From the first moments after the Los Angeles Lakers took him with the No. 2 pick, D’Angelo Russell has been singing the praises of Kobe Bryant. But Kobe is not his only idol, and Russell tweeted out this:
“And so, he also mentioned to me in a private conversation that if he had his druthers, he would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal. And that would be the end. But he was very quick to say, ‘But, I don’t want a spot. I need to earn the spot. I need to be capable of playing at that level to be considered.’ And I said, ‘You got that. That’s always there for you, Kobe.'”
At 33, Kobe was already the oldest player on Team USA by four years in the 2012 Olympics. Considering the next-oldest player was Tyson Chandler, who also didn’t attend this week’s minicamp, that gap would likely be even wider in 2016.
Having a single older player isn’t unprecedented. A 35-year-old Jason Kidd was six years older than any Team USA teammate in 2008. Kidd won a gold medal in 2000 and didn’t play in 2004, when the Americans finished with a disappointing bronze. So, Kidd mostly provided veteran leadership in 2008, and the U.S. took gold.
But 2016 will be different. Unlike 2008, the Americans are coming off a gold-medal run in the previous Olympics. They have several players who can play well and carry themselves appropriately. They don’t need a designated elder statesman to guide them.
Granted, there would be something cool about Kobe ending his playing career with Team USA in the Olympics. It’d be akin to Magic Johnson playing in the 1992 All-Star game after retiring. It’s hard to imagine a better sendoff for the internationally inclined Kobe, who has had a great career that already includes two Olympic gold medals.
But a great career doesn’t mean Kobe can still play at the level of the 12 best available Americans. He almost certainly can’t. Kobe hasn’t produced in the last two seasons. That won’t get easier at 37.
If that’s what it will take for Kobe to reach Rio, it’s a huge longshot.
Report: Kings sign Vince Hunter to partially guaranteed contract
I rated Hunter a high second-rounder. The forward rebounds very well and can capably guard multiple positions. His offense is a work in progress. He’s hardly a can’t-miss prospect, but he’s worth this small gamble.
As Sacramento’s roster stands now, Hunter would likely make the regular-season roster. The Kings have 16 players, including David Stockton (unguaranteed). Considering most teams carry three point guards and he’s behind Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison and Seth Curry, Stockton is the most likely cut. Sacramento could also consider waiving Duje Dukan or even Seth Curry (guaranteed minimum salaries) if both Stockton and Hunter play well in training camp.
The Kings also have the $2,814,000 room exception (Carlos Boozer?), which could push Hunter down the totem pole. If they waive him, they could assign his D-League rights to their affiliate.
Either way, at this cost, Hunter is a nice addition.
PBT’s Fast Break news, notes from around NBA: Dwight Howard to sit out Houston opener
Even in the middle of the off-season there are so many news and notes around the NBA we can’t keep up with all of them, so here is a collection of short thoughts and news items we couldn’t plug in anywhere else.
• We learned this week with the new NBA schedule that the Houston Rockets open the season Oct. 28 against the Denver Nuggets, but Dwight Howard will have to sit that game out as a suspension for crossing the flagrant foul threshold during last season’s playoffs.
• Stephen Jackson says he is the best NBA player alive — on the mic. And by the way, he says Kobe Bryant’s rap career was “horrible.” Which frankly may be kind.
• Jackson may be able to rap a little, but can he lip-sync to Whitesnake like Nick Young?
• The Atlanta Hawks are about to hire former NBA player Malik rose as their manager of basketball operations, according to multiple reports.
• How much trouble is the Hawks’ Mike Scott in for his arrest on drug charges? Like 25 years in jail worth of trouble. There were drugs in a car where he was a passenger that was stopped by police, then Scott told police the drugs were his and his brother (the driver) did not know about them.
• What will be interesting with the Scott case is how the Hawks and league handle it. He is innocent until proven guilty, and Georgia law calls for the drugs in his possession (marijuana and Molly) to be tested before a court date is set, which takes a couple months. Meaning after the NBA season starts. Do they play him?
• Michael Jordan testified in court this week against now-defunct Chicago-based supermarket chain Dominick’s. The chain ran a 2009 ad for steaks using a picture of Jordan without his permission — Jordan and his attorneies are incredibly protective of his brand, and he sued the chain for $10 million. The worst part, just two people used the coupons to get steaks at the stores. There is no verdict yet.
• Chicago is one of America’s great food towns, and the Bulls (and Blackhawks) are teaming up with Levy Restaurants (the “hospitality partner) at the arena) to bring some of that food to the United Center. Trendy Chicago eateries such as Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, Leghorn Chicken, Lillie’s Q, LQ Chicken Shack, Frontier, Lottie’s Pub and The Pony will have food at concession stands in the arena. This is brilliant. If you want a boiled hot dog and a Bud Light you can still get it, but now you have options.
• Levy runs the food operations at a number of NBA arenas, and they have been great at bringing in local flavor in a lot of places. Maybe the best arena food is at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where you can get grub from Brooklyn Bangers, Paisano’s Meat Market, Blue Marble Ice Cream, Café Habana, Buffalo Boss, and Nathan’s. That is a fantastic job of capturing local flavor.
• A little news about a former NBA player taking the cash in China.
Shavlik Randolph signed w Liaoning in China. 3yr deal worth $7-8M (depending on bonuses) w NBA out after each season, according to source.
Stephen Curry is the second most popular player in the NBA. If you want evidence, look at the NBA schedule — only one team has as many nationally televised games as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it’s Curry and the Warriors. The NBA is putting Curry front and center.
Jenna Corrado and I discuss this in the latest PBT Extra, looking at highlights of the NBA’s schedule.
In addition to the Curry/LeBron Christmas Day showdown, I’m looking forward to Nov. 11 when DeAndre Jordan has to play in Dallas, and to see the (likely) emotional farewell for Kobe Bryant on April 13 if this is his last game in the NBA.