VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 14
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Bryant encourages Warriors to go ‘make history’ — With their victory last night over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Golden State Warriors improved to 37-3. That start matches the mark the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls had through 40 games when they won an NBA-record 72 games. After the win, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who played against the dominant players (Michael Jordan in the 1990s and Stephen Curry today) encouraged Golden State’s stars to push for the 73-win mark, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:
Before Kobe Bryant left the Oracle Arena court for the final time Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers icon was greeted by a trio of Golden State Warriors who have been terrorizing the rest of the league lately.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all surrounded Bryant and chatted him up following their team’s 116-98 win over Bryant and the Lakers.
“You guys have got to go ahead and make history,” Bryant told Curry.
“I got to chase you,” Curry replied, a response that Bryant said he too would have used.
“Damn right,” Bryant told Curry. “Absolutely. Come and get it.”
Bryant also signed a pair of his game-worn sneakers for Green.
The message Bryant wrote: “Make history.”
A passing of the torch? Perhaps.
“I think so,” Bryant said. “It’s their time. It’s their time. It’s their time to step up and play and see how many championships they can win, see how many gold medals they can win. I had my run. Now it’s important for them to carry it forward.”
But the Warriors heard Bryant’s message loud and clear.
“He told us to chase history, so we’re going to try to chase it now like he did in his career,” Curry said. “He paved the way.”
No. 2: Perkins, Davis lament state of Pelicans — In the midst of a summer of re-signing most of their key free agents, the New Orleans Pelicans went outside the fold on July 28, 2015, and added veteran center Kendrick Perkins. The thinking was Perkins would provide some spot defensive minutes for New Orleans while also providing championship-winning experience and a veteran voice to an up-and-coming team and its star, Anthony Davis. Fast-forward to today and the Pelicans are nowhere near being in the West playoff mix and Perkins is regretting his move to the Crescent City. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports caught up with Perkins and Davis, who both are upset over how this season is playing out:
After being an NBA champion, a member of three NBA Finals teams and playing with the likes of Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce and Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins is accustomed to maximum effort and a commitment to winning.
So far in his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans, the veteran center has been disappointed with some teammates’ effort.
“It’s very disappointing. At the end of the day, this is not what I signed up for,” Perkins told Yahoo Sports before Wednesday’s win against the Sacramento Kings. “I signed up after I looked from the outside, coming in to a good young team that has been making strides in the right direction. We got real comfortable. We ain’t got long to make a push.
“At this point in time, we are all just searching to find the right lineups and who is going to come out and compete at a high level every night. That’s been our main problem before anything else. We just come out too many nights and don’t compete at the level we need in order to win. What really is the key to everything is our level of competitiveness.”
The Pelicans have the Western Conference’s third-worst record at 12-26 and have lost seven of their last 10 games, including a 95-91 road setback Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers, who own the West’s worst record.
“I’m frustrated with losing and our energy and effort on the floor,” said Davis, who missed the Lakers’ game because of a bruised back, told Yahoo Sports. “But I know guys are really trying. They go out and compete every night. The frustration comes more when we don’t. Like in the Laker game, we didn’t bring it. It’s even more frustrating when I can’t play.”
Davis and Perkins refuse to use having a new coach as an excuse for the team’s early struggles, and Davis added that the early injury woes can’t be used as an excuse anymore because the Pelicans are relatively healthy now. Guard Tyreke Evans told Yahoo Sports he isn’t expected to miss time after having his right knee drained Thursday.
When asked why the intensity was so much better in Wednesday’s game than against the Lakers, coach Alvin Gentry told Yahoo Sports: “I don’t even have any idea. I don’t even know how to start to explain. I really don’t.”
“We can’t pick and choose when we want to play, especially with the position we are in as a team,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “It’s been a roller-coaster. I don’t think anyone comes out and says, ‘We are going to pick to play tonight,’ or ‘We are going to play tonight.’ I think it just happens. It starts with me.”
But despite what may be going on peripherally, the Pelicans, who entered Thursday five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 44 to play, still believe the season can be salvaged.
