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

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

Suns’ Isaiah Thomas hits shot to force OT, stares down Floyd Mayweather (VIDEO)

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The Lakers and Suns gave the fine folks of Anaheim a little free basketball Tuesday night, going to overtime of their preseason game (ultimately won by the Suns).

Kobe Bryant hit some key shots for the Lakers down the stretch (8 of his 23 points came in the final 2:03 of the fourth) but when Wesley Johnson missed a couple free throws it gave the Suns a chance to tie with 10 seconds left. The Suns’ Gerald Green missed that contested three to win it, but the offensive board came right to Isaiah Thomas, who knocked down the shot that forced OT as the buzzer sounded.

Then Thomas turned around and stared down Floyd Mayweather, who was courtside.

Mayweather thought it was funny. He loved it. And Thomas had a little smirk on his face as he went back to the bench.

Kobe Bryant responds to ESPN article with basically a shrug (VIDEO)

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers
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It’s been the “hot take” sports story of the week, Henry Abbott’s ESPN article saying free agents don’t want to come play for the Lakers because of Kobe Bryant.

Kobe was asked about that after the Lakers’ preseason overtime loss to the Suns Tuesday night and he basically shrugged. Kobe took the big picture view, as you can see from the video above, courtesy Shahan Ahmed of NBCLosAngeles.com.

“Understand that it’s a cycle and things are never as good or as bad as they seem in the moment.”

Those are the words of a veteran. One who is unconcerned with what is written about him. Kobe is comfortable with who he is, and if others are not — including free agents — he sees that as on them, not him.

Timberwolves’ fan’s 90210 spoof is brilliant (VIDEO)

Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day
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If you don’t love Beverly Hills 90210… then why did you click this link? Move on.

For the rest of us normal people, we know seminal television (or at least a good guilty pleasure) when we see it. What was brilliant was this video by Marcos López combining the iconic show with everyone’s favorite young and fun team.

The Ricky Rubio bit really looks like it should have been part of the show’s open.

(Hat tip That NBA Lottery Pick)

Bulls’ Jimmy Butler has sprained thumb, could miss start of season.

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls
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The Bulls open their season next week against the Knicks and then the Cavaliers. That means Jimmy Butler was going to draw Carmelo Anthony then LeBron James (at least for key stretches of the game).

Which makes this really bad news.

Butler sprained thumb will have him out for the rest of the preseason and maybe the start of the season, the Bulls announced Tuesday.

If Butler is out feisty veteran Kirk Hinrich will get the start and we may see a little more Tony Snell than usual.

That’s not bad, and the Bulls are one of those teams that plugs guys in, plays physical team defense and doesn’t miss a step. But Hinrich is no Butler (well, except for the sweet goggles).

Hopefully Butler doesn’t miss much time. Too early in the season for all these injuries around the league.

Daryl Morey sticks up for James Harden’s defense, says YouTube video “unfair”

Houston Rockets Media Day
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That video is something of an NBA YouTube legend: More than 11 minutes of James Harden’s painful defensive flubs. The thing is, it doesn’t cover all of them, and one could have added to the video with moments of Harden’s play with Team USA this summer at the World Cup.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey hates that video and told Sam Amick of the USA Today just that (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“For whatever reason, it has taken on a life of its own,” Morey says about the criticism about Harden’s defense. “You’ve got people doing a 10-minute YouTube clip that everyone references, and I just ask anyone, ‘Take your worst 10 minutes from your job the last year and just take those worst 10 minutes and put them in a YouTube clip.’ I’m guessing it wouldn’t come out very well for anybody. That, to me, was completely unfair. That bothered me in a big way. Without context, you can grab 10 minutes of anyone and make them look like (expletive). I think reality TV proves that.”

Morey has a point… but only up to a point.

All the videos have led to the impression James Harden never plays defense, and that’s not true. He plays stretches of solid (not great, but solid) defense, but those never seem to last. It’s more a matter of focus and effort, he just doesn’t seem to care on that end.

Harden admitted to Amick he needs to focus more on his defense this season.

“It’s not a matter of whether I can or can’t play defense,” Harden says in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “It’s just a matter of me focusing for 48 minutes throughout a game and making sure that I’m always alert on both ends of the floor … It’s up to me to go out there and show my leadership, to show that I can play both ends of the floor at a high level and just do it. If I have that approach, we’re going to go a long ways.”

Harden has said that before this preseason. If the Rockets are going to take a step forward this season — win more than 54 games and get out of the first round of the playoffs — it’s going to take a defensively focused Harden.

Which is why nobody is really predicting that.