<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant says Jordan “like a big brother” but he learned from others, too


Kobe Bryant is just 127 points back of Michael Jordan on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list, meaning Kobe will move past the legend some time in the next couple weeks.

No player has been compared to Jordan more than Kobe (the comments on this post will devolve into that tired debate again) — something Kobe has encouraged. And no player has withstood the comparison to arguably the game’s greatest player as well. As fans we get drawn into these debates rather than just enjoying greatness as it comes in its varied forms through the league. We can admire both without diminishing the other. Kobe and Jordan are different players of different (if slightly overlapping) eras.

And they are friends. Bryant opened up to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report about his relationship with Jordan in a must-read article.

“We hit it off very well. He was really like a big brother, and whether it’s because we see things in a similar way in terms of our competitive spirit or fire or whatever the case may be, there’s an understanding that we have—a connection that we have.

“I don’t know if he opened up with me more than he did with other players, I’m not sure. I don’t know if other players had the balls even to ask. But we have a really, really good relationship.”

Kobe’s critics will say he learned all his moves from Jordan — even Jordan has joked about that — but Bryant says that’s not true.

“The thing that I always bristled at was the notion that I learned everything that I know from Michael. That’s just not true. Hakeem Olajuwon deserves a lot of credit; Jerry West deserves a lot of credit. Oscar Robertson deserves a lot of credit. I really was a student of the game and watched everybody.

“I’ve always welcomed the comparison to Michael if it’s in competitive spirit or in terms of records that I may set. I’ve always been cool with that. To be in that kind of company is…is…is…crazy, for lack of a better term. Rare air.”

Bryant is clearly thinking a lot about his legacy at this point, he knows this is the final chapter of his career. Fair or not part of that will be how he stacks up against Jordan, and the fact he is passing the legend on the all time scoring list — yes, in more years and games, but passing him nonetheless — means a lot to Kobe.

George Karl on return to coaching: “I think I’ve got one more stint in me”

Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl watches his team play against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their NBA Western Conference basketball playoffs in Denver

When last we saw George Karl it was the summer of 2013 and he had just been named NBA Coach of the Year for leading the Denver Nuggets to 57 wins playing an exciting brand of basketball.

So the Nuggets fired him. The GM had bolted for the north country and with a new GM coming in Karl had pushed for a contract extension (he was entering the last year of his deal). That push combined with a first-round playoff loss to Golden State (because Danilo Gallinari was injured) and philosophical differences about how much to use certain younger players (read: JaVale McGee) led the Nuggets to can him. After that the Nuggets brought in Brian Shaw and that has worked out… oh, no need to go there, that’s not the point of the story.

The point is Karl wants back in.

He’s a regular host on SiriusXM NBA Radio and on Wednesday said what he has said before: He wants to be back on the sideline.

“I think I’ve got one more stint in me. I would like to try to get to the mountain top one more time. My lifetime goal was always to be a NBA champion and I’ve gotten close a couple of times but I’ve never gotten there. I would hope to give it one more whatever – 3, 4, 5 year stint with some team. And if I have the energy, which I think I do right now – I’m probably as energized and as healthy as I’ve been since about 15 years ago – I’m ready to go, just find me a team.”

The Lakers reportedly seriously considered hiring Karl before deciding to bring the history back with Byron Scott. Karl has been rumored in other spots, plus at one point he tried to inject himself into the Cleveland Cavaliers president search.

Karl isn’t always the easiest guy for management to work with, but what he does do is win. A lot. He’s been the head man on an NBA sideline for 25 seasons and has a .599 winning percentage. Plus his teams play an exciting brand of basketball. He’s been to an NBA Finals and made some deep playoff runs.

Which is to say, there are a few teams that should consider giving him a real shot. There are a lot of NBA teams he could help.

Here is the audio of Karl’s comments:

Kobe Bryant says he is being patient with Lakers’ teammates. Relatively.

Kobe Bryant

With Kobe Bryant, patience is relative.

He is by his own definition an old-school, hard-a** taskmaster who is going to drive those around him. He doesn’t like losing, he doesn’t tolerate a lack of preparation or effort. He’s going to push himself and he’s going to push this team.

He’s also smart. Certainly smart enough to know this Lakers team is bad, they are not playoff bound in the West (despite a couple straight wins) and the real question at the end of the season is if they will finish in the bottom five and hold on to their pick (if their first round draft pick is six or higher it goes to the Suns from the Steve Nash deal). Kobe knows this team is only going to be pushed so far.

All of which is to say he’s being patient. For Kobe. That’s what he told Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“The idea of me having no patience is misunderstood,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday night. “I don’t have patience when we’re not putting the work in, if I see that we’re not doing our job as professionals. If that’s happening, I’ll let my team know about it. But this is not that kind of group. We work. These guys want to get better every day. They’re there early working, they’re there late working.

“This organization put forth a lot of effort to try and land some of these top free agents. They went for it. I respect that. I appreciate that.

“Now it’s time for me to go out there and do my job – not whine or complain about it.”

Guys on the team such as Jeremy Lin say Kobe is talking to them, mentoring them. And yelling a little too. It’s all connected for Bryant.