“Even though the West isn’t what it used to be, we can make up some ground [to make the playoffs],” Perkins, who won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008, told Yahoo. “But we got to make it up sooner rather than later. [The coaches] are trying everything. They’re trying to put us in a position every night to be successful. The effort is not on coach. It’s on players.”
No. 3: Butler guts out epic performance against Sixers — Heading into last night’s game in Philadelphia, Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler wasn’t even sure he’d play because of a sprained ankle. Yet there he was in the lineup Thursday and, as Bulls fans can attest, thank goodness he was. Butler poured in 53 points — the most by a Chicago player since Michael Jordan dropped 55 on the Wizards on April 27, 1997 — to fuel an amazing comeback win over the Sixers. Nick Friedell of ESPN.com was on hand for the magical night and has more on how Butler was driven to play:
Fred Hoiberg, the first-year coach of the Chicago Bulls, knew exactly what it meant. Despite the fact that Butler didn’t participate in Thursday’s shootaround because of a sprained right ankle and was questionable to even play against thePhiladelphia 76ers, he knew Butler wasn’t coming out in the middle of the best performance of his career, a 53-point showcase in which the All-Star swingman did just about everything for the Bulls.
“It was one of those looks like, ‘If you take me out, I’m going to quit,'” Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ 115-111 overtime victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. “That kind of thing. So I kept him in there.”
After it was over, both Hoiberg and the rest of his players were in awe of Butler’s latest record-setting performance. After setting a franchise mark for points in a half with 40 in the second half of a Jan. 3 win over the Toronto Raptors, Butler outdid himself Thursday by finishing with 53 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in 49 minutes. What makes Butler’s performance even more impressive is how multi-faceted it was. Butler was 15-for-30 from the field, 21-for-25 from the free throw line and played the final 37 minutes without being subbed out, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The fact that he did this on a night when the Bulls played without Derrick Rose (left knee patellar tendinitis) and Pau Gasol (rest) makes it shine even brighter.
“I think they’re both the same — we won,” Butler said of those performances. “That’s all I’m worried about. I got some hellified teammates though, man, keep getting me the ball, telling me to score, be aggressive. And then supporting me on defense, whenever I make some bad plays they’re always there to help. Same thing on offense, man. This is damn sure a team win.”
As much as Butler wants to share the praise, he is the man who carried his team most of the night. Butler’s 53-point output is the most by any Bulls player since Michael Jordan scored 55 on April 27, 1997. Butler became just the fourth player in franchise history to score 50 points in a regular-season game.
The proud 26-year-old admitted that he was “feeling” his ankle injury, but he played through the pain in part because of a wager he made before the season began.
“Because I got a bet with my trainer that I’m going to play 82 games,” Butler said when asked why he played when he could have sat out. “When I’m nicked up, Travelle Gaines said we got to get you to play 82. So I got to continue to take care of my body, hydrate, keep icing my knees and all that stuff.”
“Fred came in here and got on our ass to tell you the truth,” Butler said. “We had to turn this s— around, he knew it, we knew it, and he went out there and coached the s— out of us. Made us run these plays, make sure we execute, and that’s what I’m talking about from him.”
Butler said it was the maddest he’d seen Hoiberg all season, but he didn’t mind.
“I like it though,” Butler said. “He was fired up — before the game, too. So when we came in at halftime, he came in and let us know this is not how we’re going to play. And that’s what I like to see.”
As for the latest Jordan comparison, Butler, as usual, wanted no part of it.
“Michael’s the best player to ever play this game,” Butler said. “And I’m just playing my role on this team. That’s all I think about — and I wear his shoes, so I think he’s got a couple notches up on me, a lot of them, actually.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: We don’t know how you can’t smile a little after watching this awesome Jerry West tribute to Kobe Bryant before last night’s game … Some rumblings in Memphis that some teammates aren’t happy with Jeff Green‘s play this season … Boris Diaw has more than found a home with the San Antonio Spurs … The Brooklyn Nets may be considering Danny Ferry for their GM opening … Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving reveals plenty about his knee injury last season and more … Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic has a mild calf strain and will be out a week … Cool Q&A with Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala …