was far too late.

Anthony scored 28 points, the 7-foot-3 Porzingis had 19 and New York beat Brooklyn 108-91 on Friday night to get back to .500.

“Well, that was a nightmare,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “I guess everyone can quit talking about rivalries. We didn’t come ready to compete early and they jumped on us.”

Arron Afflalo added 18 points for the Knicks (10-10), who dominated lowly Philadelphia and Brooklyn in their last two games after a four-game losing streak. They reclaimed city bragging rights with ease, leading by as much as 31 points.

Players on both sides still debate whether the teams have a rivalry after the Nets moved from New Jersey to New York in 2012.

It sure looked like this one really mattered to the Knicks.

“We wanted to come in and we wanted to win this game,” Anthony said. “This will always be kind of a special game when we play Brooklyn.”

Brook Lopez scored 21 points, and Thaddeus Young had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets. They had won two in a row and have a lot to fix before they host the unbeaten Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

Lopez beat twin brother Robin to take the opening tip, and it was soon clear that was all the Nets would be winning. The Knicks blitzed them with seven 3-pointers and a season-best 42 points in the first quarter, led 65-42 at halftime and opened their first lead of 30 or more since the 2013-14 season in the third period.

“We stunk it up in that first quarter and it just carried over throughout the rest of the game,” Nets forward Joe Johnson said.

The Nets had allowed 91 points or fewer in three straight games, but the Knicks already surpassed that with a 92-67 cushion heading to the fourth quarter. Brooklyn fell to 1-11 on the road.

“I thought the guys were very intent on playing together and really sharing the basketball and sending the message that they’re capable of doing that,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.

The Nets swept the series last season for the first since winning all four games in 2006-07. They lost Johnson in the fourth quarter when was called for a flagrant foul and ejected for elbowing Jose Calderon in the face.

Porzingis finished with 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double. He was the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for October/November, the first Knicks player to win that award since Landry Fields in December 2010.

Jose Calderon had 10 assists, his most since coming to the Knicks in a June 2014 trade.

TIP-INS

Nets: Shane Larkin, who spent last season with the Knicks, finished with six points in his return to Madison Square Garden. Andrea Bargnani, who spent two injury-disrupted seasons with the Knicks before signing with Brooklyn in the offseason, sat out with left hamstring injury. … Rookie center Willie Reed made his NBA debut, finishing with eight points in 11 minutes.

Knicks: The Knicks’ last 30-point lead before Friday was a 33-point bulge, also against Brooklyn, in a 110-81 victory on April 2, 2014. … The 42 points New York scored in the first quarter were 10 more than its previous best in the period in a loss at Cleveland on Nov. 4. The Knicks’ best showing in any quarter had been 36 points on a couple of occasions.