How many things would Kobe change with Dwight Howard? “Zero. Absolutely zero.”

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Kobe Bryant has become a quote machine since going down for the season with a torn rotator cuff.

Part of it is he’s done a lot of media (to promote”Kobe Bryant presents ‘Muse” his documentary on Showtime, Feb. 28, 9 p.m. ET). Part of it is he’s reached the “I don’t give a s—” phase of his career. Meaning he’ll say he wanted to get traded to the Bulls back in 2007, not the Pistons. Or that it’s the media’s fault he only has one MVP (the media does vote on the award).

One area he has no regrets? The Dwight Howard debacle.

Kobe was on the Grantland Basketball Hour on ESPN and was just being honest in answering questions. Then he was asked if he could go back in time what he would have changed with Dwight Howard (transcription by Eye on Basketball).

“Zero. Absolutely zero. Nothing,” Bryant said.

“Listen, I learned how to be a leader by watching Magic (Johnson), (Larry) Bird, Michael (Jordan) and those guys. They’re relentless; they’re ruthless. For me to give the keys to this kingdom to the next dude that’s going to lead the Lakers organization for years to come, he has to have that same DNA. I can’t be apologetic.”

Most Lakers fans would agree with him.

Kobe and Howard come at the game very differently, and that led to clashes from the start. Although that dynamic was part of a perfect storm in Los Angeles that year which included Howard returning from back surgery too quickly and Steve Nash being injured as well. As things went south that season, Howard took the public blame in LA.

The question is what player lives up to that billing. My guess is if Kobe could pick he’d go with the Oklahoma City guys — Kevin Durant and/or Russell Westbrook. But Kobe doesn’t get to pick, and the buzz is if Durant does leave OKC he is heading East not West. Westbook is a L.A. guy who played at UCLA, but he’s not a free agent until 2017 and in the NBA that’s a few lifetimes from now.

All we know for now is it will not be Howard.

Kings’ Buddy Hield fined $25,000 for kicking ball into stands in celebration

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This was a $25,000 celebration by Buddy Hield.

Sacramento led by one in the final seconds against Boston Sunday, but the Celtics had a final shot and Marcus Smart‘s attempt at a game-winning floater hung on the rim seemingly forever… then fell off. The ball was tipped out to mid-court and — as you can see in this video — Heild kicks the ball into the stands as part of the celebration.

Kicking or throwing the ball into the stands is a standing $25,000 fine, and the league came down with that on Hield on Monday. It was not a surprise.

Hield was the reason Sacramento won the game, scoring 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three. He’d likely make that trade for the win again.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion Monday night against the Thunder. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back from this, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is playing for games in May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers will be the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.

 

Bulls big man Luke Kornet out following surgery on sinus obstruction

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Just before last Christmas, Luke Kornet broke his nose. Apparently, that never healed quite right.

Kornet underwent surgery to repair a sinus obstruction on Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced. There is no timetable for his return, although coach Jim Boylen suggested it could be less than two weeks.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen added this at practice, via NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning. He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 AM. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a seven-ten-day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

This does not impact the Bulls much on the court as Kornet has fallen out of the rotation in recent games (in part because of the sinus condition, in part because he just hasn’t played well). Kornet signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls over the summer.