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Donovan Mitchell says Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson were mentors

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Donovan Mitchell learned about the business side of the NBA directly and quickly.

He was selected No. 13 in last June’s NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets and went on stage to shake Adam Silver’s hand wearing a dark-blue Denver Nuggets hat with his grey suit. But within a minute or so of stepping off that stage, he was a member of the Utah Jazz, who traded up to get him. He had been a piece in a trade before he even got his tie loosened on that draft night suit.

In Utah, Mitchell has evolved over the course of the season into a ball-handling, scoring force and a serious Rookie of the Year candidate. He, along with Rudy Gobert, are seen now as the young core that Utah is going to build around for a decade or more. Mitchell is becoming an NBA star.

So much so that he will be showcased All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles where he is part of Team USA in Friday night’s Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge — Mitchell has partnered with Mountain Dew Kickstart as a sponsor, he will be working with them at events around Los Angeles all through that weekend with the public — and he will be on a bigger stage yet in the Dunk Contest Saturday night.

Mitchell is stepping into the spotlight.

All that doesn’t make the business side of the NBA any easier.

Tuesday the Jazz shipped out Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Kings. Mitchell said he leaned on Hood this season as a mentor, helping him adjust to the NBA Game.

“Rodney Hood’s been instrumental in kind of mentoring me throughout this entire season,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Thursday afternoon, hours after the trade was announced. “We play the same position, obviously, and he’s been really, really helpful. It’s his career, and he has he has a really big, big role coming up when he gets to Cleveland, and I’m really excited for him.”

Still, it’s hard to adjust to the game you love and played for fun growing up now being a cold, hard business.

“I’m getting used to the business side of the NBA real fast,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, I learned it within my first three minutes in the league being traded from Denver (to Utah), it’s just another part of it.”

Mitchell said he leaned on Hood to help teach him the nuances of the NBA game — coming off picks with the ball, using screens, etc. — but it was the veteran Johnson who helped him understand the business side of the sport better.

“I’ve talked to guys like Joe Johnson. There’s certain times when, I guess, you assume or you kind of know it’s about to happen, so I asked him questions, like ‘what happens in this situation?’ or ‘what happens in that situation?’ and they’re great for answering the questions for me so that way as a young guy coming into the league I know what’s going on or why teams are doing certain things,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s pretty cool I now have the insight because at heart I’m still a fan of basketball and a fan of the NBA so being able to understand why certain trades are happening, understanding what a buyout is — to be honest with you I didn’t really understand a buyout so Joe Johnson explained it to me. It’s pretty cool to have an understanding of these things.”

Tuesday’s trade brings the Jazz Jae Crowder, who had looked lost and dispirited in Cleveland this season, but should be put in better positions to succeed by Quin Snyder. Crowder can defend, hit threes, and blend right in with what Utah likes to do on both ends of the court.

Whoever is in or out, the goal for the Jazz remains the same — make the playoffs. Utah has won six in a row and is back in the postseason mix.

“This doesn’t change much at all,” Mitchell said of the team’s goals. “We’ve been playing well. You know Ricky (Rubio) has been leading the charge, after some time off he’s been great, and we’re just following his lead. Having Rudy (Gobert) back has definitely helped.

“We’re about two-and-a-half or three games out (note: 2.5 games of the eight seed as of today) and we’re making that playoff push. You know, this is around the time when certain teams get tired and kind of get relaxed and we’re using our energy to keep feeding into that and keep going.”

This rookie is learning fast — the NBA is a business and you need to focus past that on the game.

Gone but never forgotten, Kobe Bryant’s wide-ranging impact lives on

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Kobe Bryant’s influence seems to ripple out from the center and touch everywhere.

From NBA locker rooms to the bench of young girls AAU games. From the NBA court at Staples Center to a playground court in the Philippines. From movie studio lots to corporate boardrooms. From the heart of Los Angeles to cites where for years he was loathed as a villain.

Kobe Bryant touched countless lives — which is why his death has left a hole in hearts around the globe.

As the shock of his unexpected death on Sunday — in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others — wore off on Monday and sadness crept in its place, the tributes that popped up showed how his life had impacted so many others.

It is the truest sign of a life well lived.

The pain in Los Angeles shared by cities globally

Nowhere was the loss of Kobe felt more acutely than in Los Angeles — because to Angelinos Kobe came to symbolize their city. Or, at least what Angelino’s want to believe about their city. He won — championships and an Oscar. He was driven and intellectually curious, a confident risk-taker, a man who was obsessed about his job but still made time for family, and someone who would not accept failure.

You could feel the city’s love on Monday night, when an impromptu crowd filled the L.A. Live Plaza across from Staples Center to watch an outdoor, big-screen replay of Kobe’s finale — a 60-point game that was the perfect ending to his career. Laker fans showed up and chanted his name.

It wasn’t just Los Angeles paying tribute to the man.

At ever NBA game on Monday night, it started with a 24-second violation by one team and an 8-second backcourt violation by the other — 24 and 8 being Kobe’s numbers.

There was Madison Square Garden, home to some of Kobe’s biggest nights.

And there were arenas in Utah and Portland — two franchises Kobe particularly tortured on the court — where tributes were paid because of the respect the man had earned.

Kobe’s impact reached out globally as well, including all the way to the Philippines.

Kobe’s influence among NBA players

As he often does, Gregg Popovich summed up how many NBA players Kobe impacted.

“Young kids on your team idolized him and looked up to him. The older ones knew him, and talked to him and had relationships with him. No matter which one of those groups you belong to, it was a tragic shock.”

Among the many with relationships with Kobe, none seemed hit harder by the tragedy than the man who took over the Lakers’ mantle, LeBron James.

