Kurt Helin

Associated Press

NFL’s Rams, Titans delay announcing blockbuster trade because of Kobe


The Los Angeles Rams already understand the market.

For longer than Kobe Bryant has been a Laker, there has been no NFL team in Los Angeles. With that vacuum (and the fact the Dodgers had terrible ownership and stunk it up for most of that window) the Lakers owned the Los Angeles sports market. Kobe was a deity, the Lakers the top dogs.

Thursday morning, the just-returned L.A. Rams announced a blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans that gives the Rams the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (which they are expected to use on North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz). It’s huge NFL news in a market just getting used to caring about NFL news for it’s hometown team again.

The deal was agreed to Wednesday night, but the two teams decided not to announce the trade until the next day out of deference to Kobe Bryant’s farewell night, something Rams coach Jeff Fisher confirmed. This was something that other Rams officials had said earlier in the day.

Well played Rams.

Take it from a long-time Angelino, the Lakers, despite their stumbles of the past few seasons, remain the biggest draw and story in town (the Dodgers are closing that gap with Clayton Kershaw and playoff appearances). The Rams will jump up near the top quickly (their players are almost as well paid as USC’s), but Kobe is the biggest sports star in town, bar none. If the Rams had clumsily stepped on his toes, it would have been noticed.

Now we can just hope that Wentz goes on to have half the success Kobe did.

Steve Kerr enjoying the ride watching Warriors make history

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr makes one thing perfectly clear: This special season is not about him. Far from it. Even if he is so perfectly entwined with the record-setting Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls group Kerr played for 20 years ago that just lost its all-time wins record to the team he now leads.

Kerr will tell you he didn’t even coach the first 43 games and that record 24-0 start, after all. And he wants Luke Walton to receive the proper credit for the initial, special stretch of the season before the Warriors’ second-year coach returned Jan. 25 from a leave of absence, which began the first week of training camp in October following complications from two back surgeries.

Kerr jokes how easy he has had it this time around, with a deep lineup starring reigning MVP Stephen Curry and triple-double machine Draymond Green.

“We try to pick our spots. Over 82 games, a coach’s voice gets old quickly, so fortunately Luke coached the first (43), so they didn’t hear mine that often,” Kerr said in his usual good-natured tone. “But I think the thing we try to do is to not really worry about wins and losses. It’s more how we’re playing.”

Yet in recent weeks, Kerr faced constant questions about victories and chasing records – Golden State’s pursuit of his old 72-10 mark with the 1995-96 Bulls, to be exact. While Kerr acknowledged being uneasy about putting so much effort into a goal other than winning a championship, he relented because of his players’ desires.

Last month, he called a team meeting and asked his players if they wanted to go for the record or get some rest for the playoffs. When the majority desired to take a run at 73, Kerr agreed only with the guarantee that they would be honest with him about their health and when they needed a breather.

“He’s the coach of the year. Any time you coach a team to the record we have and the behind the scenes stuff, he’s been orchestrating everything,” guard Klay Thompson said. “He’s our head honcho and all these great ideas always flow for him. He’s really a players’ coach. He knows what we’re going through.”

Kerr played alongside Michael Jordan – “Yet another time the two of us are mentioned in the same breath. Whatever,” Kerr quipped – on the record-setting Bulls team, then his Warriors bested that mark by beating Memphis in Wednesday’s regular-season finale. Golden State hosts Houston on Saturday to start the playoffs.

Kerr played all 82 games for Chicago that season, and did so in four straight years overall – from 1993-94 through 1996-97. He takes pride in that durability and stability he brought the Bulls while winning three championships.

He went on to win two more titles as a player in San Antonio before launching a successful career off the court.

After a stint as general manager in Phoenix and then his TV work, Kerr immediately left his mark on the Bay Area. For all of those who questioned his ability with no experience, there’s no denying now that he’s a top-flight NBA coach – capturing a championship in his first season and setting the wins record in his second.

“Steve, he’s a terrific leader. This is not anything that’s new,” said New Orleans coach and former Kerr top assistant Alvin Gentry. “He’s been preparing for this for a long time. He put in so much work. I didn’t have any doubt that he was going to be a great coach.”

All the while during this exhausting, pressure-packed season, the 50-year-old Kerr tried to remain patient as he recovered from the back procedures that left him with agonizing headaches and other frustrating, debilitating physical issues. He missed practice just Tuesday for a doctor’s appointment.

Kerr still cracks jokes, smiles and constantly thinks of others – even if he regularly has to pull on an ice bag or heating pack an hour before tipoff because he’s still in pain. He wears a patch on his neck, too.

At team headquarters, Kerr welcomes coaches from all levels to practice, and recently allowed 10-year-old motivational speaker Ezra Frech – a spot-on shooter from Los Angeles with a prosthetic leg – to give a game-day pep talk.

That open-book approach has made Kerr a favorite among colleagues everywhere.

Curry appreciates how Kerr is never content. He wants to coach another champion.

From Day 1 of training camp, he challenged Golden State to do even more on the offensive end – and the unselfish, pass-happy Warriors have obliged.

“He’s got the same temperament, the same kind of passion but his IQ for the game and the adjustments they make day to day are definitely noticeable,” Curry said. “The foundation of our offense is pretty much set but in-game adjustments and plays that they call, they’ve definitely gotten smarter and it shows.”

Kerr insists he has been forced to adjust, actually.

“It’s a little tougher to deliver a message this year than last year for sure,” he said. “Last year we hadn’t won a championship and I could always play the card, `I know how to win a championship and you don’t.’ They know how to do that now and we did it together last year. It’s more of the case of me reminding them of why it’s important. It does get tougher as you go once you have won one and trying to repeat and trying to do it again and again. The message gets old. Got to find creative ways to deliver it I guess.”

Baby, no: Cavs playoffs could bump Justin Bieber show in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James and the Cavs may have a conflict with the Biebs.

If Cleveland’s opening-round NBA playoff series against Detroit goes to five games, the April 26 game would bump a show planned by pop singer Justin Bieber at Quicken Loans Arena.

A sweep by the top-seeded Cavaliers over the eighth-seeded Pistons in the best-of-7 series would avoid any potential problem. However, Detroit beat Cleveland twice during the regular season so winning a game would be no surprise.

The Cavs are working with tour organizers on a contingency plan with new dates for the Bieber show in case the events overlap. Cleveland is one stop on Bieber’s Purpose World Tour.

A big sports fan, Bieber attended James’ first game back in Cleveland in 2014 after he re-signed with the Cavaliers following four years in Miami.

Cleveland will host Detroit in Game 1 of the series on Sunday.

PBT Podcast: Eastern Conference first round playoff preview with Dan Feldman


It feels like we know how the Eastern Conference playoffs will end — LeBron James has been to five straight finals and it’s hard to he doesn’t make it six with the Cavaliers.

However, that doesn’t mean the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs will be without drama.

Can Toronto finally get out of the first round against the Pacers? Then there are two very interesting chess matches between teams that all won 48 games: Boston vs. Atlanta, and Charlotte vs. Miami.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports’ ProBasketballTalk break it all down.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

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


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.’”