VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 1
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Bryant explains how he knew he was going to retire — The road to Kobe Bryant’s retirement is underway and last night in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia marked the first of his many farewell stops around the NBA map. While the Sixers won the game (and ended both an 0-18 start and a 28-game losing streak that stretched to last season), Bryant received a warm greeting (as well as a fond farewell) from the Philadelphia crowd and called the game ’emotional beyond belief’. So how did Bryant come to know that this would be his final season — in the middle of said season. In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, he talks about that, who would win a matchup between he and Michael Jordan and more:
“You know, going through my entire career, I’ve never really understood what athletes meant when they said, ‘You — when you know you know.’ But now I certainly understand it … So once I knew this was it, might as well say it,” he said in the interview that aired Wednesday on “GMA.”
The married father of two daughters told Roberts how he came to his decision.
“I try to have at least 15 minutes of still time and just kind of sit in my thoughts in the morning and just kind of meditate. And normally what happens with me is my mind would always drift to the game. Always,” he said in reply to Roberts’ question during the Tuesday interview. “And then I found myself sitting there. My mind wouldn’t drift towards the game all the time anymore. And that’s when I started realizing, ‘You know what? It’s getting close. It’s getting close.’ Because now I’m not obsessively thinking about the game anymore. It’s not wired into my subconscious the way it used to be.”
Bryant told Roberts that getting to the decision was “a slow process.”
“It was something that kind of evolved over the last three years, you know, with the Achilles injury, that really frightened me. Because you know, it was like, ‘My career could be over now.’ It scared me. ‘What am I going do next?’ sort of thing. So I took that time to start trying to figure that out,” he said, referring to his 2013 injury that left him unable to play for close to nine months.
After training hard, he returned to the game the following season and fractured his knee in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies in December 2013. He came back from that injury and then suffered a torn shoulder last January, sidelining him again for close to nine months.
“And it was just like, ‘Oh my,’ this is one thing after the next, you know? And so it was kind of a slow three-year process of kind of evolving to get to where I am,” he said.
Asked whether he had accomplished everything he want to on the court, he replied: “No. No. I wanted eight championships, as a dreamy kid, growing up … I wanted eight.”
Roberts asked him about the significance of the number eight.
“Because Magic (Johnson) had five,” Bryant replied. “And then Michael (Jordan) had six. And then I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to win eight.’ And had the opportunity to have seven and didn’t work out. But that was my — that was my childhood dream was to try to win eight (championships)– how ridiculous does that sound?”
Bryant has talked about wanting to have his place in the history of the game, and Roberts how he saw himself compared to other great players.
“Top five players of all time, who were those five players? And would you crack the starting five?” she asked.
“No, I would never put myself in the starting five ever,” he said. “I put the people that I’ve actually learned the most from, being Jordan, Magic, (Larry) Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Jerry West. Those are the players that personally I’ve learned the most from.”
“To be mentioned in the same breath as those players, honestly, to me is — I mean, that’s everything. I mean, we’ll sit and debate endlessly who was better, who would win in a one-on-one matchup between myself and M.J. And you can debate that till the cows come home,” he said.
Asked who would win that match-up, Bryant replied: “Oh, he would win some. I would win some.”
No. 2: Cousins, Rondo have ‘powerful’ meetings with Karl — Levels of discord and the Sacramento Kings have seemingly (and unfortunately) gone hand in hand the last few seasons. That was the case earlier this season as the team had the always-troublesome players-only meeting (that eventually turned into a front office-wide meeting). But perhaps all those meetings paid off — or at least one in particular — as it seems the Kings and their superstars of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo might be on the same page with coach George Karl. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports has more:
Sacramento Kings coach George Karl was on his way to work out after a team film session last week in Milwaukee when he was summoned by DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. After Cousins’ verbal tirade aimed at Karl in early November, the Kings’ coach might have had reason to be nervous.
What was supposed to be a 15-minute discussion became a positive two-hour meeting. The Kings (7-12) have been 2-2 since the meeting, with Cousins playing just one of those games – Monday’s 112-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks – because of a lower back strain.
“It was a powerful meeting for all three of us,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports.
Rondo said he had been hoping in recent weeks to get a meeting with just himself, Karl and Cousins, adding that the discussion felt “natural” and Karl was receptive, positive and open-minded. Rondo and Cousins were also able to get some lingering frustrations off their chest, and Karl offered back his thoughts.
“We asked him to just sit with us so we can pick his brain and share our thoughts,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “What I love about [Karl] is he’s very open. George is not a dictator. ‘What can we do positively? What can we do to improve?’
“If you can come into a meeting with no egos and everyone was humble, it just works out for the better.”
“I told him to start with me. Whatever I can do to help the team,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “If you have to bully me or call me out, I can accept that. I’m a 10-year vet. I learned from [former Boston Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] and the past guys that it has to start with the vets who have the most leeway on the team or the most responsibility.
“[Cousins and I] are both trying to change the culture, change the organization.”
Cousins told Yahoo Sports: “We’re just trying to correct every mistake we have. We want to be a winning team, and I feel it starts with myself on down to Rondo as well.”
Karl said Rondo and Cousins also asked that he be more selective about pushing the pace offensively. Karl said he would agree to slow the offense down under one condition.
