Rehab update: Jusuf Nurkic running stairs in the Mile High City

Rehab update: Jusuf Nurkic running stairs in the Mile High City

DENVER -- While local Denver media, national media and reporters from Portland geared up to talk with Carmelo Anthony about his return to the Mile High City, off in the distance was a welcomed surprise.

After Thursday morning’s shootaround wrapped up, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) was seen running two sets of stairs with Trail Blazers Sports and Performance Specialist Todd Forcier.    

The big fella was going hard. It wasn’t as if he was lightly jogging up the stairs.

And to think he’s getting his rehab and cardio in at the high altitude.

Nurkic was in good spirits after running the stairs. He was smiling and joking with his teammates as beads of sweat dripped down his face.

There is still no official timeline on Nurkic’s return. He had surgery in late March to repair a fractured tibia and fibula that he sustained versus the Brooklyn Nets. 

There has been some speculation that Nurkic could be back to the court as soon as January.

And after watching him run the Pepsi Center’s stairs Thursday, it looks like there might be some truth to that speculation. 

Channing Frye: If Kobe Bryant had a superpower, he would be the Hulk

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Channing Frye: If Kobe Bryant had a superpower, he would be the Hulk

After the sudden and shocking passing of Kobe Bryant along with his daughter Gigi and seven others Sunday, the world is sharing their favorite memories of those who have passed. 

“Just to see the reception across the country, how many lives [Kobe] impacted from people that didn’t even know him, that shows you how special he was outside of basketball,” CJ McCollum said after Sunday’s 139-129 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Everyone has a Kobe story. It might be good, it might be not so good. But, they’re equally memorable.

NBC Sports Northwest’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast host Channing Frye has both. 

Bryant was a relentless competitor. He was a tenacious in his preparation. And he would never be outworked. 

His work ethic was second to none. 

“We had the same agent,” Frye told Dan & Nigel in the Mornings on Rip City Radio 620, which simulcasts on NBCSNW. “I would always ask Rob Pelinka what Kobe was doing to be who he was. How to get his game to the next level-- how does he get that good?

Kobe Bryant helped change the game of basketball. He spent 20 years playing with one team, the Los Angeles Lakers. It was there that he became a five-time NBA Champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and 18-time All-Star, four-time All-Star MVP, 11-time All-NBA First Team, nine-time All-Defensive First Team… the list goes on.

“Kobe Bryant is one of those guys I never imagined being on the same court with,” Frye said. “It was always an aspiration.”

“When you played Kobe, it was something different. When you went to LA, you made sure your shoes were tied extra tight. You made sure you got sleep, you made sure you ate better. He just made you better. You really had to look at yourself and say mentally, ‘Am I willing to push myself, or did I do more than Kobe yesterday. Did I prepare the right way?’”

“If everyone had a superpower, Kobe would be the Hulk. Kobe can take on a whole team by himself and he’s willing to do that. So, Kobe is like I’ll go 5-1, I don’t care. I’m still going to win. I put in more work than all five of you guys.”

Bryant was the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He finished his career with 33,643 points. Just one day before his death, LeBron James surpassed Bryant for third all-time on the NBA’s scoring list. 

“All Kobe wanted to do was win,” Frye said. “He was willing to take 70 shots if it was willing to win. His attitude, if you’re willing to put the work in, he’s willing to concede part of the win with you. If he sees you being lazy, he’s not going to pass you the ball and he’s going to ride you because you’re not going to mess up his time. He’s sacrificing time, time with his family, things he wanted to do to be a champion and to be a winner and to be the best. And that’s why certain guys didn’t mesh with him. That’s why certain guys got bbq’d every time you played him.”

Bryant was a player you loved if you were a Lakers fan and hated by all other NBA franchises. 

But, his game was respected by all. 

And he will be missed. 

Damian Lillard named Western Conference Player of the Week

Damian Lillard named Western Conference Player of the Week

Tell me if you're shocked to hear this news!

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week for the week ending January 26, the NBA announced Monday.

Lillard averaged 52.7 points (53.4% FG, 57.4% 3-PT, 94.9% FT), 7.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists while guiding the Trail Blazers to a 2-1 record over the past week. Lillard also became the first player in Trail Blazers history to score 40-plus points in three consecutive games and became the second player in league history to make at least eight three-pointers in three consecutive games during that time period.

