Kobe tells Laker management to clarify Pau Gasol plans

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Pau Gasol was almost shipped out to Houston before the season even started in the eventually-killed deal that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers.

Last week there was talk of Gasol to Minnesota (an unlikely deal). Sunday came the report that Derrick Rose wants the Bulls to try and get Gasol (because the Lakers would take back Carlos Boozer?). Every day it seems there is another Gasol trade rumor. Even though GM Mitch Kupchak says the Lakers are not likely to make a trade (keep on reading, we get to that).

Saying it’s tough for a player to be invested and really give his all when he doesn’t know if he’ll be there tomorrow, Kobe Bryant called on Lakers management to decide what is up with Gasol after the Lakers ugly loss to the Suns Sunday night. This is via the best of the Lakers beat writers, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

“I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ loss in Phoenix on Sunday night.

Bryant said his preference is the Lakers do not trade Gasol, citing the team’s “foundation” is in place with Bryant, Gasol and “the emergence of Andrew (Bynum).”

“Can’t have one of our pillars not knowing if he’s going to be here,” Bryant said.

Kobe said the right thing — it plays well in the locker room — even if it is meaningless.

The natives are getting restless around a Lakers team that is clearly not a contender as currently constructed. They got rid of Lamar Odom for a trade exception, they have three quality players and no real depth after that. They need a point guard.

And frankly, nobody really trusts Jim Buss — son of Jerry and the guy running the show now — to get it done. Lakers fans trusted Phil Jackson (even if the male members of the Buss family didn’t love him) and now all traces of Phil have been wiped from of the organization. The younger Buss does not have the track record fans (or anyone) trusts. He has to earn it.

Which is why it’s impossible to say what will happen with Pau Gasol. The Lakers might trade him, but only if they can get a truly elite player back. They’d move him to get Chris Paul, not Derrick Williams and a couple picks. There’s nobody outside of the one guy the Bulls would not move for anyone (Derrick Rose) the Lakers would trade Gasol for on the Chicago roster.

Which means Kobe can say this and it plays well in the locker room — he sounds like the leader. The guy trying to bring the team together. He has his teammates’ backs. And maybe this helps Gasol’s attitude.

This didn’t weaken the Lakers trade position — Gasol is what Gasol is on the market. The Lakers want to win a ring again in the next couple of years and it’s more likely they do that with Gasol than without, unless he is used in a trade to bring another star at a needed position (read: point guard).

But Kupchak told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated not to expect a trade.

“Of course we’ll talk to a lot of teams [about trades], like everybody else does, leading up until the trade deadline to see if there is a way to improve the team,” Kupchak said. “But the likelihood is that this is the team that’s going to finish into the playoffs. That’s just the way it normally works, but we’ll see.”

If this is the team the Lakers send to the playoffs, the second round would be the best they could do. But that doesn’t mean Gasol gets moved.

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

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NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.

Joel Embiid on 76ers-Celtics: ‘This is not a rivalry … They always kick our ass’

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The 76ers-Celtics rivalry is being renewed.

But it’s not there yet, according to Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.

The 76ers are 3-19 against Boston since drafting Embiid, and though that includes multiple tanking years, Philadelphia hasn’t fared much better since getting good. The 76ers went 2-7 against the Celtics last season, including 1-4 in their second-round playoff series. Philadephia followed that with a season-opening loss to the Celtics last night.

Embiid, via Matt Haughton of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“JJ (Redick) mentioned it earlier, this is not a rivalry,” Embiid said to reporters after the Sixers’ 105-87 season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics (see observations). “I don’t know our record against them but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

I appreciate Embiid’s directness. We can all see the problem. There’s no point denying it.

The subtext is Embiid’s motivation to change this status quo, and a lot of it does fall in Embiid. Al Horford has given him fits. Even Aron Baynes worked him at times last night. Embiid is talented and far younger than those two. He’ll eventually get there.

In the meantime, he’s not mincing words.