Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Kobe Bryant goes on Ellen show, takes part in hidden camera prank

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Kobe Bryant showed off his sense of humor and his smile a lot more during his final farewell tour than he seemed to in his 19 NBA seasons prior to that.

That Kobe was on display as he swung by the Ellen Show, where the hoops star took part in a hidden camera prank on the esthetician, with Kobe telling the poor old lady he sweats. A lot.

If you want to see Kobe talking about Shaq, his final game, and his plans for the future, here’s the rest of his Ellen interview.

Report: James Harden to have role in picking new Rockets coach, Howard will not

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Wednesday night likely the end of the Houston Rockets’ season. It’s possible the pull the upset on Golden State just as Jason Terry has predicted, but that’s about as likely as Terry scoring 37 points to lead that charge.

With the season over, there will be significant changes in Houston. Dwight Howard is expected to opt out, and the Rockets will wave goodbye as he goes to test the free agent market. The Rockets also have to think about the coaching position —J.B. Bickerstaff was put in an impossible situation as the interim coach, but the Rockets are expected to conduct a broad search that will include current favorite Jeff Van Gundy.

Calvin Watkins details it for ESPN.

(Rockets’ owner Leslie) Alexander and (GM Daryl) Morey believe that Harden will play a role in helping to hire a coach and potentially sign free agents. Howard is not expected to have a role. It’s expected that he will become a free agent and seek a new team. Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland and Charlotte are the favorites.

Watkins talks about how Howard’s carefree personality that rubbed Kobe Bryant the wrong way a few years back rubbed James Harden the same way. Harden is not the leader that Kobe was, and Howard seemed to be frozen out of the offense and the locker room. Howard, for his part, was frustrated with the lack of respect he thought he deserved from Harden.

The team chemistry was bad from those two on down.

The Rockets have talent, this is not going to be a slow turnaround with the right coach and just a couple good free agent signings. Harden will have to lead both those recruiting efforts and those changes in play on the court — he has to prove he can lead.

What kind of money and how many years Dwight Howard can find on the open market remains one of the most interesting things to watch this summer in the NBA.

Sacramento Kings pay for fans to get tattoos of new logo

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While I like the Sacramento Kings’ new logos….

The Kings had a promotion on Wednesday paying for a limited number fans of the team to get free tattoos of the new logos at a handful of Sacramento area tattoo parlors. Let’s just say there was a fairly impressive turnout.

Some fans didn’t even care who was paying.

Either the Kings new direction will take hold and the fans can show off these tattoos proudly for years, or they have contributed to the economy by propping up laser tattoo removal businesses. Either way, the Sacrament economy wins.

Yes Clippers fans, I’m saying there’s a chance

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Here is a ray of hope for Clippers fans: Last season, Los Angeles had to play a couple of playoff games without Chris Paul (at the start of the second round) due to a strained right hamstring and the Clippers still won those games.

Here’s the big dark cloud for Clipper fans: They won those games because Blake Griffin stepped up with monster games.

This season the Clippers are going to have to get by Portland in the first round without either of them — Chris Paul is out indefinitely after breaking his hand, and Blake Griffin’s quad injury has him out for the rest of the playoffs.

Tied 2-2, this is now a two-out-of-three series, but Los Angeles holds home court. Portland has the momentum, but over a few games with unconventional lineups, strange runs have happened. Jamal Crawford is fully capable of getting hot and winning a game. Good Jeff Green can make his once-every-two-weeks appearance and swing a game.  Even Austin Rivers can have big nights.

Yes, Clippers fans, I’m saying there’s a chance.

I wouldn’t get too optimistic, most of the numbers suggest the Clippers are in trouble. Big trouble.

• Paul and Griffin were on the court together for nearly 60 percent of the first four games this series and the Clippers were +7.2 per 100 when they were paired.

• The Clippers are -4 these playoffs when Paul is off the floor.

• Over the course of this season, the Clippers played 1,294 minutes without either one of them on the court and the Clippers were outscored by 5.3 points per 48 minutes when they both sat (via ESPN stats and info).