Lillard started the week by scoring a franchise-record 61 points (17-37 FG, 11-20 3-PT, 16-16 FT) to go with 10 rebounds, seven assists and one steal in an overtime victory over Golden State on Jan. 20. His 61 points are the most points scored in an NBA game this season while his 11 three-pointers were also a franchise record. In a loss to Dallas on Jan. 23, Lillard recorded 47 points (16-28 FG, 8-15 3-PT, 7-7 FT), six rebounds, eight assists and one steal. It was his 25th career game with 40-plus points. Lillard closed the week with 50 points (14-23 FG, 8-12 3-PT, 14-16 FT), six rebounds and 13 assists to lead Portland to a win over Indiana on Jan. 26. It marked the fifth time in NBA history that a player scored 50-plus points on 23 or fewer field goal attempts.

For the season, Lillard is averaging 28.8 points (45.5% FG, 38.2% 3-PT, 88.8% FT), 4.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. He ranks fifth in the league in scoring average, sixth in assists per game and is second in both three-pointers made  (170) and free throws made (317).

It is the eighth time in his career that Lillard has won the weekly honor and the first time this season.

Blazers and Rip City show their appreciation for Kobe Bryant

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Blazers and Rip City show their appreciation for Kobe Bryant

There have been plenty of cheers for Kobe Bryant in Portland over the years, only typically they'd be chased by boos.

The purple and gold clad Lakers faithful would pack the Rose Garden and then the Moda Center when Bryant would come to town. It wasn’t uncommon to see a quarter of the building rooting for the road team with thousands of No. 8s and No. 24s dispersed throughout the building.

Laker fans would cheer for the hero while Blazers fans would drown them out jeering a hated rival.

Make no mistake Bryant was a villain in Rip City. It was a well earned reputation that came from defeating the Blazers in 2000 Western Conference Finals, and then ushering Portland out of the playoffs in each of the next two seasons. Then there was a double overtime game-winner in Portland 2004, and the 65 points in Los Angeles in 2007.

He tormented the Blazers with brilliance and bravado. The thousands of Lakers fans that would pile into the arena in Portland only added to his aura and fueled the boos from the Rip City faithful. In his final game in this building in 2016, Bryant thanked Blazers fans for booing him wholeheartedly one last time.

Bryant died on Sunday afternoon in a helicopter accident that also took the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. It was a sudden tragedy that rocked the basketball world, and beyond. 

There was an unmistakable weight in the arena, a heaviness that draped across a game that felt at best secondary to the news of day. And on Sunday likely for the first time in Portland basketball history, Kobe Bryant received cheers from the entire building.

It started early when both teams took intentional turnovers to begin the game. The Blazers holding the ball for a 24 second shot clock violation before the Pacers held the ball in the backcourt for an eight-second violation. The building erupted at the tribute, recognizing the nod to Bryant's jersey numbers and honoring him with a standing ovation.

Then in the third quarter the Blazers game operations team showed a fan on the screen holding a gold No. 24 jersey. In the past, the game ops crew would find Lakers fans filing out of the building, the only time a Kobe jersey would get cheers was if it were headed for the exits. However on Sunday, as the camera lingered on the young man displaying the last name on his Lakers jersey the entire building gave a full throated cheer for Bryant, honoring a basketball legend as the big screen flashed to handwritten signs that read “I Love No. 24” and “Kobe” adorned with hearts.

“Everybody felt the weight today. Hurt today. We had to carry on,” Damian Lillard said afterwards. “I think it was the right decision to go out and compete in his honor. I think that’s what he would’ve wanted. I think that’s what was on everybody’s mind. Obviously throughout the game you think about it ... Timeouts and just random dead moments of the game he’s on your mind just because it’s such an unfortunate, sad situation. It was just a tough game to play just as far as your energy and where your heart is, to say the least.”

While Bryant was a villain with the Blazers fan base, he is a friend if not idol to most of the players in the Blazers locker room. Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza were both very close with Bryant while Lillard and CJ McCollum had forged relationships with him over their careers.

Ariza chose not to speak with reporters after the game, understandably not yet ready to publicly process the loss of a close friend just hours after it happened. Anthony was emotional as he answered questions postgame, explaining that Bryant would have wanted him to play even under difficult circumstances.

“Our friendship, relationship was deeper than basketball,” Anthony said. “It was family. It was friendship. Basketball was the last piece of connective tissue between those two.”

Lillard said the game offered him moments to escape while McCollum noted how challenging it is for those in the NBA that knew Bryant to truly mourn with games coming every other day. But they both fondly remembered Bryant for his impressive work ethic, and his willingness to offer advice to them when they were young players first entering the league.

When pressed for a memory of competing against Bryant, Lillard mentioned his NBA debut and then trailed off when a reporter noted another matchup the two had at the end Lillard’s rookie season.

“Best player I ever played against,” Lillard said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

There will be more time to reflect on Bryant the imperfect player and imperfect person in the days and months to come. Sunday was mostly about catharsis, and a city appreciating its once hated archrival.

Forever the cheers for Kobe Bryant in Portland would get swallowed up by boos and jeers until Sunday when the fans stood and the roars lingered.

Kobe Bryant: The player CJ McCollum was always afraid to meet, but probably had the greatest impact

Kobe Bryant: The player CJ McCollum was always afraid to meet, but probably had the greatest impact

The NBA lost a legend Sunday. 

Kobe Bryant, gone too soon at the age of 41, died in a helicopter accident outside of Los Angeles in Calabasas. Nine people, in total, died as a result of the crash. 

For those who saw him play, they watched in awe. 

For those who covered him playing, they marveled at his relentless pursuit of perfection and high standards of excellence. 

For those who played with him, they called him a brother. 

Kobe Bryant set the standard for what preparation and work ethic looked like.

His relentless obsession for perfection is something the sports world may never see again. 

He was a renaissance man. 

It shouldn’t have happened like this. 

Now, those who played with him, who learned from him, attempt to put into words where no words would do it justice. 

But, they try anyways. 

“I’ll never really be able to express the impact he had on my life,” Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said Sunday night after the Trail Blazers 139-129 win over the Indiana Pacers. “My work ethic, my approach — our whole family, we were all Kobe fans.”

Kobe Bryant helped change the game of basketball. He spent 20 years playing with one team, the Los Angeles Lakers. It was there that he became a five-time NBA Champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and 18-time All-Star, four-time All-Star MVP, 11-time All-NBA First Team, nine-time All-Defensive First Team… the list goes on.

Kobe Bryant, whether you love him or hated him during his playing days, will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history. He lived on a stratospheric superstar level. 

That’s why, when other NBA players played against him, it was impossible not to notice. 

“The first game of my career was against Kobe,” Damian Lillard said Sunday. “I don’t really get nervous or get butterflies. But, I walked on the court and was like that’s Kobe over there. I’ll always have that memory.”

“I always tell people, he was the guy that I was afraid to meet,” McCollum added. “Him and Michael Jordan. I knew LeBron growing up, so, although he’s Mount Rushmore great, Kobe was the one I didn’t really know. So, that was a guy I was afraid to meet.”

Bryant was the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He finished his career with 33,643 points. Just one day before his death, LeBron James surpassed Bryant for third all-time on the NBA’s scoring list. 

Back in 2015, McCollum and Kobe shared a moment on the court, which he described after the fact.

“I’ve been watching you since I was a kid,” McCollum told Kobe. “I appreciate what you’ve done for the game and I appreciate your work ethic. People don’t understand what he’s been through and how much he appreciates the game. And coming back from all of those injuries, it takes a special type of person to mentally re-focus and come out and play at a high level.”

Beyond basketball, Bryant had many business ventures, which included those in and out of sports. He touched countless lives. Almost everyone has a Kobe Bryant story. 

“Just to see the reception across the country, how many lives he impacted from people that didn’t even know him, that shows you how special he was outside of basketball,” McCollum added. 

“I just pray for his wife and for his family because Lord knows what they’re going through right now.”

Mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony played in the hardest game of his career

Mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony played in the hardest game of his career

If you had a pit in your stomach Sunday night watching the Trail Blazers play, you weren't alone. 

Moda Center had a very different feeling as the Trail Blazers went on to defeat the Indiana Pacers 139-129 behind Damian Lillard’s electric 50-point performance.

But, before and after the game tipped off, there were many players either holding back tears or looking off into space as if searching for answers.

Why now? How could this happen to an NBA legend?

Coming to terms with its reality was a struggle. It remains a struggle. It feels unreal.

The Trail Blazers and Pacers game went on as scheduled despite the NBA mourning the death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday. 

After the win, the Blazers spoke in the locker room about the man who some grew up idolizing, while other were fortunate enough to face in a game.

Throughout the day NBA players and coaches had been sharing their stories of Kobe.

His competitive nature.

His overall greatness.

Him as a teammate.

A friend.

A father.

For Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony Sunday was a nightmare.

Melo and Kobe played together on Team USA for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

Their relationship was special.

