Associated Press

Three Takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Vintage Kobe returns for one night

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I know you were busy Tuesday teaching eagles to take out drones, so you didn’t get to follow the slate of NBA games for the night. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from around the Association:

1) Kobe Bryant gets sick of losing, turns back the clock and drops an efficient 38 points in Lakers’ win.
For a night, it felt like old times (when the regular season games for the Lakers were entertaining time killers while everyone waited for the playoffs). Kobe was draining threes (seven of them) and attacking. The other Lakers were giving him options and making plays when called upon. Jack Nicholson was sitting courtside. Everything seemed right. The Lakers needed all of it to hold off a charge by Andrew Wiggins and Minnesota, 119-115. Bryant had 14 of the Lakers final 18 points, including the dagger, and finished the game with 38 points — on just 21 shots.

The win snapped the Lakers’ 10-game losing streak — a loss Tuesday would have set another dubious franchise record. It was fun for a night with the Lakers, a chance to forget about all their troubles.

2) Earl Watson loses debut as Suns’ coach, which shouldn’t be a shock. There’s a new coach in Phoenix, but that was never going to change the myriad of roster issues with this team, or suddenly get guys healthy (in fact, the Suns lost T.J. Warren for the season Tuesday). The Suns are going to be a bad basketball team no matter who coaches them; the front office can thank themselves for that. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Earl Watson — who got bumped into the big chair after Jeff Hornacek was fired — lost his first game as coach, 104-97 at home to a good Toronto team. On the bright side,  Markieff Morris played like a man unchained — the forward had easily his best game of the season, scoring 30 points and adding 10 rebounds and six assists (that should help his trade value). But the Suns are not a good team right now, and the best Watson can do is hope to make them less bad as the season wears on. The chef can only cook with the ingredients in front of him, and the Suns are like a Chopped basket (and Watson can’t go to the pantry to round it out).

3) James Harden‘s 26 points, 14 assists get shorthanded Rockets win. No Dwight Howard, suspended for a game for contacting a referee. His backup Clint Capella was out with a thigh bruise. That meant Josh Smith was getting the start at center for Houston, which would have made normal people run out and bet on Miami in this one. But in the battle of erratic teams, James Harden stepped up with the big night — 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, he dished out 14 assists, the ball was moving, and the Rockets pulled away in the second half for a 115-102 win at home. Smith had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting and was efficient for the night. Miami looked like they wore down physically, their shots would not fall after the first quarter, and the Rockets will take the needed victory.

Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly may talk new contract next summer

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Sunday, the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to clear out a roster space for Markieff Morris. Cousins was signed last July to be the team’s starting center, but he tore his ACL in training and has not stepped on the court this season. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and under the terms of the CBA Cousins can continue his rehab in the Lakers’ practice facilities.

Cousins may be officially gone, but he could return next season to the Lakers, reports Joe Varden at The Athletic.

But the Lakers could re-sign him this summer, something both sides have expressed interest in pursuing, sources said.

This would be another one-year minimum contract deal, and it makes sense for both sides. Dwight Howard is a free agent and, after a resurgent (but not elite) season in Los Angeles, likely will get offers for more than the Lakers can pay him. JaVale McGee has a $4.2 million player option. Whatever McGee decides, the Lakers will be looking for another big man (and maybe two). Cousins could step right in.

What he can offer on the court coming off a torn Achilles and ACL remains to be seen, but the Lakers will not ask a lot of their centers. Cousins is a two-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star player who should still be able to give the Lakers some solid minutes in the paint.

The Lakers will keep their options open, but don’t be surprised if the two sides reunite.

Vanessa Bryant suing helicopter company after crash that killed Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant and Gianna Bryant
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Ever since Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash last month, we’ve been seeking answers about what went wrong during the flight piloted by Ara Zobayan. After all, Kobe Bryant had made helicopter rides such a normal part of his life.

Now, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother – is suing the company that operated the helicopter for wrongful death.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times:

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the lawsuit said.

Report: Ben Simmons back injury “isn’t a day-to-day thing”

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the back injury for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons “isn’t a day-to-day thing”.

Simmons missed the Sixers first game following the All-Star break on Thursday. He then left Saturday’s game in Milwaukee after playing just 4:44.

Over the weekend, Philadelphia ruled Simmons out for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and said he would undergo further evaluation. Per Wojnarowski’s report, that evaluation is ongoing and a course of treatment is yet to be decided upon.

Expect Philadelphia to lean on Raul Neto, Alec Burks and Shake Milton as primary ballhandlers while Simmons is out. None possess the size and skill combination of Simmons, but all have had moments throughout their careers. Neto drew the start in place of Simmons on Thursday. Burks was acquired at the trade deadline to give the team much-needed bench depth. Milton has flashed at time in his second season, after beginning his NBA career on a Two-Way contract.

Philadelphia loses Simmons while in a battle with the Miami Heat for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The fifth-place 76ers are 1.5 games behind the Heat for the fourth seed, and two games ahead of the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.

Pacers: Jeremy Lamb suffers torn ACL, torn meniscus, fracture

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Kobe Bryant making two free throws after tearing his Achilles was one of the greatest moments of his legendary career.

On a day Bryant was honored, we learned Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb made a similarly gutsy pair of free throws during Indiana’s loss to the Raptors yesterday.

Pacers release:

During the second quarter of the Pacers game at Toronto on Sunday, Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Lamb sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture.

He will undergo surgery on a date to be determined. He will be out the remainder of the season. Any further updates will be provided after surgery.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb misses all of next season. This is just a devastating set of calamities.

At least Lamb has a guaranteed $10.5 million salary each of the next two seasons.

Indiana (sixth place, 33-24) will have an even tougher time winning a playoff series now. The Pacers could challenge in the first round, but they’ll almost certainly be significant underdogs.

They have depth at shooting guard, for what that’s worth. Victor Oladipo just returned. Justin Holiday is a solid reserve. Finding his lane at point guard, Malcolm Brogdon can move off the ball when T.J. McConnell or Aaron Holiday plays point guard.