VIDEO: Highlights from Thursday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Cousins’ in-game rant led to one-game suspension — The relationship between Sacramento Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins and his coach, George Karl, has been well documented as at times icy. The pair have had their run ins over the years and such was the case on Wednesday night in an eventual home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. According to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, Cousins blasted Karl during the game for not sticking up to the officials more for him:
The reason for DeMarcus Cousins’ tirade on coach George Karl was the Sacramento Kings star’s belief that his coach hadn’t done enough to defend him to referees in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, league sources told The Vertical.
The Kings suspended the All-Star center for Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic for conduct detrimental to the team.
Cousins was seen unloading on Karl during a timeout in the 120-111 loss to the Cavaliers at Sleep Train Arena. Kings guard Rajon Rondo tried to calm Cousins down as he screamed and motioned at Karl.
Cousins continued to vent at Karl in the locker room after the game and later got into a heated discussion with vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac, sources told The Vertical.
The disconnect between Karl and Cousins has been consistent over their almost two-season partnership, and Karl’s job security is bleak heading into the offseason. Early in November, Cousins ranted at Karl in a locker-room incident after a loss to the San Antonio Spurs that led to a series of meetings throughout the organization.
No. 2: LeBron, Kobe put on show in final matchup — Never again will fans see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James go at each other on an NBA court. That being said, their final matchup was one to savor as both players put on a vintage performance in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 120-108 victory at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan had a seat up close and details how this final Bryant-James duel played out:
ere were just enough moments for Lakers followers to savor — plenty of wham-bam plays and a solid Kobe Bryant effort in the final countdown of his career.
If only there was some defense.
“It was everything for a competitor like myself and I know for himself,” James said after the game. “I know he was not taking this game off and I definitely wasn’t taking it off, so it was great to be out there for sure.
“For the both of us, we are two sportsmen … we love the lights and get up for the best moments and for us to give the fans and give our beautiful sport one last opportunity to watch us both on the same floor and give them a show, it was great.”
It was fun to watch the first half. It felt exactly like an All-Star game.
Each team had its mini-shows before Cleveland took a 64-55 edge into the locker room.
Tarik Black turned over the ball in the lane and it was thrown quickly out to J.R. Smith, who dribbled downcourt with James and threw an off-the-backboard pass to James for a dunk.
The Lakers weren’t just bystanders at first.
Bryant delighted the Staples Center crowd by hitting fadeaways and connecting on a smooth up-and-under move. Julius Randle (15 points, nine rebounds) had a strong first-quarter dunk after cruising past Smith and beating Tristan Thompson to the rim.
Lakers coach Byron Scott acknowledged feeling like a fan while watching James and Bryant one last time.
“That’s an epic matchup of two of the best,” he said. “Kobe, it seemed like he had a flashback himself.”
Bryant or James played in each of the last nine NBA Finals, but they never played against each other in the playoffs.
“There were years where we could have faced each other … it just never worked out,” Bryant said. “A real rivalry never developed. Rivalries aren’t made in the regular season. …
“You’ve got to duke it out where it really matters.
“I’m disappointed for the fans because you want to really see that.”
Bryant got a standing ovation when he checked out with 2:10 left.
There are 16 games left in his career, and in the Lakers’ ever-shrinking season.
VIDEO: Best moments from the Kobe-LeBron showdown
San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker laughed when he recalled the bench’s reaction to new addition Kevin Martin’s first possession in the team’s 109-101 win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.
Martin didn’t slip, fall or chunk up an air ball. Martin just did what everyone on San Antonio’s bench expected.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Parker said, still laughing. “The first time he got the ball, we were laughing. Timmy [Duncan] was like, ‘Oh my God. Unbelievable.’ He’s got a gift for that, man … drawing fouls. I’m just happy he’s on our team now.”
Martin made his Spurs debut with 1:22 remaining in the first quarter. By the time the 11:21 mark of the second quarter hit, Martin was standing at the line, sinking a free throw after touching the ball for the first time, and drawing a foul on Chicago’s Justin Holiday.
Martin played in just three minutes and didn’t register a blip on the team’s stat line, aside from hitting 1 of 2 free throw attempts. It’s still too early for the Spurs to rely heavily on Martin for quality minutes. But considering the Spurs made Martin an addition so late in the season, it’s clear the club expects to lean on the veteran for production off the bench in the postseason.
The Spurs typically don’t make splashy additions so late, but coach Gregg Popovich isn’t concerned about the prospect of Martin not fitting in.
