Kobe Bryant doesn’t think the Clippers are a rival, but was proud of Lakers’ performance

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Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers picked up a 96-91 victory over their Staples Center roommates on Wednesday night, but don’t get it twisted: Kobe Bryant and Co. certainly don’t view a victory over the Clippers as a big win in a rivalry game.

“Please,” Bryant said when asked about what the rivalry victory meant to the Lakers’ superstar. “We’ve got five championships. … Rivals come from the playoffs.”

Bryant mentioned that and more during an overly-honest interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski following the Lakers snapping of a three-game losing streak. The ‘Black Mamba’ showed quite a different side than most are used to seeing — especially those that have been tuning into ‘Kobe System’ shoe advertisements — but it showed a cutthroat mentality that isn’t seen as often in the new era of the NBA.

The 13-time All-Star declared his Lakers don’t have a rivalry following a game that saw six technical fouls, a couple shoving matches, an ejection and a flagrant to boot, but he wasn’t shy about standing up for his teammates following the raucous affair. The Clippers took offense to some of the actions that Lakers’ Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol took part in, but Bryant said that was exactly what needed to happen.

Bryant told Yahoo! that “There’s a couple [expletives] in this league you don’t mess with – and Metta is one of them.”

“Hey, you better talk to them,” Bryant advised the Clippers’ Chauncey Billups, according to Wojnarowski. “You better tell them to leave Ron alone. Someone is going to get their ass knocked out in front of everybody.”

Gasol showed that he wasn’t soft during the game, either, though it was through a simple pat on the head of Clippers point guard Chris Paul in a move that the latter apparently decided was a bit too patronizing for his liking. Bryant was unable to calm Paul down, but he told Yahoo! Sports that it was good to see a bit of fight from his big man.

“Pau’s not a patronizing guy,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “I’d do some stuff like that, but not him. That’s just not him.

“Chris doesn’t like that stuff. He’s got that little-man complex. I do that to his head all the time. Man, he just hates it. But he’s a tough little [expletive], and he’s not going to let that [expletive] slide, accident or not.”

It was only a start for Bryant and the Lakers as they’re still trying to shake off the effects of a shortened-preseason and the retirement of head coach Phil Jackson that caused them to begin the season with a middling 11-8 record, but it seems Wednesday night’s win was certainly a step in the right direction.

Instead of the media discussing the effects of Mike Brown’s offense, the poor play of the Lakers’ backcourt or if Bryant still has what it takes to put the team on his back when they need a big win, the topic of discussion following Wednesday night’s win was about how the Lakers looked like a tough team that are willing to do whatever it takes to get a win — even if the game does get a little dirty.

And that, judging by Bryant’s comments, is exactly what he wants the team to do every time they step out on the court.

Report: Boston nearing agreement to retain Marcus Smart

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When free agency began, a lot of us said that the restricted free agent market was going to be tough — not a lot of teams had cap space to start with, and those that did were not targeting players where the offer could be matched. Zach LaVine got a deal, but other name RFA were waiting, Clint Capela and Marcus Smart being the biggest names on the board.

We may be able to cross Smart off that list soon, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That is in the range of what the Celtics had wanted to pay him from the start, around $12 million a season.

Smart expected more — north of $17 million a season — and was frustrated that no offers sheets came in that would force the Celtics to match. He reportedly was “hurt and disgusted” that the Celtics didn’t come in and recruit him or make a larger offer. Welcome to a tight market, the Celtics had leverage.

Smart is one of the top defensive two guards in the league, a switchable defender who can guard any perimeter position, all of which fits with Brad Stevens’ defensive system. He also brings a high motor — he generates steals and gets to loose balls. Offensively he’s a liability — teams can help off him, daring him to shoot — but when healthy the Celtics have the players to cover that up.

This looks like it will get done and be a fair deal for both sides.

Kawhi Leonard may not want to play in Toronto, but he will. For now.

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The moment it was reported that Kawhi Leonard was being traded to Toronto for a package based around DeMar DeRozan,  a second theme followed:

Leonard did not like this.

Leonard and his uncle/management team had tried to force their way to Los Angeles — in Las Vegas for Summer League I heard rumors about him wanting to be with either the Lakers or Clippers, depending on the source. (As with everything around Kawhi’s inexperienced management, there was no clear voice or vision, so there were a lot of conflicting rumors.) L.A. never happened because the Lakers think he will sign with them next summer, so they did not throw their best players into a trade — Brandon Ingram, in particular — while the Clippers didn’t have the assets to get a deal done. The Raptors jumped into that breach.