“I said, ‘OK, I will slow it down if you do what I want.’ That’s not fighting each other. That’s mutually coming together,” Karl told Yahoo Sports. “If we have to compromise something, we will compromise something.”
“We are going to continue to communicate on a weekly basis, good or bad,” Karl told Yahoo Sports. “If we are in a good stretch, we are going to still communicate.”
Even though it’s been less than a week, Cousins says he’s already seen a difference in Karl.
“He’s more aggressive, which we need,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s hard to balance it out with me being out of the lineup.
“Honestly, it’s not about us liking each other. Our main goal, our only goal, is to win games.”
Cousins is averaging 28.2 points and 11 rebounds in 11 games, and the Kings are 1-7 this season without the 2015 NBA All-Star. While Cousins’ health is of the utmost importance, Rondo is pulling from his past relationship with former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett to help the young center reach another level.
“Cousins has never played with a vet that he respected,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “I think I’ve got his attention a little bit. I think he respects what I say.
“He will do his own thing. I’m not trying to be his daddy. But I want to be his big brother like K.G. was to me, showing me the ropes and helping me along the way. Everything that I’m telling him, K.G. told me. Experience is everything. If someone has it and is willing to share it, I was always trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible.”
Rondo and Cousins have lockers next to each other in the Kings’ locker room, where the 2008 NBA champion’s influence remains heavy.
“The way we compete and the type of competitors we are, it’s hard for us not to get along,” Cousins said of Rondo. “We damn near think alike all the time. I’m soaking in all I can. He’s a champion. I basically look up to him.”
After his struggles in Dallas, Rondo signed a one-year, $11 million contract, yet Cousins expects Rondo to be in a Kings uniform with him next season when a new downtown arena opens.
“He ain’t going nowhere. I will kidnap him myself,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports.
No. 3: Wizards leave Cavs feeling exposed in loss — There have been bumps along the way for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, but they have still managed to roll up the East’s best record as of this morning. Another bump was uncovered last night, writes ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, with the Wizards’ victory in Cleveland that featured Washington’s guard-heavy lineup down the stretch that made life miserable for Cleveland :
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman was desperately in need of something to go his team’s way as they stumbled into Tuesday’s game against the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers mired in a four-game losing streak.
What Wittman came up with — a small-ball lineup of four guards and a swingman for most of the fourth quarter of Washington’s 97-85 win over Cleveland — not only fortified his team’s edge but left the Cavs looking extremely ill prepared.
“I had some lineups out there tonight that I don’t know if I would have dreamed about,” Wittman said after closing out the game on the backs of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Jared Dudley, Otto Porter Jr. and Garrett Temple. “Our guys did everything they possibly could.”
Wittman’s wildest dream — created by injuries to Nene and Drew Gooden, and foul trouble for Marcin Gortat — turned nightmarish for the Cavs, who looked downright exposed against what Washington threw at them.
In creating a patchwork scheme for his team, Wittman just might have shown the rest of the league Cleveland’s vulnerability.
“They played a different style [that] we haven’t seen in a long time in terms of really going [small] — five guards, pushing the tempo and really just kind of junking up the game and making us play basketball that we haven’t played all season,” Tristan Thompson said. “So you got to give them credit, but we got to be prepared for that because I know other teams are going to watch that and teams that might have smaller lineups might think that might be one of our weaknesses. So we got to be prepared to go against opponents like that moving forward.”
Cavs coach David Blatt pegged the loss on Cleveland’s 19 turnovers leading to 25 points for the Wizards, as his team struggled in transition defense. And there’s no dodging the fact Cleveland shot just 33.7 percent from the field. But you have to wonder how much of the Cavs’ struggles came from just having an off night and how much of it was failing to adjust to the Wizards.
“They were just quicker, much faster to the ball, with the ball, they moved the ball a lot faster than we were,” LeBron James said. James coughed up nine turnovers, one shy of his career high. “They were just a step quicker than us tonight and they beat us pretty good.”
“In my opinion, I think whatever team usually wins the NBA championship, people start following that formula the following year,” Thompson said. “Golden State played small ball and it worked for them. So other teams are trying to do the same thing. We just got to adjust. If it means us bigs, we got to be quicker on our feet, lateral quickness, be able to guard a guard, so be it, if we want to be in the game and [have] an impact.”
There can be a lesson in a loss, and for the Cavs that lesson should be they have even more to work on than they thought.
“This is great for us. This is good,” Thompson said. “It’s an eye-opener, it’s for us to look in the mirror and understand that, hey, you know, you got to be prepared for whatever kind of lineup you throw at us — the conventional two bigs; one big with four out, one in; or what Washington did today with five guards. You got to be able to play D and switch and guard your man. Take the challenge.”
VIDEO: John Wall runs wild in the Wizards’ road win
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Philadelphia 76ers will at last retire Moses Malone‘s No. 2 jersey next season … Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah says he’s getting his ‘swag’ back … Don’t look now, but Deron Williams is playing like it’s 2012 … Kevin Durant thinks Cam Newton is going to win the NFL MVP and the Super Bowl … Brooklyn Nets may have some interest in trading Bojan Bogdanovic … NBA Commissioner Adam Silver chatted with the Portland Trail Blazers’ broadcasters during last night’s game …
ICYMI of the Night: C.J. McCollum, that crossover on Dirk Nowitzki was just plain mean …
VIDEO: C.J. McCollum crosses up Dirk Nowitzki