Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

Kobe Bryant compares himself to Mozart

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Kobe Bryant is very self-aware.

If you take nothing else away from Chuck Klosterman’s interview with Kobe in the latest edition of GQ, take that. He is not coasting through the end of his career; he is trying to take charge of it. He is trying to leave the game he loves on his terms.

He knows he has weaknesses, but his understanding of them makes him more dangerous. One thing many critics have said of him is he shoots too much. Klosterman mentions that but Kobe came back with an unusual reference for an athlete.

“I’ve shot too much from the time I was eight years old,” Bryant says. “But ‘too much’ is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary.”

Kobe believes in himself. Teammates have to earn his trust. So yes, at times he believes he is the better person to take a key shot — even a contested one — than a teammate he does not have full confidence in. But he has trusted teammates before, including the big names like Shaq and Pau Gasol, as well as role players like Derek Fisher or Brian Shaw. And Kobe does pass.

Kobe is a quote machine in the GQ article, and he talks about thinks like his relationship with Shaq and Phil Jackson.

“(Jackson is) also very intelligent, and he understood the dynamic he had to deal with between me and Shaq. So he would take shots at me in the press, and I understood he was doing that in order to ingratiate himself to Shaq. And since I knew what he was doing, I felt like that was an insult to my intelligence. I mean, I knew what he was doing. Why not just come to me and tell me that? Another thing was that I would go to him in confidence and talk about certain things, and he would then use those things to manipulate the media against me. And from that standpoint, I finally said, “No way. I’m not gonna deal with that anymore.” This was during our first run, during those first three championships. So when he’d come out in the press and say those things about me, I was finally like, “F— it. I’m done with this guy. I’ll play for him and win championships, but I will have no interaction with him.” Yet at the same time, it drove me at a maniacal pace. Because either consciously or unconsciously, he put a tremendous amount of pressure on me to be efficient, and to be great, and to be great now.”

While trade rumors fly, most likely outcome is Suns keep Goran Dragic

Phoenix Suns Media Day
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There is some logic to why Goran Dragic trade rumors will fly everywhere until the trade deadline Thursday (Feb. 19): He is an unrestricted free agent this summer, he could walk and the Suns would get nothing in return, so they should move him now and at least get something. Besides, with three score-first guards (Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas) the Suns need a big to balance the roster.

However, the far, far more likely option is Phoenix keeps him.

He is key to the Suns’ offense and if they want to cling to the eight seed in the West (they are just half a game ahead of the Thunder for that last playoff spot) they need him. The Suns and Dragic are talking about all of this, reported Adian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The real problem with the Suns making a Dragic trade under deadline pressure is they would almost certainly come out the losers — they would not get anywhere near equal value back. They could use a rim-protecting big man, but the teams that have those are not giving them up. Zach Lowe broke it all down at Grantland.

The Suns want to make the playoffs. Even if they’re afraid Dragic walks, they can’t afford to toss him away without getting a real player in return.

It’s very hard to find a good big man on a team that might be willing to deal for Dragic on an expiring contract. The Rockets loom, and while the Lakers always bank on the glitz of L.A., I’m not sure Jordan Hill cuts it as a frontcourt upgrade for Phoenix. As I reported in December, other teams have long felt that Phoenix would prefer dealing Isaiah Thomas; he has three years left on a contract that declines in value every season, and that opens up a broader trade market.

The Suns will listen to Dragic trade calls this week, but likely not make a move. Not unless someone unexpectedly blows their doors off. Then this summer they will work to re-sign Dragic followed by trading Thomas to fill a need.

PBT Extra: Watch out for Cleveland, Oklahoma City when NBA resumes

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets
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The high-flying dunks and high scoring of Russell Westbrook highlighting All-Star weekend are behind us, time to look ahead as the NBA season resumes Thursday and heads into the home stretch of the regular season.

First in this PBT Extra we hear from the players about the second half. Then Jenna Corrado and I discuss who to watch going forward.

I’ll have my eye on two teams we thought would be very good, struggled at the start of the season, but are finally healthy and putting it all together — the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Report: Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried among many Nuggets available in trades

Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
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Denver is a team in transition. What they are transitioning too is a question nobody around the league can answer, Denver appears a confused mess. But they are transitioning.

With that, basically their entire roster is available via trade — including quality players such as Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. That is in addition to the often rumored Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler, who have been shopped for a while.

Zach Lowe of Grantland had his usual, fantastic breakdown of Denver approaching the trade deadline.

They’ve been seeking multiple first-round picks for both Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo, talking with obvious contender types like the Blazers and ambulance-chasing with banged-up playoff teams like the Wizards. Snagging two firsts for Timofey Mozgov emboldened the Denver front office to chase big returns, and the rest of the league is waiting for Denver to step back as the deadline approaches. Anyone could have JaVale McGee for a fruit basket.

The more interesting questions surround Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. Denver isn’t shopping those guys, but Jusuf Nurkic is the only true untouchable on the roster, per several league sources who have dealt with the Nuggets. The sense around the league is that you could land Lawson or Faried with a Godfather offer. They are gettable. Boston and Denver have had exploratory talks about Lawson, per several sources.

Lawson isn’t inexpensive — he is owed $25.6 million total for two seasons after this one — but he provides production on the court. He is averaging 16.9 points and more than 10 assists a game, and especially in a more up-tempo system he could be a key part of a quality team.

It’s much harder to imagine Faried getting moved. Never say never, but four-year, $50 million extension kicks in next season, which is going to scare teams off. Faried brings energy through that points (15.4 a game) and rebounds (11 a game). But he’s not a guy you run the offense through, he’s best suited to be the third option on a team. Picture how he played so well for Team USA last summer because defenses had to focus on James Harden, Anthony Davis, and others — that opened up room for Faried to do his thing. That thing is valuable, but teams will balk at the price tag.

More likely is Denver taking back less than it is asking now to move Afflalo or Wilson. Those talks are still going on but are not yet heated, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Denver is the poster child for this coming trade deadline — they are talking to a lot of teams about a lot of different players, but they are not likely to get a deal done before the Feb. 19. Maybe they pull off a small deal, but it’s not going to be the big deals we used to see at the deadline.

Report: Amar’e Stoudemire leaning toward signing with Dallas

New York Knicks v Miami Heat
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Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees may have robbed him of being the MVP-level player the Knicks thought they were getting (which is why the team bought his contract out), but he could still help out a contending team in limited minutes.

There were a lot of teams interested; rumors included Golden State, Dallas, San Antonio, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

But it sounds like Stoudemire may have made up his mind.

Dallas needs depth up front. When Tyson Chandler steps off the court the Mavericks are 5.8 points per 100 possessions worse. When Chandler sat out with a sprained ankle before the All-Star break Dallas started and leaned on Greg Smith. Behind All-Star Dirk Nowitzki the Mavs have Charlie Villanueva.

That’s not striking fear into any teams in the West as the Mavericks head into the playoffs. Frankly, Stoudemire will not either, but he can be an upgrade.