NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Kobe already gearing up for next comeback— All you need to know about how Kobe Bryant felt about this disaster of a Los Angeles Lakers season could be summed up in his tweet last night:
It should come as no surprise, then, that Bryant is already gearing up for a monster comeback now that he’s been cleared to resume running and shooting drills after recovering from a knee fracture. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on Kobe’s workout plans:
Kobe Bryant has been cleared to resume running and shooting and will begin an intense, six-month training program next week upon his return from a short family trip to Europe, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.
Bryant has been ramping up his activity level in recent weeks as he continues to recover from a fracture in his left knee suffered during the Lakers‘ victory Dec. 17 at Memphis, just six games into his return from a ruptured Achilles.
While he is in Europe, Bryant will visit the clinic in Germany where he had the platelet-rich plasma treatment known as Orthokineon on his knee, according to a source.
The visit to the clinic is a check-up to ensure all is structurally sound with his knee before he resumes intense training.
Bryant has rarely traveled with the team or appeared in public since, preferring to focus on his rehabilitation instead of a team wrapping up the worst season in Lakers history.
No. 2: Irving: ‘Exciting’ if Cavs offer max deal — All season long, it seems, Cleveland Cavaliers star guard Kyrie Irving has been dogged by rumors of his desire to leave the team as soon as he possibly can via free agency. Now that the Cavs have wrapped up their season — one in which they fell well short of expectations of a playoff run — the team has some key roster decisions to make, the foremost of which may be signing Irving to a contract extension. For all the rumblings of Irving’s supposed displeasure with the team, though, it sure doesn’t sound like he wants to move on, writes Bob Finnan of The News-Herald & The Morning Journal:
The Cavaliers’ franchise faces several major decisions this summer.
None is bigger than the five-year, $80 million maximum extension the Cavs are expected to offer two-time All-Star Kyrie Irving.
“Obviously, I’m aware I can be extended this summer,” he said after the Cavs’ 114-85 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on April 16 before 19,842 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It’s a big deal for me if they do offer me that. It will be exciting. I’ll make the best decision for me and my family. That’s what it will boil down to.”
Irving doesn’t sound like someone who wants out.
“I’ve been part of this, and I want to continue to be part of this,” he said. “We’ve made some strides in the right direction, especially as an organization. I want to be part of something special. I don’t have a definitive answer to that right now.”
The offer is expected to come on July 1.
Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert is attending the Board of Governors meeting April 17-18 in New York.
Brown has four years remaining on his original five-year, $20 million contract.
He said he won’t plead his case with Gilbert.
“I’m thankful to Dan for the opportunity he’s given me,” Brown said. “It’s his team. Whatever decision he makes, I’m going to support.”
No. 3: Thompson blasts Griffin’s style of play — Who isn’t excited to watch the L.A. Clippers-Golden State Warriors first-round playoff series? Aside from the fact both teams have two of the better offenses and defenses in the league, there’s the added drama of them not liking each other in the mix as well. That latter point apparently is getting racheted up even more as a little war of words in the media seems to be breaking out between the Warriors’ Klay Thompson and the Clippers’ All-Star, Blake Griffin. Thompson accused Griffin of “flopping” and Griffin had his rebuttal to that claim yesterday, as Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports:
The trash talking between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors has started — even before their first-round playoff series became official late Wednesday night.
Earlier in the day, Warriors guard Klay Thompson called Clippers forward Blake Griffin out for flopping and playing “kind of out of control sometimes.”
“He is a good guy off the court but he probably just … I mean … plays pretty physical and flops a little bit,” Thompson told The Wheelhouse on 95.7 The Game radio in San Francisco.
“He flairs his arm around so you know you might catch a random elbow or something that doesn’t you know rub off too well on guys,” Thompson said. “He’s kind of like a bull in a china shop, kind of out of control sometimes. And then you do just see him flop sometimes like how can a guy that big and strong flop that much.
“I can see how that gets under people’s skin and be frustrating to play against.”
Griffin was ejected from a Christmas Day game between the Clippers and Warriors after an altercation with Warriors center Andrew Bogut and called the Warriors out after the game for playing “cowardly basketball.”
“If you look at it, I didn’t do anything, and I got thrown out of the game,” Griffin said. “It all boils down to they (the referees) fell for it. To me, that’s cowardly. That’s cowardly basketball… Instead of just playing straight up and playing a game, it got into something more than that, and it’s unfortunate because you want to play a team head-to-head. You don’t want to start playing other games and playing cowardly basketball.”
No. 4: Walker credits Clifford for change in his game— For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Charlotte Bobcats are a playoff-bound team. Unlike that squad from a few years ago, though, Charlotte has a more solid future thanks to the standout play of youngsters like guard Kemba Walker. The third-year guard has become one of the leaders of the team and his improved playmaking skills have been key to Charlotte’s rise this season. However, he wasn’t always such a promising piece of the Bobcats’ future and as Jessica Camerato of BasketballInsiders.com reports, Walker credits coach Steve Clifford for challenging him to grow his game:
During an early-season game against the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford had seen enough of Kemba Walker’s defense of Jeff Teague – or lack thereof. Walker was lagging on the pick-and-roll, Teague was making plays at will.
Clifford and Walker had established a solid relationship shortly after Clifford was hired last offseason. The third-year guard jelled with the first-year coach, who he described as a “real down-to-earth, cool guy.” Walker saw another side of Clifford during that game, though, one that said more than the words he spoke.
“He really surprised me and he got into me. I really deserved it,” Walker told Basketball Insiders. “It motivated me and it helped me. … That’s kind of the first time an NBA coach has gotten into me. It was a mixture [of yelling and speaking]. It showed me that he cared about me because if he didn’t say anything, then I’m like he doesn’t care. But it showed me that he knows that I can do more. Looking back, I appreciate it.”
He added, “I think it definitely was (a turning point).”
Clifford made it clear early on he wanted to see Walker improve on the defensive end. He called Walker into his office to watch game film, pointing out clips where he played good defense and others where he was inconsistent.
“He’s made me a better player because he has so much confidence in me,” Walker said. “He told me that I could be a much better defensive player if I wanted to be. He challenged me with that.”
There are plenty of moments that go on between a player and coach that are not seen in practice or in games. Those are the instances that stand out to Walker this season – the conversations he has shared with Clifford, the times he has gone to him for advice, sometimes just as someone to listen.
“When a coach is able to help you with things off the court, that’s a lot more important than being on the court,” said Walker. “We’re all pros, but we still have problems just like regular people. Sometimes we need to vent, sometimes we need people to talk to. When you’ve got a guy like Coach Clifford whose been through so much in his life, a guy who knows things, can give you advice and you can talk to him, that helps a lot.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Wolves don’t have any idea about whether or not coach Rick Adelman will retire or not … Like his teammate (and fellow free-agent) P.J. Tucker, Suns guard Ish Smith is hoping to stick around in Phoenix … Cleveland center Spencer Hawes says he’s open to returning to the team next season …
ICYMI of the Night: It’ll be a good six months or so before we see some of the teams in last night’s top 10 plays again, so let’s give ’em one last opportunity to shine here …