Jazz hand Kobe worst loss ever, 123-75 in last visit to Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Rodney Hood will never forget the night Kobe Bryant requested to guard the second-year player because he was virtually unstoppable. That’s a huge compliment from the future Hall of Famer.

Hood scored 30 points and the Jazz turned Bryant’s last visit to Utah into the worst loss of his career with a 123-75 victory on Monday night that matched the Lakers’ largest defeat in franchise history.

“We were just talking a little bit of trash,” Hood said. “He was just congratulating me on the season. I just told him he was the greatest of all-time. A guy I’ve been looking up to since I was a little child. … It was just a great night tonight.

“Those are memories I’ll forever take. Going back to Hawaii (during preseason). Tonight. Every single time I get a chance to play against him, that’s something I’ll remember after I’m done playing ball.”

The Jazz had their biggest offensive night of the season and remained in the No. 7 slot in the Western Conference playoff race, one game ahead of the Houston Rockets.

The 48-point defeat matched the margin in the Lakers’ 142-94 loss to the Clippers on March 7, 2014, when Bryant was out with an injury.

Hood and the Jazz put the game away early in the first quarter with a 17-2 start. The second-year guard was 5 for 5 from the field for 14 first-quarter points. He had 30 at halftime, including a franchise record-tying eight 3-pointers, and fell two points shy of his career high for a game while Bryant face-guarded him in the second half and attempted to not let him touch the ball.

“I just tried to choke plays off,” Bryant said. “If he catches it, then I’m killed, especially tonight because I’ve played way too many games in a row. I can’t move. If he catches it, he can go right by me. So I tried not to let him catch it.”

Shelvin Mack and Trevor Booker added 17 apiece as the Jazz shot 51.7 percent from the field.

Lou Williams was the lone Laker with any offensive success and finished with 16 points. The Los Angeles starters combined to shoot 12 for 51 from the field, but at least Bryant had some success on defense.

“Kobe wanted to take on the challenge,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “It’s a damn shame our oldest player has to take the challenge. It says a lot about him, obviously. It’s what he has done all his life, but nobody else wanted to step up and take that challenge.

“That’s a shame that the oldest guy on our team that is leaving this league in eight games was the one that kind of had to shut him down.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Nick Young did not travel with the team due to a stomach issue. … Have lost four straight and 8 of 9.

Jazz: Alec Burks missed his 46th consecutive game due to a broken fibula. Snyder said he’s better than last week, but not ready yet. … Rudy Gobert had a season-high 19 rebounds.

BYE-BYE BRYANT

Bryant was honored with a pregame tribute on the video board. He played 28 minutes and finished with five points, two assists and one steal. The Jazz will play the Lakers in the season finale in Los Angeles on April 13. Snyder said he wishes another team was playing that game. “There is certainly an unbelievable amount of respect,” Snyder said. “That’s a tough game with a lot of emotion and everything surrounding that game, so it is what it is.”

AK-47

The Jazz honored former player Andrei Kirilenko before the game. Kirilenko played 10 seasons with the Jazz and was an All-Star in 2004. The versatile forward said the toughest players he had to guard were Vince Carter, Bryant and Kevin Durant. “I’ve been happy to play against Michael Jordan when he was finishing and then for the next 10 years it was Kobe,” Kirilenko said. “He was the player of those 10 years, which was my best years. … Right now his era is kind of going down and LeBron took over probably like 5-6 years ago. Right now Stephen Curry is blossoming. It’s always a great transition in the NBA. One star going down and another one shining.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Host Miami on Wednesday.

Jazz: Host Golden State on Wednesday.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.

Billy Donovan to choose Bulls’ starting PG during training camp

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Chicago Bulls v Minnesota Timberwolves
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Speaking at Chicago’s media day, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he will choose his starting point guard over the course of training camp. Lonzo Ball was expected to reprise his role as the starter, but he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome knee and raised some eyebrows at media day when he said he couldn’t run or jump. Simply put, there is no guarantee we even see him at all this season.

Donovan is fortunate that he has a plethora of options though, as Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White will all battle it out. “We’ll have to see how these guys gel and mesh once training camp starts and we start practicing,” Donovan said. “But I think we have enough back there that we can get the job done from that standpoint.”

Dragic is the most “seasoned option” to use Donovan’s own words and would be the safe pick, but at 36 years old, he doesn’t exactly raise Chicago’s ceiling. Plus, Donovan already hinted at managing his minutes throughout the season.

Alex Caruso is Chicago’s best defender and is going to play a massive role whether he starts or comes off the bench, although the latter seems more likely since he’s not a natural point guard.

Coby White showed improvement as a shooter last season, hitting 38% of his triples. However, it’s no secret that his name has been in the rumor mill and the Bulls hardly mentioned him at media day.

With that said, I think Ayo is the dark horse to start after showing some serious promise during his rookie season. In 40 starts, Ayo put up 10.9 points, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 triples and 1.1 steals and was one of the best perimeter defenders on the team. Zach LaVine went out of his way to hype up Dosunmu at media day as well, so you have to love his chances of running away with the job.

Anthony Davis says his goal is to play in all 82 games

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Anthony Davis played 40 games last season, and 36 the season before that. Charles Barkley has nicknamed him “street clothes.”

In a critical season for him and the Lakers, the biggest question with Anthony Davis is not his skill set and if he can be elite, but how much can the Lakers trust him to be on the court? Davis said on media day his goal is to play all 82 games (speaking to Spectrum Sportsnet, the Lakers station in Los Angeles).

A full 82 may be optimistic, but Davis saw last season as a fluke.

“Last season, I had two injuries that you can’t really control. I mean, a guy fell into my knee, landed on the foot,” Davis said earlier at media day. “And the good thing for me is that the doctors after they looked at us, they could have been, like 10 times worse.”

Davis talked about his workout regimen, getting his body both rested and stronger for this long season, knowing more will be asked of him. New coach Darvin Ham wants to run more of the offense through Davis, but all the Lakers’ plans are moot if Davis and LeBron James are not healthy and on the court for at least 65 games this season.

“The focus of my game is being available…” LeBron said Monday. “Availability is the most important thing in his league and to be able to be available on the floor.”

Ham has to walk a line of pushing this team to defend better, show a toughness it lacked last season, and make the playoffs in a deep West while keeping his stars’ minutes under control. In a league all about recovery, the Lakers need to prioritize that, too.

“Just being efficient with how we practice, how we manage shootarounds, how we manage their minutes,” Ham said Monday. “I don’t need ‘Bron or Ad playing playoff minutes in October, November, December.”

It’s the first days of training camp, everyone is feeling good, everyone is rested, and everyone is optimistic. The real tests for the Lakers and Davis start in a few weeks — and just how much will the Lakers’ stars play.

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff

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The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.