One more time Kobe Bryant unites Los Angeles, thrills fans as jerseys retired

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles is spread out. It’s diverse. It’s urban and suburban. Like all big cities, it can be hard to get a consensus on what direction the ocean is, let alone complex issues.

Except love of Kobe Bryant.

Monday night Kobe wasn’t even suiting up, yet there was a packed “Kobeland” area outside Staples Center filled with games, a DJ, a Ferris Wheel — and thousands of people. It was the most people outside the arena since the 2010 NBA Finals. Inside Staples it was the loudest it has been since Kobe’s final game, where he dropped 60. Almost everyone was wearing an 8 or 24 jersey.

Kobe is still the man in Los Angeles.

Monday night the Lakers retired both of Kobe’s numbers, 8 and 24, and the fans reveled in the nostalgia. Lakers fans have always loved him, appreciated him, and had his back. It was that way again Monday.

“We’re here to celebrate the greatest ever to wear the purple and gold…” said Lakers president Magic Johnson, the other person who could lay claim to that title. He talked about how the nation could use someone like Kobe, someone to bring them together. “There will never be another Kobe Bryant.”

Kobe brought Los Angeles together, but he was divisive most of his career outside the City of Angels. He was a brash young Laker wearing No. 8 who paired with Shaquille O’Neal to win three titles, his attitude and extreme confidence turned off some. Then came Colorado and the rape allegations. After that Kobe changed to No. 24, became the “love me or hate me you have to respect me” player who wore his competitiveness on his sleeve, and won two more titles paired with Pau Gasol. Jeanie Buss said the Lakers retired both numbers because in each era of his career he put up Hall of Fame numbers.

Which was better, 8 or 24?

“Eight will have something 24 will never, ever, ever, ever have — the ability to grown hair,” Bryant joked. “It’s really tough for me (to choose between 8 and 24), but 24 was tougher. And I tend to gravitate toward things that are harder to do.”

The spotlight was on Kobe one last time and he was philosophical about the honor of seeing his jersey next to Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, and all the other Lakers’ greats.

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

Those were Kobe Bryant’s words to his three daughters during his jersey retirement. Really, those words were the theme of the night.

For example, the halftime ceremony (watched by players from both teams), started with Kobe’s “Dear Basketball” short animated movie. It seems fitting that after being a Laker Kobe would take on Los Angeles’ other major export — movies. And he’s doing that well, “Dear Basketball” has some Oscar buzz.

When Kobe spoke, he talked about focusing on legacy and the process.

“It’s not about the jerseys hanging up there for me, it’s the jerseys that were hanging up there before… they pushed me,” Kobe said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Staples Center was filled with those inspirational basketball legends for the night — Jerry West, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson — and Kobe’s former teammates such as Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, and even Slava Medvedenko amongst others were all there.

Kobe was always about the task at hand, and he kept looking to the future and not his past.

“What we’ve done is awesome, but I think what’s really important is how our legacy impacts the generation to come,” Kobe had said earlier. “The jerseys that hang in the rafters now, and how they impacted me, which led to us being here in this moment now. I think that’s the true mark of a legacy, how it impacts the next generation.”

Kobe is a sounding board for the current generation of players — recently Stephen Curry reached out to him about how Kobe played through injuries. Others (including Luke Walton) text him all the time.

Kobe’s former teammates were telling stories. Walton’s may have been the definitive Kobe story.

“Kobe was one of the most intelligent basketball player’s I’ve ever seen, and I could talk to him about what I had seen and what he was seeing,” Walton said. “I joke, he sees everything, but when the game starts a lot of times he doesn’t want to hear it. I’d say ‘Kobe we talked about this yesterday, if they do this then I’m going to throw the ball over here,’ and it’s like, ‘NO. Give me the ball.’ ‘Sure.’”

It was Kobe’s team and Kobe’s city. For one more night, it still was.

Thunder rookie Holmgren trying to focus on learning NBA during rehab


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is experiencing the rehab process for the first time.

The No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA draft suffered a right foot injury during a pro-am game in August while defending as LeBron James drove to the basket on a fast break. He had surgery, and the Thunder declared him out for the season.

“I’ve never had a serious injury in my life, so I didn’t really know, I had nothing to base it off of and compare to,” Holmgren said Thursday. “So when it happened, I had to get it looked at and see how serious it was. I didn’t imagine anything like this.”

Holmgren, a versatile 7-footer who had great moments during summer league, is dealing with being sidelined as the Thunder start training camp this week.

“Definitely something that I really had to put my mind to and spend some time to think on,” he said. “And kind of come to some conclusions on things and really settle my mind so I could kind of stop focusing on what happened and focus in on what’s going to happen, what I’ve got to do to get where I need to be.”

Even without practicing, he has already left an impression on his teammates.

“He’s a great guy,” guard Lu Dort said. “I can already feel a connection with me and the rest of the team. He’s a pretty vocal guy, too. He talks a lot, and that’s good for the team.”

Holmgren said his only workout limitation is that he can’t put weight on the injured foot. So, that forces him to focus on other aspects of the game. Coach Mark Daigneault said Holmgren has been working hard on film study.

“It just comes down to putting my mental energy towards it, learning how to really be a professional in areas off the court,” Holmgren said. “I’ve dedicated so much time to really hustling at my craft on the court. Now, this event is making me step back and kind of rework how how I do things. And one of those ways is to become professional with watching film and speaking with coaches, trying to learn, watching what’s happening and really being engaged, in trying to get better with different avenues.”

Holmgren has spoken with Joel Embiid about his injury. Embiid, the reigning NBA scoring champion, was the No. 3 pick in 2014 before missing his first two seasons with foot issues.

Holmgren hopes he can recover as well as Embiid.

“What I’m trying to do right now is just kind of soak up all the knowledge of how things are done around here, how they’re going to be done going forward,” Holmgren said. “So when I’m ready to get get back in there, I can just kind of seamlessly plug myself in.”

Holmgren is expected to be ready for the start of next season. He said he’s trying to keep his thoughts positive.

“It all comes down to keeping a level head because there’s so many ups and downs,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a down. But I’ve got to keep my head level and focus on getting better. And no matter what the circumstances are, that’s the goal.”

Daigneault believes Holmgren’s mindset will net positive results.

“We’d like him to be out here,” Daigneault said. “But since he’s not, we’re certainly going to make a lot of investments, and the thing that makes me the most optimistic about that is the approach that he takes.”

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal” since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it


Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.