AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Three Things to Know: Vanessa Bryant, Lakers share their pain with loss of Kobe

Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Vanessa Bryant, Lakers share their pain with the loss of Kobe. Understandably, it has taken time for the family of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers organization to make any statements on the death of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash last Sunday.

Wednesday that started to happen.

First, Laker coach Frank Vogel spoke to the media.

“It’s just strengthened what we’ve felt all year about our current group, which is we’ve become a family in a very short time. And it’s something you talk about in the NBA with your teams, but this group in particular has really grown to love each other very rapidly. And we understand the importance and the opportunity that we have this year, and this has just brought us closer together.”

Later, Vanessa Bryant — Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother — made her first public comments since the tragedy, posting on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant 🦋 (@vanessabryant) on

Near the end of the day, the Lakers’ organization released a statement.

The Lakers will take the court for the first time Friday night at Staples Center against Portland.

The emotion of the loss of Kobe is still washing over the league. That was best evidenced by Kyrie Irving’s emotional postgame comments after the Nets beat the Pistons.

A couple of things to note. First, the NBA will not be changing the league’s logo to Kobe. Second, the investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

2) Damian Lillard gets his first career triple-double and does it in front of his nemesis, Russell Westbrook. I had two thoughts as I watched Lillard get that first triple-double.

First, he didn’t have one already? Technically I knew he didn’t, but it just felt like he must have done this already (same with Kawhi Leonard getting his first recently).

Second, of course he did it in front of Russell Westbrook. At this point, the smack-talking Westbrook may not want to ever speak around Lillard again, it just brings out the best in Dame.

Lillard had 36 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds against the Rockets his first career triple-double, which sparked the Blazers to a 125-112 win.

James Harden returned after missing two games with a thigh bruise but his slump continued, scoring 18 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Russell Westbrook scored 39 points, extending his streak of games with 20+ points to 21 games.

3) Knicks fans are frustrated — and they should be. Knicks scuffle at the end of the game, Marcus Morris then sticks foot in mouth. I get what Knicks fans are feeling. I am a supporter of Newcastle United in the Premiere League and I would put that team owner, Mike Ashley, up against any crappy owner in any sport (short of the insanely high bar Donald Sterling set back in the day). My Newcastle fandom allows me some insight and empathy. I know what it’s like to helplessly watch a lack of organizational direction, seeing what should be lesser organizations thrive while you tread water (at best), I get the losing wears fans down.

Meaning, I understand the fans chanting “sell the team” at Knicks owner James Dolan as he left New York’s loss to Memphis on Wednesday night.

It was a rough night for the Knicks and their fans. First, New York was blown out at home by the Memphis Grizzlies 127-106. (Credit to the Grizzlies, who 11-3 in January and improve to .500, sitting as the eighth seed in the West.) This loss carried weight because both of these teams are supposed to be rebuilding, but only one seems to be on a path back to relevance soon.

Then it got ugly. With less than a minute to go and the game decided, Memphis’ Jae Crowder stole a lazy pass from Julius Randle, then decided to keep playing hard and jacked up a corner three rather than dribble out the clock. Crowder kept on playing hard. New York’s Elfrid Payton took exception to that, ran over and shoved Crowder to the floor. Crowder bounced back up and went at Payton, and then others jumped in and what passes for a “fight” in the NBA was on.

Payton and Crowder were ejected, as was New York’s Marcus Morris for being the third man in. Payton can expect a suspension from the league for his sore-loser act — and him not remorseful after the game will not bring leniency from the league office.

Then after the game, Morris stuck his foot in his mouth when asked about Crowder.

Come on, this is not Mad Men era basketball. You can’t say that. Frankly, if the Knicks played with the fight of most players in the WNBA they’d have more than 13 wins this season. Morris backed away from those comments and quickly apologized.