• The Clippers projected starting lineup for Game 5 — Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan — has played exactly zero minutes together this season. The Clippers have never had a game where Redick, Jordan, and Jamal Crawford suited up but Paul and Griffin didn’t.

The point is, nobody knows exactly what to expect from these Clippers. Over a long stretch of ground they are not going to be nearly as good without two elite players, but could they win two-out-of-three against Portland (with two games at home)? It’s possible. The Ewing Theory could kick in. The Clippers will need Redick (battling a bruised heel) and Jordan to play significant roles, Crawford’s perpetual green light just got greener (if that’s possible), and the Clippers are going to have to be efficient on offense without CP3. More importantly, their trapping defense against Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum has to be even more intense (then they need to hope Al-Faruq Aminu doesn’t stay hot from the outside). That may be where they miss Paul most, he was very good this series defensively on Lillard.

But there is hope.

Look at it this way, the most-used lineup for the Clippers in the playoffs without Paul or Griffin is Rivers, Crawford, Wesley Johnson, Green, and Cole Aldrich, and it is +22.1 per 100 possessions (in a small sample size against reserves, but still it’s some hope for Clipper fans).

Stranger things have happened. There is a chance.

Three Things to Watch in Playoffs Wednesday: Who are these Clippers?


Now that you’re back from trying to run across the ocean, here’s what you need to know about Wednesday night’s NBA games.

1) Austin Rivers and Jeff Green are no Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but can they be close enough to beat the Trail Blazers? Tonight’s Clippers expected starting lineup — Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan — has played exactly zero minutes together this season. The Clippers have never had a game where Redick, Jordan, Jamal Crawford suited up but Paul and Griffin didn’t. Which is to say, nobody knows exactly what to expect from the Clippers. Can that group (and the bench) generate an efficient offense? Can they continue to trap and defend Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and reduce their role in the game?

I expect this game to be close — for a couple of games against a team with holes in its lineup, these Clippers can step up and make it interesting. Maybe even win. Crawford could off. The Clippers are not going to just roll over. But the Blazers know what they have to do, and if they get another hot shooting night from Al-Farouq Aminu it will not matter.

2) Welcome to the final Houston Rockets game of the season.
Sure, it is technically possible that the Houston Rockets can beat a Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors team at Oracle Arena on Wednesday. We can even lay out a roadmap: Houston has to get its threes to fall (shooting just 29 percent from deep for the playoffs), Donatas Motiejunas has to dominate Draymond Green, James Harden needs to go off, the Rockets need to care on defense, Michael Beasley and Dwight Howard need to have their best games of the series.

Can you see all of that happening? Any of it? The Warriors without Curry are still a good team that can hit threes, and they owned the second half of Game 4 with this lineup. Expect the Warriors to take care of business Wednesday then sit back and watch the Clippers and Trail Blazers battle it out.

3) Nicolas Batum is back, will Charlotte keep getting their points in the paint? Can they keep Miami out of it? The Hornets will have Nicolas Batum back from injury faster than expected, a boost to their Game 5 chances on the road. But more than a French swingman, the thing to watch in this series is which team is getting their buckets inside.

Miami’s defense has prioritized chasing Charlotte off the three-point line — in the regular season Charlotte averaged 29.4 three point attempts a game (fourth most in the league), but in the playoffs that is down to 16.8 per game and they are making just four a night. Charlotte has countered that by going inside — Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin on the drive, Al Jefferson on post ups. While Hassan Whiteside gets some blocks, the strategy shift has worked well enough to get Charlotte a couple wins.

In Game 4, Miami took 26 shots inside eight feet of the rim and hit 53.8 percent of those shots. In Game 3 it was 29 shots, hitting just nine. Go back to Game 1 — Miami’s best offensive output of the playoffs — and they got 39 shots inside eight feet and hit two-thirds of them. Whether it was the insertion of Frank Kaminski into the lineup, or just passivity on the road, Miami settled too much the last two games on offense and now find themselves in a tight best-of-three series. The Heat need to attack again, and feed Whiteside so he gets chances in close.

Whichever team is getting its buckets inside will win.