They kept tabs on each other via texts, phone calls, and dinners.

Playing in game just hours after learning the horrific news was more than difficult for Melo.

The 17-year veteran held back tears as he spoke to the media.

It probably was the hardest game I’ve ever had to play. Just… It was tough… Honestly knowing him, the way that I know him, he would’ve wanted me to play. – Veteran Carmelo Anthony holding back tears as he spoke on Kobe’s passing

The 35-year-old admitted that for him Sunday was not at all about basketball.

“I had to try to pull myself back in and check back in emotionally because I wasn’t there today,” Melo said.  

Over the last few months, Anthony has discussed how being away from basketball for a year put a lot of things in perspective.

Now Sunday night, it was as if he had to do that all over again.

Our friendship and relationship was deeper than basketball, it was family, it was friendship… Basketball is the last connective tissue between us to. – Carmelo Anthony

Both Lillard and CJ McCollum also had relationships with the Black Mamba, but of course, it wasn’t to the extent of Melo and Kobe.  

“We talked about it before the game,” Lillard said. “Coach just said that obviously, it’s a tough situation for everybody that had to play today, especially the ones that was friends with Kobe and had a real relationship with him. We’ve got two guys in our locker room who’re really close friends with him and then guys like myself and CJ who actually had a friendship with him and was familiar with him – we’re not the only ones… Everybody felt a way today, was hurt today. But we had to carry on so I think it was the right decision for us to go out there and compete in his honor.”

Lillard did just that. In Kobe’s honor, he not only put up 50 points, Lillard also dished out 13 assists and pulled down six rebounds in the win. McCollum added 28.

“It was tough, it was an emotional day,” McCollum said. "Not just for me, I really feel for my teammates. Trevor (Ariza) and the relationship he had with Kobe.”

Ariza was not made available to the media after the game.

Bryant and Ariza played together for one and a half seasons and won an NBA Championship together in 2009.

McCollum explained how growing up he was scared to meet the Lakers Legend.

“I knew Kobe, we had a decent relationship where we would talk when we see each other but I’m just thankful I was able to express the impact he had on my life, basketball, my work ethic, my approach, my brother’s approach. Our whole family, our coach, the NBA. I would always tell people he was the guy I was afraid to meet him and Michael Jordan. I knew Lebron growing up too, and although he’s like Mount Rushmore great, Kobe was the one I didn’t really know, so that was a guy I was afraid to meet. That really hurt, just to see the reception across the country, all of the lives he impacted, people that didn’t know him. It shows you how special he was outside of basketball. I pray for his wife, his family because lord knows what they’re going through,” McCollum said.

On a night where Lillard made history becoming the first ever Trail Blazer in the team’s history to score at least 40 points in three straight games, it was a night to discuss what Kobe has meant to everyone around the league.

“I didn’t think about basketball today to be honest,” Melo said. “I just knew that I had to do it. This is my job. I’m a professional. I’m sure he would’ve wanted me to play.”

Anthony said he talked with Kobe two days ago where they discussed Bryant’s plans to come to the Blazers-Lakers game next Thursday night at Staples Center. 

Basketball lost a legend Sunday. Kobe Bryant will be greatly missed, but his legacy, his inspiration, will carry on for generations. 

Damian Lillard is doing a lot of things no other Trail Blazer has ever done

Damian Lillard is doing a lot of things no other Trail Blazer has ever done

Damian Lillard is doing a lot of things that nobody else has ever done in a Trail Blazer uniform in the 50 years the franchise has been in existence.

Player of the Week? Well, yes… they ought to name the award for him after the last three games he’s had. But just consider a few of these milestones:

  • He scored 50 points Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers, along with gathering six rebounds and dishing out 13 assists. He made 14 of his 23 shots from the floor -- only the fifth time in NBA history a player has scored 50 or more points on 23 or fewer field-goal attempts.

  • He’s the first player in franchise history to score 40-plus points in three straight games, having put together 60, 47 and 50-point efforts.

  • He’s the first player in franchise history to score 50-plus points three times in one season.

  • He has scored 30 or more points in five straight games, matching the franchise record he shares with Geoff Petrie.

The Trail Blazers posted a 139-129 win over the Pacers, shooting 57.1 percent from three-point range. It was a night when Portland’s ball movement was as good as it’s been all season.

“For sure, we were talking about that on the bench,” said Hassan Whiteside, who posted a 21-point, 14-rebound night. “We were moving.

“Coach really put an emphasis on it at practice yesterday. He did a drill where we couldn’t dribble more than two times, so we were forced to pass.”

