Bucks’ Jared Dudley: “Most guys don’t want to play with Kobe”

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When Jared Dudley is done as a player, he’s going to have a great career as a broadcaster. That playing career is not over — you think Doc Rivers could have used him in the playoffs, rather than forcing him out the door? — but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy media members will go to faster for a quote and some insight.

Plus he’s honest. He tells you what he thinks, no matter what.

Dudley was making the rounds at ESPN’s campus Wednesday, and that included a stop by Collin Cowherd’s radio show, where he was incredibly honest about Kobe Bryant and the Lakers (via the Sportsgrid).

“Most guys don’t want to play with Kobe. He gets in this thing where he doesn’t pass and then overpasses and then tries to get triple doubles every night…that’s why I think it will be a while for the Lakers to get good because they’ve got no stars. I would be surprised if (Kevin) Love goes there.”

When Henry Abbott wrote this at ESPN before the start of last season, he was vilified. Kobe’s vocal and vociferous defenders came out of the woodwork to shout him down online. Other players came out publicly saying “of course I’d play with Kobe,” although what else did you expect them to say.

But what Dudley says has some truth to it. Kobe is one of the game’s greats and an icon, but these are not the only voices saying playing with him is an issue for many around the league. Few are willing to say it publicly.

Free agents will still come to the Lakers, but their pool may be smaller than some other teams.

The first rule of free agency is to go where they pay you the most money, and if that’s the Lakers guys will go there.

However, players with options can take other factors into consideration. Do they like the city? Endorsement opportunities. Weather. Taxes. Family.

And how things will be on the court. Not everyone likes playing with Kobe, and that’s not simply a matter of “they can’t handle the truth” or whatever version of that his defenders want to bring.

One reason is the ball sharing and flow of the offense that Dudley mentions. Go to the Lakers and the question is how you fit in Kobe’s offense, how you play in his shadow. That’s not for everyone.

The other is Kobe’s old-school, “Whiplash” school of being hard on teammates isn’t the only way to win. Look at Golden State under Steve Kerr, where the players talk all the time about how much they enjoy playing for Kerr, how he is fun and positive with the team. Heck, even Phil Jackson was far more honey than vinegar. Guys with options may well look at Kobe and say “why do I want to put up with that?”

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will say “if they can’t play with Kobe we don’t want them” but the reality is his team needs talent, and if one of the players on his team is keeping some of that talent away, it’s going to slow the rebuilding process.

Manny Pacquiao says he has thought about buying part of NBA team when he retires

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At age 40, Manny Pacquiao is not retiring. Even if you and some boxing pundits think he should. Tonight (Saturday) he fights Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is expected to pull down about a cool $26 million for his trouble. If you’re getting paid like that, why retire exactly? He has said he wants to fight another five years or so.

After that, he’d like to buy part of an NBA team.

That’s what he told TMZ in a pre-fight interview.

He said he has thought about buying a piece of an NBA team after he retires. Pacquiao, a basketball nut who uses the sport as part of his training, owns an entire semi-pro league — the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — in the Philippines (one of the most basketball-crazy nations on earth). Pacquiao said he thinks his experience with that league would help him as an NBA owner, that some of the skills will translate, which is likely true. Pacquiao said it’s about finding the right opportunity.

Forbes estimates that Pacquiao will have earned, after Saturday’s fight, more than $500 million in his career. Various websites estimate his net worth in the $200 million range. He’s got the money to jump in as a part owner.

In an NBA that loves personalities and characters — and one always trying to gain more traction in Asian markets — don’t be shocked if this happens someday.

Once Pacquiao retires.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.