This has led to online speculation that Leonard will sit out in Toronto, saying he is injured, and try to force another trade.

Don’t bet on it.

Why? Because if he doesn’t play next season, even the Lakers would be very hesitant to jump in with a max contract offer next summer.

Leonard played in just nine games last season due to a quadriceps tendon issue, something that dates back to the season before that (he just played through it then). There was disagreement between doctors (and the sides) about whether this was a muscle or tendon issue, but the injury was real.

Right now, teams do not know how well he has responded to treatment, outside of second-hand reports. The physical Leonard has to undergo to complete this trade will be interesting.

If Leonard sits out all or even much of another season with the same injury, how healthy he would ever be must come into question. Even the Lakers and other teams that want him would have to be cautious about a four-year, $140.6 million contract (the max they can offer) to a guy who had missed a lot of the last two seasons.

To get where he wants to go and get paid, Leonard has to get on the court and play well. He has to look like Kawhi Leonard again, or something close to it.

He knows that, so he will be on the court in a Raptors uniform. If only for a year.

 

Lonzo Ball had arthroscopic surgery on knee Tuesday, should be ready for training camp

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It’s done.

As expected, Lonzo Ball has had left knee surgery on Tuesday and is currently in recovery. He reportedly will be good to go by training camp in September.

Ball averaged 10.2 points and 7.2 assists per game last season and made the NBA All-Rookie second team. This summer he had been working hard on his conditioning and jumper before the injury.

Ball will be asked to push the pace (as he did last season) and be a secondary ball handler who can create shots when LeBron does not have the ball in his hands. They fit together better on the court than some people think (Lonzo did play off the ball some at UCLA), but the challenge for L.A.of teams helping off Lonzo to double/trap LeBron on the perimeter is real.

The Lakers also took a couple of shots across the bow of Ball — and his father LaVar — this summer. First there was the signing of Rajon Rondo, then Magic Johnson said this about Josh Hart at Summer League:

The message is clear, the days of soft-pedaling and catering to Ball are over. He must earn his starting job, and there are legit challengers for his minutes. At some point, if the balance of off-court distractions and on-court production gets out of alignment, Ball’s job and standing with the Lakers are not safe.

But for now, he just needs to get right before the season.

DeMar DeRozan expresses anger at trade to Spurs on Instagram

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DeMar DeRozan has been loyal to Toronto.

He embraced the city when former stars abandoned it and pushed their way out of town. In 2016, as a free agent, he didn’t even meet with another team, he had no intention of leaving. He said he wanted to go down as the greatest Raptor ever. A Los Angeles kid himself — born and raised in Compton — he never pushed to go home, instead becoming incredibly active in the community off the court as well as being a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA player on it. He has led the greatest run of Raptors basketball in franchise history.

The Raptors were not loyal to DeRozan — they are shipping him to Texas in a trade for Kawhi Leonard that is being finalized.

DeRozan reportedly hates the move and put this up as an Instagram story.

“Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”

It’s not the destination that has DeRozan unhappy, he did not want to be traded, period.

Leonard reportedly also is unhappy with the trade — he wanted to go home to Los Angeles. However, Lakers would not the players the Spurs wanted into a trade (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and more), and the Clippers do not have the assets to interest the Spurs in a trade. San Antonio was holding out for other bidders, biding their time, and in came Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri with an aggressive move.

Leonard’s inexperienced management team, which did not handle this situation well, wanted him in a major market that would boost Leonard’s marketing opportunities. While Toronto is a big market — sixth largest in the NBA, bigger than Philadelphia — and is the team of a nation with fans across Canada, this is not what Leonard’s people wanted. He is a free agent next summer in 2019.

DeRozan has every right to feel betrayed — next time you think of complaining about how players are not loyal to cities/teams/fans, remember this. Loyalty is a luxury in the NBA and one rarely rewarded.

DeRozan also will come around and embrace San Antonio, the Spurs culture, and Gregg Popovich. He will help them win a lot.

Whether the Raptors can win over Leonard becomes one of the NBA’s biggest storylines of 2018-19.