Lakers’ Kobe Bryant tribute: ‘This is a celebration’

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LOS ANGELES — “I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up and sitting down, everything, the countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be.

“Tonight, we celebrate the kid who came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38, and became probably the best dad we have seen over the past three years.”

LeBron James stood at center court, flanked by floral arrangments in the shape of 8 and 24, threw out his pre-written notes and spoke from the heart about Kobe Bryant. He said those words in an effort to make Friday night’s game against Portland — the first time the Lakers have stepped on a basketball court since the untimely death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and nine others last Sunday in a helicopter crash — into something other than a memorial. 

Outside of Staples Center it has been a memorial for days, with fans showing up in mass — especially on Friday night — to leave mementos and sign the large commemorative boards set up. Los Angeles had embraced Kobe for two decades, and his death had the feel of losing family rather than a celebrity to most.

Inside the building on Friday, it was somber before the game, and it felt more like a memorial than a night of entertainment. On the court were the numbers 8 and 24, as well as a “KB” logo that also will be on Laker jerseys the rest of the season. Season ticket holders hugged each other in the corridor and around their seats. Players went through the motions of their warm-ups but without the bounce often seen pregame. Often jaded and cynical media members asked each other how they were doing, and building staff was hugging the people they knew.

There were “Ko-be” chants pregame from the fans, but also “Gi-gi” chants.

While it had been five days, the primary emotion still seemed to be shock.

“Yea, to be honest. You wake up every day saying, ‘I can’t believe this has happened.’… There’s still an element of shock for sure,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

The video tribute was emotional for everyone — LeBron and Quinn Cook were in tears during it.

Then LeBron took the mic.

The players and fans wanted the game to start, to have basketball — the game Kobe loved and dedicated so much of his life to — to help them grieve and move on, even a little.

 

“Everything we’ve done this week is to seek therapeutic benefits, and basketball is our refuge,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said. When you have a week like this, an event like this, nothing is going to feel better for our guys than to get out there and compete and take their minds off it and do what they love to do the most.”

It’s what everyone needed.

Report: NBA season could last through Oct. 12

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan and 76ers forward Tobias Harris
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The NBA is reportedly targeting July 31 for resuming games.

Now, we also have a planned end date for the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The big question: What happens between July 31 and Oct. 12?

Most likely, 22 teams will return for more regular-season games, a play-in tournament then playoffs. It appears a last-ditch argument for all 30 teams continuing has stalled.

But that still leaves many questions within a 22-team structure. How many regular-season games will each team play? How many seeds will be up for grabs in the play-in tournament? How many teams will qualify for the play-in tournament. Will the the playoffs have 1-16 seeding?

And then there’s next season and beyond. The NBA will obviously delay the start of the next season. But will the league work back toward an October start for future seasons? Or will this be the beginning of regularly starting the season in December?

Still, as many questions remain unanswered, the timeline is coming into sharper focus.

Tilman Fertitta: ‘Such a disappointment’ Rockets faced trouble for Daryl Morey’s tweet

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta
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When Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms), Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced the organization. Though he never publicly condemned Morey, Fertitta emphasized that Morey was speaking as a private citizen and not for the organization.

But the winds have turned. The Knicks are facing criticism for not saying enough about the death of George Floyd. The Rockets – as apolitical as Fertitta says they should be – even released a statement on the death of Floyd:

How does Fertitta reconcile the different approaches?

Power Lunch:

Fertitta:

Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters, OK? In America, we have free speech, and we can do whatever want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalize because of it. And that’s why we all love this country so much.

One hundred percent, I believe that you should not be a political organization, because we have 60 thousand employees and a hundred million customers, and we don’t always agree. It’s usually 50 percent one way and 50 percent this way.

But when it comes to an issue like this in America, you sure should speak out and say exactly what you want. And I encourage all my employees – from my basketball team to my restaurants to my hotels to my casinos – to speak out on this issue, and let’s make this world better and this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.

I go back to what happened to Eric Garner in New York, which is a second home to me, and of course George Floyd, who is from Houston, Texas. And it’s inexcusable for two men to die like that, who did not appear to be putting up a fight. And I totally agree, and I understand the protests and the injustice out there.

And it’s really a shame that, because of a few bad people, that the distraction of protesting for the inequality, that we have to watch everything else. And we know this. There’s bad journalists. There’s bad CEOs. There’s a few bad cops. And there’s a few bad protesters. And it’s so disappointing, because I love that the protesting. That’s what makes America great.

And remember, we got in trouble, my team, earlier in the year because we commented about something, which was such a disapointment, because that’s what makes America great.

This is the most strongly – by far – Ferttita has supported Morey about the Hong Kong tweet. My question: Why now? When he tweeted, Morey was an American citizen who enjoyed the freedom of speech Fertitta espouses. Fertitta could have backed Morey like this at the time, even while maintaining a message that Morey didn’t speak for the organization.

Morey’s tweet cost the NBA, including the Rockets, a lot of money in China. Everyone quickly entered damage control. Fertitta appeared more focused on the financial ramifications than anything else.

Right now, it’s popular to stand for racial justice. Customers appreciate it. So, supposedly apolitical organizations like the Rockets are issuing statements on George Floyd.

That’s why I’m not looking to professional basketball teams for leadership on these issues. It’s easy when doing the right thing aligns with maximizing profits. When those things don’t align, it’s far messier.

Even in this interview, Fertitta struggled to keep his message consistent. He said both “Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters” then later “let’s make this world better.” But after that slip into acknowledging global considerations, Fertitta jumped right back to “this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.”

Some Americans focus on injustice in America. Some Americans are concerned with with injustice elsewhere. There’s not a major difference between those outlooks  – unless it screws up the money.

Brian Shaw reportedly to coach new G-League ‘Select Team’ of young stars

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The NBA’s new G-League “Select Team” has already drawn some elite talent from the 2021 NBA Draft class such as Jalen Green (currently projected as a top-three pick), Daishen Nix (lottery pick), and Isaiah Todd (late first round/second round) into its specialized training program.

Who will be running that program and coaching the team? Former Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Shaw had a 14-year NBA playing career, winning three rings with the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. He went on to join Phil Jackson’s coaching staff with the Lakers before getting the head job in Denver, which lasted less than two seasons. He reportedly beat out David Fizdale and Sam Mitchell for the job (although they could have roles with the team).

The Select Team roster will have some top prospects — ones who decided to get paid (Green will make a reported $500,000) and skip college — plus a handful of veteran players as mentors. The goal is to get the young players NBA-level training and games (they will play exhibitions against other G-League teams but not be part of the standings).

Knicks participate in #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram

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The Knicks decided not to release a statement on the death of George Floyd.

But an opportunity to say nothing?

They jumped at that.

Knicks:

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#BlackoutTuesday #NBATogether

A post shared by New York Knicks 🏀 (@nyknicks) on

Blackout Tuesday is a vague movement against racial injustice.

I’d like all Americans to confront the racism plaguing this country. If Knicks owner James Dolan says more, that’d be great. It’d be great if many said more on these issues.

But I’m also not turning to professional basketball teams for guidance. So many of these statements say nothing at all.

But fairly or not, when every nearly other team* releases a statement, the Knicks’ silence becomes seen as a stance in itself.

*Only New York and San Antonio have yet to release statements, according to Tom Haberstroh. The Spurs have largely gotten a pass, because Gregg Popovich has been so outspoken.

Under Dolan, the Knicks have a strong track record of hiring black executives and coaches. That matters.

If you want that supplemented by a statement in the aftermath of Floyd’s death… I guess you can decide whether this counts.