Would Kobe Bryant leave Lakers as free agent in 2016?

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Kevin Durant will be a free agent in 2016, when rumor has it he’ll choose between the Thunder and the Wizards. LeBron James will likely hit the market that year as well – though by hit the market, I mean immediately re-sign with the Cavaliers on a max contract as the new national TV deals begin.

Though his impending free agency has gotten less attention, the third of the NBA’s triumvirate of most popular players will also have an expiring contract in 2016 – Kobe Bryant.

Kobe – who signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the Lakers – said he wouldn’t push for a trade as him team struggles. But would he leave in free agency?

Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, who has covered the Lakers since Kobe became a starter:

Knowing Kobe as well as I do, even though he probably doesn’t think this quite right now, when that contract does expire in two years and if he can still play at a high level, then I think maybe he does start to think about ‘Well, the Lakers aren’t a team that can win a championship right now. Maybe I do go check it out.’ I mean, this will be four years at that point where he would not have played in a playoff game perhaps, and to end his career that way would be a little embarrassing.

I definitely think it’s a possibility. I don’t think Kobe is sitting here thinking about ‘Well, what team can I jump to in two years’ by any means. But if the Lakers do not succeed in free agency either this summer or next summer, then think about: What is the reality for Kobe Bryant?

How could the same player who claimed “I bleed purple and gold” consider signing elsewhere?

For one, this is speculation from Ding, but it’s very informed speculation. Also: frustration.

Kobe has played just 10 games for the sad-sack version of Lakers we’ve seen the last two years. It’s much easier to remain patient when you’re removed from the everyday aggravation. As Kobe plays more and experiences loss after loss after loss, he might change his view.

There are a lot of reasons to believe Kobe will remain a Laker for the rest of career – chief among them that his career won’t necessarily continue beyond his current contract. He’ll be 38 in two years, and few players have continue physically at that age.

The Lakers, as their no-negotiation extension offer showed, are also far more invested in Kobe than any other team. There’s an aura around Kobe and the Lakers that wouldn’t exist anywhere else, and it helps the Lakers sell tickets, merchandise, sponsorships and media rights. For both sides, there’s something special the possibility of Kobe retiring as the greatest Laker of all time, and that recognition is harder to gain if he ends his career elsewhere.

But, if Kobe is still playing in two years and the Lakers haven’t turned a corner, I expect him to explore the market. Why not? He’s earned the right – and he has before.

Kobe is loyal to the Lakers, no question. Loyal to the degree he would stay with them forever no matter what? I doubt it.

Chris Paul on 2020 Olympics: My wife wants to go to Tokyo

Chris Paul
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Chris Paul feels great starring for the Thunder.

So great, he might even take on extra workload.

Paul – who helped Team USA win gold medals in 2008 and 2012 but didn’t compete in 2016 – said he’s “very serious” about playing the 2020 Olympics. Paul:

I’m excited about the opportunity. My wife is sort of calling the shots on this one. She said she wants to go to Tokyo.

I’ve been blessed and fortunate to play in 2008. I had no kids then. In 2012, my wife couldn’t come, because, four days after the gold medal game, she had my daughter.

We often hear about players missing international tournaments due to personal reasons. But that can go both ways. Paul might compete due to personal reasons.

Paul faces steep and deep competition for making the team at point guard: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White. Trae Young didn’t even make the list of finalists.

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said players who’ve previously represented the U.S. will get favorable consideration. So, that’ll help Paul.

If he plays, Paul – who turns 35 in May – would be Team USA’s third-oldest Olympian:

Chris Paul

Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first game of the tournament

Did John Beilein’s methods lead to Dylan Windler’s season-ending injury?

Former Cavaliers coach John Beilein and Dylan Windler
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John Beilein gave the Cavaliers problems mentally.

Did he also give them problems physically – especially Dylan Windler, who’s missing his entire rookie year?

Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Warning signs for Beilein could be traced to the Cavs’ Summer League schedule, when the rookie coach ran a collection of (mostly) G Leaguers and non-roster invites through extended practices, multiple times a day. This is precisely what Beilein would have done at Michigan, especially with an entirely new batch of players, this early in a season calendar. But players not only complained about the work, they also were drilled in games by opponents who were clearly well-rested. And this was in Summer League.

There was at least one player, though, involved in those early summer workouts under Beilein who was expecting to make a major contribution to the Cavs this season. Rookie Dylan Windler, a late first rounder, was supposed to compete with Cedi Osman for minutes on the wing. But he never played a game this season because of a stress injury in his left leg — which could be traced back at least in part to being overworked during the summer.

Would Windler have missed the season under a different coach? It’s impossible to say. Counterfactuals are complex.

But there was legitimate reason to be concerned with Beilein’s approach. Teams have learned the importance of rest. Fatigued players are more susceptible to injury.

Beilein’s longest college season was 41 games. He coached 54 games in Cleveland – and left with much of the season remaining.

Handling the grind of the NBA season was always going to be an adjustment for the long-time college coach. It probably got understated amid concern about him relating interpersonally to his players.

The Cavaliers needed practice time. They needed work to develop. That’s clearly what Beilein prioritized.

But they also needed to limit the physical toll, and it’s reasonable to question whether Beilein did enough there. Even if he was learning that the NBA is more marathon than sprint, the several months Beilein coaches the Cavs were enough to cause issues.

Bucks’ minor-league coach suspended two games for rant (video)

Bucks minor-league coach Chase Buford
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Chase Buford, who coaches the Bucks’ minor-league affiliate, went on an epic rant after the Wisconsin Herd’s latest loss. He singled out referee Matt Rafferty as a “f—ing clown” and said the officials were “bad and biased and unfair and illegal and cheating.”

Ryan Rodig of WFRV-TV:

G League release:

Wisconsin Herd head coach Chase Buford has been suspended for two games without pay for a direct and extended public attack on the integrity and credibility of the game officials.

I can’t recall an NBA coach ever getting suspended for something he said during a press conference.

I also can’t recall an NBA coach ever saying something so inflammatory during a press conference.

In 2005, then-NBA commissioner David Stern threatened to ban Jeff Van Gundy from the NBA after the then-Rockets coach criticized officiating. That incident still led to just a $100,000 fine. Twice as large as any previous fine for a coach. But still just a fine, nonetheless.

Watch entire Kobe Bryant memorial service (video)

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The public memorial for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant featured several unforgettable moments, including:

But I can’t overstate how well done the entire event was, how heartfelt the speakers and performers were. If you missed it yesterday and are in the right headspace, it’s worth watching to get a more complete understanding of Kobe and Gianna.