Kurt Helin

Kobe reiterates he doesn’t know if it’s his last year

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If you hear anyone saying “Kobe Bryant is going to retire after this season” or “Kobe is coming back next season” you should know they are talking out their… well, the side of their mouth. They don’t know.

How could anyone know — Kobe himself doesn’t know.

He reiterated that at Lakers media day Monday, as reported by Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

“If it is, it is,” Bryant said. “If it isn’t, I’ll be ready for next season. I don’t spend too much time thinking about it. I’ve got enough to think about.”

Kobe also said he doesn’t know what will ultimately sway his decision.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bryant said. “I’ve thought about it a little bit in terms of, what is the deciding factor? How do players actually know when it’s time to hang them up, truly? Everybody kind of gives [the media] the standard cookie-cutter answers — relaxing, golfing, spending time with the family, things like that. But, really, how do you truly know? And I don’t know. I’ll have a much better answer when that time comes for me.”

He’s going to play out his 20th NBA season and see how it goes. And he’ll answer variations of the retirement question 3,674 times this season.

I disagree with Phil Jackson on one thing — if Kobe comes back for season 21, I don’t think he will play for a team other than the Lakers. While Kobe’s competitiveness and desire to add to his ring collection is unquestioned, he also is concerned about his brand and his legacy. Part of that is having played 20 years with one franchise and going down as arguably the greatest Laker ever. Kobe watched the Jordan years in Washington and said “not me.” He watched Karl Malone and Gary Payton come to the Lakers to chase rings and still fall short (Payton did get a ring in 2006 with Miami). I can’t see Kobe leaping to Cleveland/Golden State/Oklahoma City/wherever to be the fourth wheel on a contender. He’s going to ride into the sunset a Laker.

The only question is when?

Another report Denver likely to sign Mike Miller

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers
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Not long after it was announced the Trail Blazers were going to buy out Mike Miller as expected, Denver came up as a potential landing spot, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Now comes more confirmation that once Miller clears waivers on Wednesday he is likely headed to the Mile High City, this time via Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that Miller, who was formally waived Monday by the Portland Trail Blazers, is poised to sign a one-year contract with the Nuggets barring any late snags.

Miller has two rings from his years in Miami, he’s a former Rookie of the Year, and he’s a well-respected veteran in the locker room. The Nuggets have 14 guaranteed contracts, so they have the roster spot, and like him enough to have gone after him in the summer of 2014 (Miller chose to chase a ring with LeBron James).

Still, it’s a bit of an odd fit. Denver is a team in transition with Emmanuel Mudiay coming in to run the point, some quality players such as Danilo Gallinari, and some guys who could be moved such as Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler. Miller, if he can stay healthy again, gives the Nuggets a little wing depth, but he’s not likely to see a ton of run.

Will Drummond wait on extension to help Pistons?

Andre Drummond
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Way back in the middle of July, just after the initial flurry of free agent activity had subsided, Pistons’ Big Kahuna Stan Van Gundy said they would start to talk contract extension with Andre Drummond. Because the Pistons are fully committed to Drummond, and he is a clear max contract guy, this should have come together quickly.

But as we reach the end of September, there is no deal.

What gives? Drummond wasn’t talking at Pistons’ media day, but Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press explains the situation well.

“Everybody comes to a point in time in their career when they are going to deal with contract situations, and it’s better that I keep it as a personal thing and just focus on what I can control right now, which is making my team better,” Drummond said on the eve of training camp…

The Pistons would like to wait and put off the extension until next off-season. If Drummond agreed, his hold of only $8.2 million would count against the 2016-17 salary cap, not the $20-million hold if he were to sign before Oct. 31.

The Pistons could use that roughly $12 million during the league’s free agency period – and then use their Bird Rights on Drummond to go over the salary cap and retain their own free agent.

The Pistons are asking Drummond to do what the Spurs asked Kawhi Leonard did for the Spurs to help them sign LaMarcus Aldridge. He held off on his extension for a year, which gave the Spurs some financial flexibility, and then they came back at the end with the expected max contract.

However, that comes with risk for Drummond — if he were to suffer a severe injury this season he might never see that money. Notice that this summer a number of top players, including Kevin Love and Anthony Davis, took security over a potentially larger payday.

If Davis pushes for the security, the Pistons will give him the extension now. It’s just something to watch going forward.

Kings’ Karl, Cousins call their relationship “solid”

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings
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Nothing to see here, move along.

After a summer where things were frosty in the desert of Las Vegas between Kings coach George Karl and their star player DeMarcus Cousins (Karl was talking to other teams about potential trades, something the front office was not down with), but the two men sat down and everything is good. At Kings’ media day Monday, everyone stuck to that script, as noted by Blake Ellington of Sactown Royalty.

I think Rajon Rondo summed it up well at Summer League when saying he had a good relationship with Karl so far.

“We haven’t played any games, coach Karl hasn’t kicked me out of any practices yet, so we will see how it goes,” Rondo said with a smile.

And that’s where we are with the Kings — it’s the first day of training camp and everything is good. Everyone is saying the right things, everyone is on the same page. If the Kings can continue to do that when they go on a losing streak, or when Rondo/Cousins disagree with Karl, then maybe this team can pull together a surprising season. But they’re going to have to prove it.

For now, things are just solid.

Derrick Rose mentions 2017 free agency, eyes that cash

Derrick Rose
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NBA players all over the league noticed — Wesley Matthews got $70 million while still recovering from a torn Achilles, Reggie Jackson got $89 million, Enes Kanter got $70 million, and we could go on — and they drooled. Both publicly on Twitter and privately. They saw the impact of the new television deal, all the cash flooding the system, and they wanted to get their share.

Derrick Rose among them.

At Bulls media day Monday a reporter asked Rose a question about the civil lawsuit filed against him, and Rose’s answer was about how he’s not paying attention to it — but one of the things he was paying attention to was all the money flying around. And he wanted a piece. It was an unsolicited response, something noted by CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill.

The Bulls have been loyal to Rose, who has played just 100 regular season games total in the last four seasons. But this is a business. Rose has loyalty to the Bulls, but if another team offers boatloads more cash?

Before you comment about how “he’s just greedy,” or “he has no loyalty or love of Chicago” ask yourself this: Would you leave $10 million or more on the table? If you said yes, you’re lying. While the occasional long-time veteran will go David West and walk away from $11 million to chase a ring at the end of his career, that is not the norm. Nor should we expect it to be. NBA players have a limited window to make money, and you can’t blame them for trying to get all they can.

The more interesting question is what kind of a market there will be for Rose in 2017? He will only be 28, but there are a lot of miles on those tires. Obviously, it depends on how he plays the next couple seasons, and how healthy he can stay.