Byron Scott lets Kobe Bryant play 36 minutes while battling illness

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Mike D’Antoni coached the Lakers the past two seasons, and despite the opinions of many of the team’s loyal fans, he wasn’t to blame for the struggles in Los Angeles.

D’Antoni was, however, criminally negligent in one specific regard. And if Friday night’s contest against the Spurs was any indication, the team’s head coach this season is following in his footsteps.

Near the end of the 2013 season, when the Lakers were furiously trying to make a postseason push with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash on the roster, Kobe Bryant began to log an insane number of minutes. He was defiant in press conferences when asked about it, essentially saying that it was what he believed was necessary to help his team win at all costs, and seemed to be almost daring D’Antoni to try and stop him.

Well, D’Antoni didn’t. He allowed Bryant to play 47, 47, 42, 47, 41 and 48 minutes in consecutive contests, with that final 48-minute performance coming on the second night of a back-to-back set. Two days later (and more than 44 minutes into a game where Bryant did not look right physically for most of it), Bryant suffered a ruptured Achilles that ended that season, and cost him much of the following one, as well.

Fast forward to Friday night, where Bryant clearly didn’t seem to be himself. He finished just 1-of-14 from the field, but this wasn’t one of those performances that was laughable due to Bryant’s desire to launch heavily-contested shots. No, this one was different — as the team’s current head coach, Byron Scott, explained to reporters afterward.

From Baxter Holmes of ESPN Los Angeles:

Lakers coach Byron Scott revealed that the 36-year-old Bryant had played 36 minutes while sick. Bryant has played ill many times before, and he had willed his body to overcome on those nights, to still put up big numbers.  …

“He’s in the training room right now, and he doesn’t look good,” Lakers guard Jeremy Lin said. “I just got out of there, and he doesn’t look good at all.” …

The bigger question: Why did he play so much, especially in a lopsided game that the Spurs led by as much as 26 points in the second half?

Scott said he did think about sitting Bryant.

“But he also wanted to see if he could push through it,” Scott said, “and I wanted to give him that opportunity.”

Scott has to be smarter than that.

In the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers were at least fighting for their playoff lives. And, without Bryant yet possessing a recent history of suffering serious injuries, D’Antoni may have been able to personally justify coaching while keeping his blinders on.

But this season, there is no such justification for pushing Bryant beyond his physical limits. The Lakers are not set up from a personnel standpoint to be able to compete on most nights, and someone has to be the adult in these situations, doing what’s best for the franchise player’s long-term ability to contribute until his contract is finished.

D’Antoni wasn’t able to play that role, and the consequences were devastating. We’ll see if Scott learns from his similar mistake to not rein Bryant in on a night where he most certainly should have.

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.