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#pounditSunday, March 7, 2021

Basketball

‘Pristine condition’ Kobe Bryant rookie card sells for $1.8 million

Kobe Bryant

In the aftermath of his tragic and untimely death, Kobe Bryant cards popped up for sale all over the world. From online auctions to in-person auctions and to private sales, they became a hot commodity overnight.

More than a year later, Bryant’s cards continue to skyrocket in value and never was that more evident than on Saturday night.

Goldin Auctions, an online auction house and repository for sports memorabilia, put a “pristine condition” Kobe Bryant rookie card up for bid and when the hammer finally came down, it was sold for $1.795 million. The price tag makes it one of the most expensive basketball cards ever sold and the highest-priced Bryant card in history.

Only three other basketball cards have ever sold for more money than the Bryant rookie card. A 03-04 Rookie Patch Autograph LeBron James card sold for $1.845 million in July of 2020, while two others — a Giannis Antetokounmpo 13-14 Logoman Patch Autograph and a Luka Doncic 1:1 Logoman Autographed — eclipsed that price.

The Antetokounmpo card fetched $1,857,300 in September of 2020 and the Doncic card sold for $4.6 million earlier this year.

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle remains the highest-priced card ever sold or auctioned, earning a total pot of $5.2 million here in 2021. The same card had been sold for $2.8 million in 2018.

Ja Morant reacts to not making NBA All-Star team

Ja Morant

Ja Morant the kind of reaction to not making the NBA All-Star team that you love to see.

When the All-Star Game reserves were originally announced, Morant tweeted his disappointment to not make the cut.

Then on Friday, Mike Conley was named as the injury replacement for Devin Booker. After seeing Conley get the nod over him, Morant tweeted that he recognized he has more work to do.

That’s a great attitude. Morant isn’t blaming anyone for overlooking him or arguing he deserves the spot more than Conley. He’s saying he needs it’s on him to impress all those voting even more.

The young guard and his Memphis Grizzlies will be better off because of that approach. Morant has been known to take negatives and turn them into positives. He’s doing it again here.

Shaq jokes that Kenny Smith sparked big beef with Dwight Howard

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaq has had a long-running beef with Dwight Howard, and he’s accusing Kenny Smith of being a big catalyst for it.

Episode 2 of “The Inside Story”, a 4-part documentary series on the TNT NBA crew, touches on Shaq’s accusation. Shaq got upset with Howard when the center put on a Superman cape in the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest. O’Neal felt that Howard was infringing on his territory, since Shaq already went by the “Superman” nickname and even had an “S” tattoo.

O’Neal accused Smith of playing a big role in the matter.

“[Kenny] started the beef,” O’Neal said. “You made that man believe he was Superman!”

Shaq was obviously threatened that Howard was challenging his spot as the top center, and that’s why he struck out against the big man.

Shaq’s issues with Howard have continued to even now. Just last year, O’Neal roasted Howard over the way he celebrated the Lakers’ championship.

Adam Silver says NBA has no plans of returning to bubble setup

Adam Silver

Despite multiple teams dealing with interruptions to their seasons due to COVID-19 issues, the NBA is happy with how things are going and is not planning any major changes.

Commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday he does not envision returning to a bubble environment, adding that he is “fairly optimistic” about the second half of the season going smoothly.

While finishing last season in a bubble enabled the NBA to crown a champion, many players talked about how tough the environment was for their mental health. Nobody really wants to go back to that again.

31 games have been postponed due to health and safety protocols since the start of the season. For now, the league has worked them into the second half schedule, but it remains to be seen how any second half postponements will be dealt with.

D’Angelo Russell pushing Wolves to acquire former Lakers teammate?

D'Angelo Russell

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have one Los Angeles Lakers exile in D’Angelo Russell. Now they could be going for two.

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported over the weekend that the Wolves have been “aggressively pursuing” Cleveland Cavaliers big man Larry Nance Jr. since the offseason. Fedor notes that Nance is good friends with Russell, who is described as “a strong Nance advocate.”

Russell and Nance were rookies together on the Lakers during the 2015-16 campaign under the mentorship of the late Kobe Bryant. They spent one more season as teammates before the Lakers traded Russell in the 2017 offseason. Nance was then dealt at the 2018 trade deadline.

The defensive-minded Nance is looking like a popular trade target again. As for Russell, he appears to have at least some pull in Minnesota. Thus, we can expect the Wolves to be at the forefront of Nance talks in the coming weeks.

DeMar DeRozan calls his All-Star snub ‘bulls–t’

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan is sounding off after failing to make the All-Star Game as even a replacement of a replacement.

