Kobe sarcastically says Lakers ‘hitting the panic button’ after 0-3 start

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Lakers fans have been in a state of panic since their team looked horrible in an opening night loss to the Mavericks, who (by the way)  were playing without an injured Dirk Nowitzki.

Kobe Bryant and the rest of the team might be ready to join them. Although they were pretty calm after the game and not near the DEFCON 1 level that fans seem to be at.

L.A. fell to the Clippers on Friday night, in a game that wasn’t really all that close. As odd as it is to say, the Clips’ core is somewhat established after playing together last season, while that of the Lakers is obviously still trying to find itself.

As the natives get more and more restless and impatient with the slow (or perhaps nonexistent) development to this point, Bryant was asked when it might be time to hit the panic button. His response was dry and sarcastic, but with a realization that the time to get things going in another direction was nearing, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

“We’re hitting the panic button now,” Bryant said in a somewhat obligatory manner after a reporter asked if the team was reaching for an imaginary knob. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. This is our job. We’re not supposed to just kind of coast and just assume things are going to fix themselves. We got to push at it.”

This doesn’t mean the team is panicking just yet, of course. But it does mean that Bryant understands the sense of urgency for he and his mates to show some improvement, and to do it quickly.

Lakers head coach Mike Brown, however, might actually be feeling the pressure.

Brown admitted afterward he overworked Bryant, who missed over a week’s worth of time to end the preseason with a foot injury.

“We need a win, obviously. I’m not trying to fool anybody here. We do need a win. You hope we could have gotten one tonight,” Brown said. “That’s part of why (Bryant) played the minutes that he played, which was too many.”

Bryant played brilliantly, logging 43 minutes and pouring in 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting. But that’s not why the Lakers got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash (who missed this one with a leg contusion), and Brown showed he was pressing by leaving Bryant out there so long while he’s still recovering from that injury.

Bryant said he was playing on one leg and told reporters in the locker room after the game that he felt like his right foot was “about to fall off” during the game.

Fantastic.

The Lakers host Detroit on Sunday, which should be the perfect opportunity for the team to notch its first win of the season. If it doesn’t come then (whether Nash is available to return or not), don’t count on it happening Wednesday night in Utah against a much better team, in a much tougher environment.

And if the losing streak to start the season should reach five, then you’ll see what panic truly looks like.

Counter-report: Kyrie Irving has been ‘communicative and forthright’ with Celtics

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Kyrie Irving, according to a report, has ghosted the Celtics as free agency approaches.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Whoever leaked the initial information wanted to make Irving look bad. Whoever leaked this wanted to make Irving look good. Who’s telling the truth?

Who knows?

Maybe Irving’s and Boston staffers have differing definitions “communicative and forthright.” They could each be telling their own truths. But neither side is above spreading inaccurate rumors to sully someone else’s reputation.

Breakups get messy, and it appears this one is already there.

Beyond all the noise about how Irving is leaving, the most important detail: This is yet another report he’s leaving for the Nets.

Report: Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist opting in for $13 million

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The Hornets’ last hope for super-maxing out Kemba Walker and avoiding the luxury tax without trading or stretching anyone has been extinguished.

With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s $13 million salary locked in for next season, Charlotte faces hard choices.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

If the Hornets re-sign Walker to the super-max, sign their draft picks (Nos. 12, 36 and 52) and add no other free agents, they’d project to be about $9 million over the tax line.

Would Walker take that large of a discount? That $9 million below the super-max would be for just next season. Over a five-year contract with max raises, he’d be leaving about $54 million on the table. And that’s all to maintain a lottery team that’s not really upgrading.

Would Michael Jordan pay the tax? He never has, and I doubt this mediocre team sways him.

The most likely outcome if Walker re-signs: Charlotte trades an undesirable contract – Kidd-Gilchrist’s, Nicolas Batum‘s, Marvin Williams‘, Cody Zeller‘s) – or stretches Bismack Biyombo. Trading those rotation players would probably require a sweetener. Stretching Biyombo would create a cap hit through 2022.

So, the Hornets get even more depleted in the long-term, maybe also the short-term.

That’s the cost of overpaying so many players – including Kidd-Gilchrist, who plays hard and defends well but hasn’t developed enough of an offensive game.

Report: After working out Darius Garland, Knicks set on R.J. Barrett with No. 3 pick

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R.J. Barrett is the consensus No. 3 prospect in this draft. The Knicks have the No. 3 pick.

A potential snag  – New York working out Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland today – apparently won’t keep Barrett from his desired Knicks.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The top of the draft looks clear:

1. Pelicans: Zion Williamson

2. Grizzlies: Ja Morant

3. Knicks: R.J. Barrett

New Orleans has the No. 4 pick but is looking into trading it. I rate Garland as the top available prospect, but the Pelicans already have Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt. They could still take Garland, but the fit would be tricky.

Will New Orleans pick Garland? Take someone else? Trade the pick?

The draft will get interesting at No. 4.

Trade who? Wizards reportedly will offer Bradley Beal three-year, $111 million contract extension

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Predicting what the Wizards will do this off-season — from the No. 9 pick in the draft on Thursday through what to do with Jabari Parker‘s $20 million team option — is difficult because they do not have a permanent general manager. The Wizards have made a run at Toronto’s Masai Ujiri (something sources told me is true despite owner Ted Leonsis’ denials), but for now in-house candidate Tommy Sheppard is running the show (and will for a while longer).

The biggest question: What will the Wizards do with Bradley Beal?

While every team in the league has called to try and feel out trade possibilities, the Wizards are leaning toward offering him a three-year, $111 million extension to his current contract, something reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“He’s eligible for a three-year, $111 million extension. I’m told it’s the team’s intention to offer that up to him and try and move forward.”

The Wizards should offer it up.

It would be a surprise if Beal accepted it.

In part because he will want to see who is in charge and what direction this person takes the franchise before he commits to it, but also in part because it doesn’t hurt him financially. Beal can get a larger-year four-year extension in the summer of 2020, or become a free agent and sign a max five-year contract in 2021 (or, he could bolt them to another team that summer). Beal is just 25 years old and has not had the kind of injury issues that would make him think he needs to take the security now (he has played 82 games the last two seasons).

This little dance will go on in our nation’s capital, but it signifies nothing. Meanwhile, Beal will gear up for next season, another without John Wall where Beal will once again be the focal point of the office.