Kobe Bryant

D'Angelo Russell's career-high 52 in Warriors' loss sparks Kobe memories

D'Angelo Russell's career-high 52 in Warriors' loss sparks Kobe memories

MINNESOTA -- In the fourth quarter of a familiar game at the Target Center, D'Angelo Russell found himself at the top of the key with the game on the line. 

Guarded by Andrew Wiggins, Russell drove to the lane and made an off-balance shot, sending the game into overtime, capping a night in which he scored nine of his team's final 11 points in regulation. 

That was four years ago, in a Lakers uniform, with the watchful eye of organizational legend Kobe Bryant on the other side of the court.  

"Kobe was like 'you got that,'" Russell told NBC Sports Bay Area following Friday's 125-119 loss to the Timberwolves. "He was coaching me through it."

The moment gave Russell the belief that he could be an NBA player, turning the midwest arena into fertile ground for another outburst. 

On Friday, it happened, as Russell scored a career-high 52 points, including 35 in the second half, carrying Golden State to the brink of its third win of the season. 

"One of the best performances I've seen with my two eyes in person," Warriors forward Alec Burks admitted. 

Russell's dominance was apparent from tip-off. In his first seven minutes, he scored 12 points, helping Golden State take an early 31-29 lead, making a diverse array of shots. Five minutes into the game, he took a dribble handoff from big man Omari Spellman and made a jump shot, drawing a foul on Wolves guard Treveon Graham in the process.

Two quarters later, Russell made a rainbow jumper over 6-foot-11 center Gorgui Dieng, capping off a 14-point third quarter, showing that he was locked in the zone all night.

"You don't even know what time of the game it is," Russell admitted. "You just get in that zone and look up, you've got 20 and then you look back up and you've got 40."

His most impressive play was reserved for his best friend -- Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Up 108-106 with 30 seconds to go, he sized up Towns, before draining a 21-footer to give the Warriors a four-point lead, prompting a forceful declaration. 

"He can't guard me. He knows that," Russell boasted. "He's a great dude, great competitor but he knows he can't guard me."

Russell was so confident in the result he waved off guard Alec Burks once he saw who was guarding him, with sound reason. 

"I just thought it was the best matchup," Russell said. "If Alec had Karl on him -- just the mismatch -- I think we would all give him the ball and attack as well. It just happened to be Karl." 

The performance was a welcome sight for Russell. Though he was averaging 19 points per game entering Friday's game, Russell was shooting just 38 percent from the field. Entering Friday, the Warriors were minus-80 when he was on the floor. Worse, in the midst of his season's previous best effort -- a 30 point performance against Phoenix -- he sprained his ankle, missing three games as a result. 

Russell returns as the Warriors are in dire times. In the last 10 days, five players have missed games due to injury, including star guards Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, who will both be re-evaluated in February. Additionally, Draymond Green didn't travel with the team on the current road trip to treat a torn ligament in his left index finger. Of the 10 active players in Friday's loss, none were with the team last season, putting more of an offensive burden on Russell's shoulders. 

Friday's performance comes as Russell is still trying to find his way on a new team. Coming off an All-Star season in which he averaged 21.1 points and seven assists for the Brooklyn Nets, the 23-year-old is forced to carry his team offensively for a Warriors team ravaged by injuries.

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Similar times followed Russell four years ago. Bryant -- like the rest of the battered Lakers roster -- forced the rookie to find his game. Over the next four games, he averaged 19.5 points, five assists, showing -- like Friday evening -- he's more than up for the task. 

"That was probably one of my best games my rookie year," Russell said. "Showed me what I was capable of, honestly."

Matt Barnes puts Warriors' Steph Curry in all-time NBA starting five


Matt Barnes puts Warriors' Steph Curry in all-time NBA starting five

Matt Barnes isn't afraid to let his feelings be known. The Sacramento native, who played for both the Kings and Warriors, does not mince his words. 

In a Bleacher Report AMA (Ask Me Anything) Barnes made it clear Monday how much he respects Warriors superstar point guard Steph Curry.

"Incredible," Barnes said when asked what it was like playing with Curry. "Played against him for so many years, but when I was playing with him, seeing how hard he worked ... just to see his preparation and how amazing he was as a shooter. Seeing these guys in practice was incredible." 

Barnes didn't stop there, either. He also listed Steph in his all-time starting five along with Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal. 

In the great words of Knicks superfan and creator of some sitcom about nothing, Larry David, that starting five would be pretty, pretty, pretty good. 

Barnes, 39, finished his 14-year NBA career as a champion with the Warriors in 2017. After playing with Curry at the end of the 2016-17 season, he's made sure to stand up for Steph. 

"I think, he came in, he's the golden boy," Barnes said on ESPN's "First Take" back in June. "He came in and destroyed record books, won championships, beat LeBron -- he's done a lot of things that probably angered other players and other fans. That's why I don't think he gets the respect he deserves. 

"He's obviously the greatest shooter to ever play the game and I can see people being bitter from that. Not to mention the whole light-skinned thing, and people have problems with that. Like I said, he's a perfect example of what the NBA needs to be represented as and people don't like that either.

"Most of the time when people are so good or something's so perfect, people don't like that and that's exactly what you get with Steph."

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Barnes is someone you want on your side, and Steph certainly does.

Kings' Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox absorbed information from Kobe Bryant

Kings' Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox absorbed information from Kobe Bryant

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings hosted their annual Media Day Friday afternoon at the team’s practice facility attached to Golden 1 Center. It was the first look at the newly formed squad after a long summer of changes.

Plenty of the Kings’ players have met up over the summer, be it with Team USA, the Serbian national team or just in pick-up games in Sacramento or elsewhere. A pair of Kings even received an invite to Kobe Bryant’s private camp at the Mamba Sports Academy facility in Southern California.

Sacramento’s starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield were both in attendance to absorb information from Bryant and Lakers skills coach Phil Handy.

“It was really good information we got there,” Hield told NBC Sports California on Friday. “I think all of the guys are there asking questions that can help themselves get better.”

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Thomas, John Collins, Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jordan Clarkson were just some of the names at the camp.

The focus was on strength and conditioning, as well as specific drills to improve performance and some video work.

“They pay close attention to detail with everything,” Fox told NBC Sports California. “So like, footwork, not wasting any kind of movement, things like that. Just being efficient with every step that you take when you’re on the court.”

Hield and Fox were the Kings’ two leading scorers last season and are expected to carry a huge load for the team this season as well. The fact that they got an invite to the elite camp is good news for Sacramento as the team attempts to snap its 13-year playoff drought.

“I think every guy that went there got better just by the knowledge that he gives us,” Hield added.

This isn’t the first time the duo has met Bryant. Hield worked out with the 18-time All-Star before the 2016 NBA Draft. Fox spent time with him last summer at a Nike camp, but said that this season the future Hall of Famer was more hands-on.

“I think it’s fun,” Hield added. “I think you get to compete against the best players in the world and you get to learn the best information. Basketball is always growing so you always want to learn new stuff. Learning from guys like Kobe Bryant and Phil Handy, you can’t go wrong with that.”

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Both Hield and Fox said they would love to do the camp again. They have high hopes for what comes next in their careers and they are looking for any advantage they can get.