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley received an invite to replace Phoenix Suns counterpart Devin Booker, who is dealing with a knee injury, at this year’s festivities. Booker had originally been named as the All-Star replacement in the West for Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis.

Right after news of Conley’s selection broke on Friday, DeRozan sent a cryptic tweet that was pretty clearly a reaction to being snubbed.

“Gets to a point where you just gotta laugh at the bulls–t!!” he wrote.

The San Antonio Spurs guard had previously tweeted his displeasure just last week about not making the All-Star team outright.

DeRozan, 31, made quite the case for himself in the first half of the season. He is averaging 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and a career-high 7.2 assists per game. Those are all better numbers than what Conley is posting. But Conley plays for the team with the best record in the NBA. He had also never made an All-Star team before, despite many deserving seasons, giving Conley a lifetime-achievement advantage of sorts over DeRozan, a four-time All-Star.

Regardless, DeRozan has been getting disrespected left and right lately. You can’t fault him for being frustrated about this latest slight.

Photo: Game Face/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Larry Nance Jr. and Channing Frye have hilarious Twitter interaction about trade rumors

Larry Nance Jr

Channing Frye loves to troll his ex-teammates on Twitter, but this time when he did it, one of those former teammates had a perfect response to him.

Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. jokingly remarked on Friday that he wanted people to stop including him in hypothetical trades. That prompted a response from Frye — and an even better retort back from Nance.

It’s true: the Cavaliers acquired Nance and Jordan Clarkson in 2018 in exchange for Frye, Isaiah Thomas, and a first-round pick. In other words, Nance was a bit more valuable than broken shoelaces, at least in Cleveland’s eyes.

Frye and Nance were teammates during the 2018-19 season, and Frye clearly gets on well with those he played with. This is evidence of that.

Michael Jordan canceled his famous comeback press conference for crazy reason

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan stepped away from basketball twice during his career before announcing returns. He ultimately retired in 2003 after his time with the Washington Wizards.

According to Antoine Walker, MJ actually delayed the press conference announcing his return to basketball in 2001 for a wild reason.

Walker joined Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden on CBS Sports’ “All Things Covered” for an episode published on Thursday. In the episode, Walker talked about a time he and MJ teamed up for a game of spades against two others.

Walker says that he and Jordan were down $900,000 at one point. He says they made back nearly all of the money during the gambling session, but they ended up losing six figures.

The crazy part about the story is Walker says the game lasted 36 hours and Jordan even sent out for $500,000 at one point. He says the game went so long that Jordan had to cancel the press conference announcing his return to the NBA.

“What made it even more interesting, it was the day he actually was supposed to make his announcement he was officially coming back. He canceled the press conference, everything. We played for 36 hours, man,” Walker recalled.

Jordan eventually announced his second return to the NBA on Sept. 25, 2001. He played two seasons for the Wizards before retiring for good.

As for Walker, stories about his gambling are all too common, which is how he ended up in such a tough spot later in life.

JaVale McGee could return to Lakers?

JaVale McGee

The Los Angeles Lakers could be getting their secret weapon back just in time for the stretch run of the season.

Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that veteran big man JaVale McGee shares interest with the Lakers in a potential reunion. Woike notes however that McGee would have to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers to a third team and then bought out in order for him to return. The Lakers would otherwise be ineligible to re-acquire McGee after trading him to Cleveland in November.

McGee, 33, is a misfit on the sub-.500 Cavs, especially after they landed 22-year-old Jarrett Allen to soak up most of the minutes at center. The Lakers are hurting for size with Anthony Davis out and Marc Gasol, whom they traded McGee to create room for, visibly in decline. Journeyman Damian Jones started at center in the Lakers’ final game before the All-Star break.

The Lakers are also eyeing seven-footers elsewhere in the league. But McGee is already acquainted with the team’s style, having played the previous two seasons with them, including their NBA championship victory. He had also accepted and flourished in a limited role for the Lakers, making him an attractive option if he can make it through the procedural hoops first.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Luke Walton’s job with Kings is safe despite struggles?

Head coaches for the Sacramento Kings tend to last about as long as Defense Against The Dark Arts professors in “Harry Potter.” That said though, Luke Walton may be bucking that trend, at least for now.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Friday that Walton is not in immediate trouble. Amick adds that Walton is expected to last at least through the rest of the season, barring a complete nose-dive in the second half.

Walton is in his second season as Kings head coach with two years and $11.5 million left on his contract with the team. But Sacramento is faltering again this season, currently sitting 13th in the West with a 14-22 record.

The 40-year-old Walton is the seventh Kings coach in just the last decade. Top assistant Alvin Gentry is also breathing down his neck as a possible replacement. But the Kings have kept the same energy with Walton throughout his tenure, so it sounds like he has a long enough leash.