“If I thought it was too late, I wouldn’t have done it,” Popovich said. “If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have brought him. Kevin’s basically a scorer. He’s an experienced NBA player, but he scores. He spreads the floor. He gets to the free throw line. He knows how to play.”
Martin arrived in San Antonio on Sunday, signed a contract Wednesday and hit the court at the team’s facilities Thursday morning for a shootaround before the matchup against the Bulls.
“Today was my first day on the job, and it’s a shootaround,” Martin said prior to Thursday’s game. “A lot of learning. I feel like a student like when I first arrived in Sacramento my rookie year. Today’s the first day on the job, and I’ve got a lot to learn. But I’m excited and I’m up for the challenge.”
No. 4: Sanders: ‘I didn’t want to lose myself’ in NBA — Former Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders was an emerging talent (as well as a darling of the NBA Twittersphere) during his rise from bench player to standout from 2010-15. But Sanders hasn’t played in an NBA game since Dec. 23, 2014 and was waived by the Bucks the league last year despite having just signed a lucrative contract extension in 2014. His departure left many in NBA circles with questions and, of late, there have been rumblings he may try to make his way back to the NBA. Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com caught up with Sanders, who revealed why he left the game:
Basketball Insiders: Making the decision to walk away from the NBA couldn’t have been easy. You left a lot of money on the table and that was your career at that point. I know you’ve always had other interests, but how hard was that decision to make and how long did you grapple with it?
Larry Sanders: “Because I started playing basketball late, I had other interests before that. I love basketball and the competition and the comradery and all of that. But, at the same time, I feel like basketball took a lot away from me too. It limited me in a lot of ways. And I’ve been an artist my whole life. I loved drawing. I wanted to be an oceanographer. I’ve skateboarded for the majority of my life. I always had this artistic and rebellious way about me, and it clashed with the NBA culture. It really did. I got to the point where I realized that the NBA is a machine. It’s going to keep running, with or without you. If it can keep running without Allen Iverson – Allen Iverson! – then it’s definitely not worried about me. I knew that, and I also knew they really didn’t have the time to get to know me, to understand me and who I am. And look, I totally understand that. I get that. But I just felt like I had to put myself in a better position in life, to feel more fulfilled. At the end of the day, I’m left with myself, my loved ones and the life I made. I wanted to be someone who was proud of their story. It was always about staying true to myself. I didn’t want to lose myself and who I was for anything. No amount of money. Nothing.”
Basketball Insiders: How much do you miss basketball? You mentioned that you love the game and once you’re in that culture, it’s hard to just completely remove yourself from it. Do you watch games and still play at all?
Larry Sanders: “Oh, I do miss it. I have season tickets for the Los Angeles Lakers and I love watching and dissecting the game. I mean, I love this game. I really do. I love to play it, and I do still play a lot here in L.A. But there were some things about it, some situations, that I didn’t love. But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”
Basketball Insiders: You mentioned you’re in a better place, which leads to the big question that everyone is asking. Do you see yourself making an NBA comeback anytime soon?
Larry Sanders: “I could see myself coming back to the NBA and… I mean, I’ll just leave it at that. I can’t say too much. (laughs) I can see myself coming back there.”
Basketball Insiders: Your name gets mentioned in rumors whenever a team needs a big man or is looking to make a free agency signing. Have teams been calling you or your camp to express interest?
Larry Sanders: “I’ll say this: I understand who I am as a player and I know what I can bring to any team. Now that I’ve gotten the chance to watch a lot of basketball, I just know what I would do on that court. Even from an effort standpoint, I know I can [play harder than a lot of players]. With the kind of player that I am, I just don’t see a team that couldn’t use my services. But I will say, I think it would have to be a very good fit for the both of us. And I think it goes outside of what’s happening on the court – there has to be a connection there. Maybe I’m asking for too much. (laughs) But I just won’t go back to the situation I was in before.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: As our own Steve Aschburner first reported yesterday, veteran NBA referee Joey Crawford will not officiate another game in this, his farewell season … Referee David Jones apologized yesterday to Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle for the technical foul he assessed Deron Williams on Wednesday … Former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was a guest at practice for the Boston Celtics this week … Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo is out for the season after breaking his ankle in an accident at his home … Rough day for Memphis Grizzlies backup point guard Mario Chalmers — first, he found out he has a torn Achilles. Then, he got cut by the Grizzlies hours later … Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has bought an Arena League Football expansion team … Matt Barnes shares a pretty cool Kobe Bryant story …