NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Bryant talks Lakers’ future, next steps in career — Kobe Bryant couldn’t have written a better farewell to the NBA than his final game: a 60-point showing on April 13, 2016 against the Utah Jazz. Since then, Bryant has kept a fairly low profile, popping up here and there but for the most part easing into his retirement life. In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of TWC SportsNet, Bryant — who now sports a beard — opens up about what he’s been up to lately, the Lakers’ offseason (and rookie Brandon Ingram), and his willingness to help L.A.’s next generation of stars:
On Team USA: “I’m around for them and I still speak to several of them. I think they’ll be fine. It’s tough competition and basketball is a global game now. It’s not going to be easy.”
On he and his wife expecting child No. 3: “What a blessing. If I look at the month after retirement and all that kind of happened and all the blessings we’ve been enjoying to find out we’re having another baby girl coming, its icing on the cake.”
On transitioning from NBA life to retirement life: “It’s always hard for athletes to transition out of something that you’ve been identified with your entire life. Being able to transition into what comes next. That’s always a big challenge. Hopefully, I can kind of lead the charge there and show other athletes that it is possible to have something that you love and transition into something that you love equally.”
On the Lakers’ offseason and future: “They have a really young core and a really good core. Now it’s just a matter of them growing together and having those pieces mesh. I think It’s a great opportunity. Now at this age where their games are still developing, they can develop their games and their strengths around each other. They have a lot of potential. Hopefully they can put it together sooner rather than later.”
On Brandon Ingram: “I think he plays with great tempo, great pace. I like his length. His ball-handling ability is very good, he can get to spots on the floor. I think defensively he has the potential to be fantastic — he has long arms, long legs. So, hopefully he starts really paying attention to that just as much as the things he can do offensively.”
On D’Angelo Russell: “There are certain things he’s really picked up: body positioning, using his size to get to places, recognizing defensive packages and where to position guys on the floor. He’s developed very nicely over the summer.”
On new coach Luke Walton: “He’s going to have them play the game the right way. He’s going to have the foundation of the team is going to be a championship foundation. It’s not going to be isolation ball. It’s going to be a lot of ball movement, but ball movement with purpose. Players are going to understand why they’re moving the ball in certain situations, which then makes you a very dangerous team. Because now you have players on the floor that can think on the fly and think together.”
On helping the Lakers’ youngsters develop their games: “If I can, yeah. I’m certainly busy doing a bunch of other things, but I would love to come by. I’ve spoken to Luke several times and B-Shaw [assistant coach Brian Shaw]. I let the players know I’m always around, man. I’m always around. If they want to come out and work out, we can get up early in the morning an work out, walk them through some things. The Lakers are in my blood. It’s family to me, so I’m always around.”
No. 2: Report: Pierce should be back on Clippers next season — LA Clippers forward and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce remains one of the notable players left in the available players column on our Free Agent Tracker. While the Clippers mostly kept their core roster in tact this summer, Pierce has been weighing whether or not to return to the NBA for his 19th season. According to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Pierce is likely leaning toward another campaign with the Clippers:
With every move, every signing, a question for the Clippers always loomed in the background — will Paul Pierce be back next season?
The answers have never been certain, and even in mid-August, that’s still the case. But, a probability has emerged, at least for now.
Pierce, an 18-season veteran in the NBA, is planning to return to the Los Angeles Clippers for his 19th season in the league according to multiple league sources.
Pierce has wavered with his decision for most of the summer, and another change in plans wouldn’t be shocking.
While waiting for Pierce, the team built a roster with enough depth to handle a potential retirement.
In building their roster this summer, the team re-signed wings Wesley Johnson and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The team also added Alan Anderson in free agency.
If Pierce is going to contribute as a small-ball power forward, he’ll be competing for minutes with traditional options like Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass and first-round pick Brice Johnson.
The Clippers signed Pierce to a three-year deal worth approximately $10 million before the 2015-16 season, though no one, Pierce included, expected three more years.
“I don’t have much basketball left — whether it’ll be this year or another year. To come home and play in front of family and friends and possibly win a championship, it’s like a dream come true,” Pierce said prior to the season. “If we win this year, win a championship, I’ll probably be done with basketball to be honest.”
