Lakers GM: If free agents don’t choose L.A. because of Kobe Bryant, ‘we don’t want them. You should go someplace else.’

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The notion that free agents haven’t been willing to come to the Lakers in recent seasons because they don’t want to play with Kobe Bryant was brought up near the beginning of the season, but has been refuted by plenty of star players since.

The reality is that the only star-caliber players who have changed teams lately had very specific reasons for doing so. LeBron James was never going anywhere but back home to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony stayed in New York to get the maximum amount of money allowed, and L.A.’s poor treatment and marginalization of Pau Gasol the past two years had him ready and willing to play somewhere (or perhaps anywhere) else.

Bryant has one year remaining on his contract, and though he’s expected to be healthy at the beginning of next season, no one can predict how long that will last. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said that Bryant hasn’t indicated that he will play beyond next season, but also mentioned that if Bryant’s presence is seen as a deterrent by free agents considering Los Angeles, then he doesn’t want them, and they should go play somewhere else.

From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:

Kupchak was also asked if it’s important for free agents to have clarity on Bryant’s future plans with the Lakers, particularly if they’re wary of joining the team while Bryant is still playing, a notion that has been reported in recent years.

“I think it is clear,” Kupchak said. “He’s on the last year of his deal. There have been no discussions [about playing beyond next season]. He hasn’t indicated that he wants to continue to play.

“But if there is a player out there like that, that won’t come here for that reason, then we don’t want them. Every great player is demanding and focused, and if you don’t want to play for a guy like him that’s driven to do nothing but win championships and work hard, then you shouldn’t be here. You should go someplace else.”

This has been the stance the Lakers have taken all along, and they are right to do so.

Dwight Howard famously clashed with Bryant, and took less money to play for the Rockets. He may not have wanted to play with Bryant any longer, but I believe he left more because he couldn’t take the pressure of being the face of the franchise in a major market like Los Angeles once Bryant was gone.

That’s one example of the type of player the Lakers can’t afford to sign to a long-term, max-money deal as they look to reshape the franchise into a contender in the future. There certainly are others. But the Lakers organization needs a strong-willed star to carry it into its next era of greatness, and someone who would bristle at Kobe’s level of commitment or competitiveness simply isn’t a match.

Marcus Smart announces he recovered, cleared of coronavirus

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Marcus Smart stepped forward and self-identified as having tested positive for the coronavirus. He wasn’t showing any symptoms and went into self-quarantine, and last we heard was doing well.

Sunday, Smart said that two days ago he was cleared and has fully recovered from the virus.

Most importantly, this is excellent news for Smart and his friends and family (and, by extension, the Celtics). His health is the most important thing in this story.

The NBA has asked recovered players to donate plasma because scientists are hoping to use the blood — which has developed immunities — to help create a vaccine or medicine to slow COVID-19. It’s optional, but the league is encouraging players to help.

There have been 10 players and five NBA off-court staff — including Knicks owner James Dolan — who have tested positive for the disease. Fortunately, none of them have shown any advanced symptoms that required hospitalization.

Colorado junior forward Tyler Bey declares for NBA Draft

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University of Colorado forward Tyler Bey has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The junior averaged 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Buffaloes. Bey shot 53% from the field overall and 74.3% at the free throw line.

Bey also extended his range a bit in his third year at Colorado. He knocked down 13-of-31 three-pointers (41.9%) on the season. At just six-foot-seven, he’ll need to be able to score from behind the arc to find a place in the NBA.

Most draft analysts have Bey pegged as an early second-round pick. Some thought he could play his way into the back-end of the first-round with strong pre-draft workouts. With the pre-draft process up in the air, NBA front offices may have to make their decisions based on what they’ve already seen in person and on tape.

Stephon Marbury has arrangement to procure 10 million medical masks for New York

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Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.