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I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

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LeBron and Kobe were peers — they won two Gold Medals together — but for a younger generation of up-and-coming stars, such as Joel Embiid, Kobe was their north star.

It wasn’t just players who felt Kobe’s impact — even NBA referees did.

Kobe’s business impact

Kobe was preparing for life after basketball long before he hung up his Nikes.

As he retired, he and venture Capitalist Jeff Stibel launched Bryant Stibel, a $100 million tech investment fund that built on the work the pair had been doing for three years. Their portfolio included Alibaba, The Players’ Tribune, LegalZoom, Epic Games (the developer of “Fortnite”) and many more. Plus, Kobe invested $6 million in sports drink BodyArmor, and a number that was incredibly profitable when Coca-Cola bought BodyArmor for $200 million.

But where Kobe really wanted to focus was what he called “Storytelling.” That started with turning a piece he had written for the Players Tribune into a short animated film called “Dear Basketball.” That went on to win an Oscar for best animated short.

The one common denominator across all of this was Kobe’s work ethic — it was the aspirational part of Kobe for fans. Few people won the genetic lottery and get to play in the NBA, but everyone has something that they love and want to succeed at and Kobe’s will and relentlessness can apply to that.

It’s the lasting part of Kobe’s influence, the part everyone can take to heart and apply to their lives.

Once they are done mourning the legend.

Watch Eric Gordon’s 50-point night spark Houston win over Jazz on night Harden, Westbrook sit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Eric Gordon scored a career-high 50 points to lead the short-handed Houston Rockets to a 126-117 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night despite playing without James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Danuel House Jr. added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Austin Rivers also had 21 points as Houston handed the Jazz their first home loss since Dec. 9.

Gordon became the first Rockets player besides Harden to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in January 1996, according to STATS. Harden has done it 23 times since then.

Donovan Mitchell scored 36 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 30, but Utah lost for just the third time in 22 games despite shooting 51% from the field.

Gordon had his first game with more than 30 points this season. His previous career best of 41 came against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23, 2009. The veteran guard stepped up and filled the scoring void with Harden, Westbrook and Clint Capela sitting out.

Harden missed his second straight game with a bruised left thigh. Capela (bruised right heel) and Westbrook (rest) sat out after playing Sunday against Denver.

Their absence had minimal impact on Houston’s offense early.

Gordon bookended an 11-0 run with a dunk and a 3-pointer to give the Rockets an 11-4 lead early in the first quarter. Houston stayed in front throughout the period.

The Jazz went ahead with a 13-2 run to open the second. Mitchell scored three baskets to fuel the spurt, and Mike Conley drove for a layup to cap it off.

Gordon provided a spark to help Houston regain the lead. He totaled 15 points in the second quarter and helped the Rockets close the first half on a 17-6 run to take a 59-46 lead into the break. Thabo Sefolosha started and finished the run by driving for a layup.

Utah trimmed the deficit to 72-66 midway through the third on consecutive 3-pointers from Bogdanovic, but got no closer. Rivers and House answered with back-to-back baskets to stop the rally. That sparked a 15-6 spurt that gave Houston an 87-72 lead near the end of the quarter.

Watch Buddy Hield score career-high 42, rally Kings from 27 down past Timberwolves

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MINNEAPOLIS — Buddy Hield scored a career-high 42 points to help the Sacramento Kings rally from a 27-point deficit for a 133-129 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

De'Aaron Fox scored 22 for the Kings, putting back the rebound of his intentionally missed free throw as part of a 33-11 run over the final 5:42 of regulation.

Andrew Wiggins had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who lost their 10th consecutive game.

With the Kings down three with 4.7 seconds left in regulation, Fox made his first free throw. He intentionally fired the second off the front of the rim, grabbed his own rebound and laid it in to tie the game with 3.6 seconds left.

Hield scored 18 points in the final 4:36 of regulation on a night that featured tributes to his childhood hero, Kobe Bryant. Fox scored 17 points in the second half and overtime. Nemanja Bjelica finished with 20 points.

The Timberwolves built their lead thanks to a franchise-record 23 3-pointers. Wiggins was 7 for 11 beyond the arc.

Robert Covington had 24 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 23 for Minnesota. It was the first time three Timberwolves have scored 20 or more points in a game since Dec. 13.

To open the game, both teams honored Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash. Minnesota took an 8-second backcourt violation and Sacramento took a 24-second shot-clock violation on the ensuing possession. While taking the 8-second violation, Wiggins placed the ball on the free throw line where Bryant scored to pass Michael Jordan for third place on the career scoring list on Dec. 14, 2014, at Target Center.

Minnesota hit 10 of its first 15 3-point attempts and shot 14 for 23 from 3 in the first half. That set a franchise record for 3s in a half and helped the Timberwolves to a 68-50 halftime lead.

The Timberwolves honored Bryant prior to tipoff with words from Towns, a video tribute and a moment of silence. Towns wore No. 24 and Covington wore No. 8 while being introduced as part of the starting lineup to honor Bryant. They donned their regular Nos. 32 and 33 before the opening tip.

LeBron James on Kobe Bryant: ‘I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!!’

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Often on social issues (or just because it’s Taco Tuesday), LeBron James can be quick to post on social media.

With the death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others — in a tragic helicopter accident, it took LeBron some time. LeBron and Kobe were close, they won Gold Medals together and competed against each other at the highest levels of the game. There became close, even more so in the past couple of years when LeBron came West and joined the Lakers. LeBron got to know Kobe’s family — when Gianna was at a recent Lakers game, LeBron was asking her about her fadeaway (which looked a lot like her dad’s).

Understandably, it took a grieving LeBron some time to comment on what happened, but Monday night he issued his first public statement on the passing of Kobe through an Instagram post.

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I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

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There’s nothing else to say.