Expect the league office to hand down suspensions and fines in the next 48 hours.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Victor Oladipo returned to the Pacers, hit shot to force overtime. Oladipo was back. The former All-NBA player had missed most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture, but he was back on the floor for the Pacers on Wednesday, and he was making plays. That includes hitting the three that forced overtime.

Indiana is in that tight bunch between 2-6 in the East (where 2.5 games separate five teams) and if Oladipo can get his legs under him and his form — if he can blend in with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis — Indiana might be able to break out of that pack and do some damage in the playoffs.

Bam Adebayo on injury: “I’m good,” expects to play in Game 5 Friday

Bam Adebayo injury
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the final minutes of Miami’s Game 4 win, while Tyler Hero was knocking down shots and Jimmy Butler was getting to the line, Miami‘s Bam Adebayo was dealing with an injury, walking around holding his wrist, his arm dragging. He had gotten tangled up with Daniel Theis under the basket and clearly injured something.

The questions raised post game were about what happened, how serious it was, and could Adebayo be out for Game 5 on Friday? There was nothing official from the team but it looks like he will play, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press and Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4, and his play is critical to Miami’s game plan against Boston. His ability to protect the rim at one end, then come out high to set screens and pull Theis out of the paint on the other end, is at the heart of what the Heat want to do in this series. If he is even slowed in Game 5 it is an advantage for Boston.

This time of year, and with the Heat one game away from the NBA Finals, no chance he sits if he can at all play.

LeBron James: Neighbor’s walls, not Breonna Taylor, got justice

Lakers star LeBron James
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louisville police officers were not charged with killing Breonna Taylor. However, former officer Brett Hankison was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment for allegedly firing firing recklessly into nearby apartments during the incident.

That outcome left NBA players unsatisfied.

LeBron James:

The emotions LeBron – and many others – are feeling are completely understandable. This was a tragedy. Faced with an obvious injustice, it’s easy to demand the harshest-imaginable punishment. That didn’t come.

But it is not too late to address the injustices – which were always far larger than the officers at the scene returning fire – at play in Taylor’s death.

Tyler Herro carries Heat over Celtics in Game 4, within one game of NBA Finals

Leave a comment

If the Boston Celtics targeted Tyler Herro in the 2019 NBA Draft, they have more reason than ever to lament their near miss.

Herro scored 37 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 112-109 win over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. The 21-year-old rookie put Miami up 3-1 and himself in the record book.

The only other player so young to score so much in a playoff game? Magic Johnson, who had 42 points in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals at age 20.

The Heat will look to reach the NBA Finals in Game 5 Friday. Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-1 have won 95% of the time.

Miami’s big concern: Bam Adebayo, who hurt his wrist late in the game. Adebayo (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) played through the injury but appeared to be feeling it.

He and the Heat just kept grinding through everything, though.

Miami won despite shooting only 10-for-37 on 3-pointers (27%). Forget about make-or-miss league. The Heat willed themselves to victory with aggravating defense, hustle, rebounding… and, yes, big-time shot-making by Herro, who made 9-of-11 2-pointers and 5-of-10 3-pointers

The Celtics committed 19 turnovers – some forced by Miami, some self-inflicted. The Heat’s zone defense continues to make Boston uncomfortable, though Marcus Smart (10 points and 11 assists) found some success penetrating and kicking against it. Jaylen Brown (21 points and nine rebounds) knocked down some of those created looks.

After a scoreless first half, Jayson Tatum scored 28 points in the second half. Stephen Curry scored 33 second-half points after a scoreless first half in Game 6 against the Rockets last year. That’s the only time someone followed a scoreless first half with so many second-half points in the Basketball-Reference postseason database, which dates back to 1997.

But those successes weren’t sustained. Tatum (six), Smart (four) and Brown (four) all had too many turnovers.

This series is even by points scored. But Boston has been just a little too erratic, which is why Miami has the key 3-1 lead.

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
Madison Quisenberry/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Philadelphia 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.