Kobe’s going to put up numbers this season. He’s going to be a show. And while he can no longer lift a team as high doing that as he once did, he will fill Staples Center’s expensive seats with people who want to see it. Ratings will be up, sponsors will still flock to the Lakers.

This summer they will swing again at big free agents, and like most Jim Thome trips to the plate the strikeout is far more likely outcome than the home run. And the cycle will repeat.

And next season Kobe will be patient. For Kobe.

PBT’s Tuesday night NBA Winners/Losers: Dallas, Chicago play game of season

Dallas at Chicago

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while reading about the housewife on heroin….

source:  Kevin Durant. He’s back, and from his first shot he showed the smooth, effortless scoring touch that earned him an MVP last season. The touch that made him one of the NBA’s most beloved players. He showed off all the shots — he attacked the rim at points, showed off his fadeaway at others, there were catch-and-shoot buckets — and while there were moments that it looked like he had missed 17 games following foot surgery most of the time you wouldn’t have known. The bigger concern for the Thunder is they still lost to Pelicans — OKC has a hard road to get back to the playoffs in the brutal and deep West. Still, it’s just fun to have him back.

source:  Dallas Mavericks/Chicago Bulls. Best. Game. This. Season. (At least so far.) The real winner was anyone who watched this one. The Mavericks became the first team to beat Chicago when the Bulls starting five play together, but this game was filled with drama and big plays all night long. There was free basketball with double overtime and big shot after big shot— Derrick Rose hit a big three to send the game to double overtime, Monta Ellis hit one with just over 30 seconds left in that second OT to give the Mavericks the lead. Pau Gasol puts up 29 points (but on 25 shots) and has 14 boards, but in the end the Mavericks just executed a little better in the clutch, and that vaunted Bulls defense just could not contain the high powered Mavericks offense. This just wasn’t the West beating the East (again), this was one of the best of the West going into arguably the best team in the East’s home and winning.

source:  Kirk Hinrich. You can never say “this team lost because of this guy” or “this one play” because a lot of little things, so many different plays go into any outcome. But this felt pretty close. Following a pair of Gasol free throws the Bulls were up three with four seconds left in regulation. If you’re Chicago do you just foul up three and give up only two free throws? Tom Thibodeau wanted to. Monta Ellis was bringing the ball up and Hinrich tried to make the professional, smart foul but waited too long and with a second left Ellis started to go up for the shot as he took the foul. It was an obvious call — three free throws. Ellis sank them and the game went to overtime. Eventually the Mavs got the win.

source:  Stephen Curry. Cold blooded killer. Curry picked up the final three of his team-high 22 points when he drained the game winner with two seconds left to give his Warriors a victory over a feisty Magic team. That’s 10 in a row for Golden State, and that’s the hard way to do it.

source:  Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic. This is what it looks like when all of the Suns’ backcourt if firing at once — they combined for 61 points on 35 shots, were 6-of-10 from three (that was mostly Dragic), they had 10 assists and eight steals. They flat-out owned the Pacers backcourt and were the reasons the Suns picked up a comfortable win at home over the Pacers.

source:  Anthony Davis. Kevin Durant got the top billing here because it’s just great to have KD back in the game, but the Pelicans won and Davis is the reason — 25 points, 10 rebounds, six steals, and four blocks. He has been the best player in the NBA this young season and has lifted the Pelicans up to .500. Oh, and he did this to Kendrick Perkins.

Kevin Durant scores 27 in return, not enough to get Thunder needed win

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans

Kevin Durant was back and, while there were fits of rust, mostly showed reminders of why he has an MVP trophy on the mantle. It wasn’t just the 27 points on 18 shots, it was that signature effortless, polished scoring touch that has made KD one of the NBA’s biggest stars. That was back.

Durant and Russell Westbrook were back. The Thunder were supposed to be back.

But this movie didn’t follow the script the Thunder expected and frankly need — Oklahoma City lost to New Orleans 112-104.

Rather, this game was a reminder of what a mountain remains in front of OKC just to make the playoffs in the brutal Western Conference. The 5-13 Thunder will need to finish with at least 47 wins (the current pace of the eight-seed Phoenix Suns), and likely a little more. That means going at least 42-22 the rest of the way — a makable number, they had a higher winning percentage than that last season, but one that leaves little margin for error.

However, it’s going to be easy because the West is so deep with talent, which is what they were reminded Tuesday — going up against New Orleans is automatic win anymore. Not with Anthony Davis playing like he wants Durant’s MVP trophy. And it’s not just the Big Easy, there is no easy win in Sacramento or really any stop in the West.

Durant looked good for a guy who missed 17 games with the first significant injury of his career. His first play of the game he drained a three pointer. Over the course of the game he showed off his burst and handles that let him get to the rim and finish, he knocked down catch-and-shoot jumpers, and that Nowitzki-esque fadeaway jumper is back too.

Which is good — for the Thunder, and just for fans of basketball. There are few more compelling players in the league. Few guys are just a joy to watch like KD.

But he and the Thunder can’t afford the moral victories of just being back anymore. They need actual victories to get their goal of making the playoffs out West.