The Clippers didn’t win, and in the aftermath of a disappointing season that ended with an even more disappointing loss, Pierce was clearly emotional.
“Every year when you lose that game, when you say it’s time to go home and no more basketball for the year, and you’re not holding up that trophy, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” he said after Game 6 in Portland.. “If you’re any type of competitor, if you have any type of dream, you’re always thinking about winning that championship.
“ … I don’t want to make an emotional decision. Every heartbreak makes you want to come back.”
No. 3: Holiday leading team workouts in New Orleans — With less than 70 days to go until the start of the 2016-17 season, many players are starting to get the itch to get back to practice and get in gear. Although team training camps won’t open until late September, some players — like LeBron James — are taking it upon themselves to organize team workouts. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday is heading up such an event for his Pelicans teammates as he works to regain his All-Star form of several seasons ago. Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com has more:
Basketball is at the top of the agenda during New Orleans Pelicans voluntary workouts this week in Southern California, but there’s also bowling, movie-going and bonding. When Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and Quincy Pondexter recently discussed the idea of assembling players to work out as a group, they wanted to foster the team’s togetherness and camaraderie.
“I think that it’s very important,” Holiday said of the intangible. “You see the teams that are winning or have won, and you see chemistry on and off the court. I think it goes a long way, especially on the court (when) you care for (teammates) personally and you don’t want to let them down. I think that means a lot. The bonding off the court correlates a lot to on the court.”
The trio of Pelicans veteran leaders have been joined by several teammates, including but not limited to returnee Alexis Ajinca and newcomers Terrence Jones, Langston Galloway and Buddy Hield. Holiday describes the mid-August gathering as being able to “communicate and hang out and work out together, in an environment that isn’t pressured by coaches or media and all that. You can just kind of be yourself.”
On Monday night, players held a group dinner; on Tuesday they plan to go bowling. Individually, Holiday is in the midst of an offseason free from health concerns, a first for him since joining New Orleans in July 2013. The former Eastern Conference All-Star point guard with Philadelphia described this summer as very different from previous ones as a result.
“There has been a major difference,” he said. “I haven’t had to key in on one injury. I haven’t had a major injury, so that I had to take most of my time and worry about that. This summer has been more like the summers before I was injured or had the stress reaction (in his right leg), where I can (now) do a lot of explosive things (athletically). It’s been great, feeling like I can do things with no restrictions, but at the same time being smart with the stuff I’m doing.”
One question Holiday will try to resolve prior to the start of 2016-17 is whether to begin donning protective eyewear, after he sustained a broken orbital bone under his right eye March 28. While trying to get open on a New Orleans inbound pass, he was struck by an inadvertent elbow from New York forward Kristaps Porzingis, ending his season.
“I am looking into wearing goggles, because of my eye surgery and having to put a metal plate in the bottom of my eye,” Holiday said. “But I’m good and ready to go. The safest thing to do would be to play with some sort of goggle that covers up my eye. They said I didn’t have to, but it’s something I’m looking into.
“If the goggles are cool-looking and I can start a trend, why not wear them,” he added half-jokingly. “But seriously, obviously I don’t want to get hit in my eye again. It was a freak accident, but getting hit in your eye probably happens more often than not. Just taking preventative measures. It would be a first – I’ve never had a mask or goggles, anything like that.”
Davis, who underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee in March, is progressing physically, according to Holiday. Last month, Pelicans GM Dell Demps said on Jim Rome’s national radio show that Davis was expected to be cleared for basketball activity in August.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Holiday said of the three-time All-Star power forward. “He’s taking his time and doing what (trainers) are telling him to do. From there, it’s how strong he gets. From what I see, he looks good. He can do set shots and things like that, but nothing crazy.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Debunking the notion that playing on Team USA hurts NBA players in the season after doing so … The Sacramento Kings might be interested in trading for Ricky Rubio … Although he’s been banned from the NBA for the next two seasons, former Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo isn’t going to give up on a return to the league … According to a report, the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in signing former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian … Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has adopted a vegan diet … One man’s suggestions for fixing rookie Ben Simmons‘ shooting issues …