And pass they did -- to the tune of 27 assists. And the simple fact that the team was able to practice was a plus. The Blazers have had two days off after each of the last two games, giving them a day of rest and a day of practice for the first time since Christmas.

“Whenever you get a chance to be by yourself and collect, rather than practicing or just being home, that makes a difference,” said CJ McCollum, who hammered home 6 of his 9 three-point field goals and scored 28 points. “We’ve been traveling a lot and it’s good to get some relaxation and peace.”

It appears that the addition of Trevor Ariza, at least so far, has given the guards a bit more space on offense and been a boost to the defense and rebounding.

“He’s a smart guy -- a veteran guy with 16 years in the league,” McCollum said. “He understands the game and knows his role. He’s going to knock down shots and he’s going to be aggressive when he needs to.

“And he’s going to defend every possession.”

Lillard’s three-game scoring run has been sensational. He’s made 27 of his 47 three-point shots, 47 of his 88 shots overall, 37 of 39 free throws and averaged 8.1 assists per game.

What’s he doing during that time?

“I just try to lock in to all the details of how I can be my best -- getting rest, massages, cold tub, staying off my feet, watching a little bit more film and just looking into ways I could be effective, more consistently.

“Also, just a mentality. Just trying to go out there, make sure I do my job to give our team the best chance to win games, especially in the situation we’re in, where we’ve got to start pulling more of these games out.

“I think a lot of these playoff teams coming up on our schedule, against good teams -- the more we can pull these games out, our confidence will keep picking up and going into the games where it’s teams that are middle of the pack like us, fighting for the playoff spots like us, we’ll go into those games feeling like we should win them, playing we should win them.”

And if Lillard keeps playing the way he has in the last three games, anything is possible.

Instant Analysis: Could Pacers slow down Damian Lillard? Nope

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Instant Analysis: Could Pacers slow down Damian Lillard? Nope

Before the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers tipped off, the Blazers played a tribute video of Kobe Bryant followed by a moment of silence for 24 seconds to honor the NBA legend.

Once the game tipped, both teams honored Kobe.  The Blazers took it upon themselves to pay tribute by running out the 24 second shot clock to begin the game, while the Pacers did the same with an 8 second backcourt violation, honoring the two numbers Kobe wore during his career. 

Shots were falling early and often for both teams Sunday night. Portland and Indiana both shot over 50 percent in the first quarter.

At the break, the Blazers held a 10-point lead.

Portland's biggest lead on the night was 21 points in big thanks to their hot three-point shooting. 
FINAL BOX SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS 139, PACERS 129

Here are three quick takeaways from Sunday’s win:

1.  Lillard doing it all  

Damian Lillard was dialed in Sunday night. 

He started out the game a perfect 6-for-6 from the field. In the first half, Lillard had 23 points, nine assists, and three rebounds. Midway through the third quarter it was time to start the triple-double watch for the Blazers All-Star point guard. Lillard was four rebounds shy of the feat, but he did become the first player in Trail Blazers history with at least 40 points in three straight games.   

2.  Whiteside’s fouls throws off rotation early, but he brings the heat in 2nd half

The Trail Blazers were forced to go with a small ball lineup after Hassan Whiteside picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter. Third-year player Caleb Swanigan picked up the slack on the glass. In his first nine minutes of action Biggie had seven rebounds. Despite not playing with a true center in the second lineup, Portland was still able to out-rebound the Pacers which makes sense considering Indiana starts 6’11” power forward Domantas Sabonis at five.

Whiteside brought the crowd to its feet though midway through the third quarter. The 7-footer blocked JaKarr Sampson's layup and then came down on the other end and threw down a big dunk, assisted by Carmelo Anthony.  

3.  Pacers look like a team on their fifth and final game of the trip

Indiana has been on the road since Jan. 18 when they started off their current five-game road trip in Denver. Often time’s teams struggle to put together a complete game when they know they are finally going to be heading back home after the final horn sounds.

And, that’s what it looked like happened to the Pacers Sunday night. Coming into Sunday’s game in Portland, Indiana was 1-3 on the trip with wins over the Nuggets, the Suns, and the Warriors.

But, against the Blazers, the Pacers looked out of sorts, missing lay-ups and wide open threes, as well as looking a step behind on the defensive end.  

Up Next: Portland concludes its four-game homestand Wednesday night when the Blazers host the Houston Rockets. The Blazers and Rockets tip-off at 7:00pm on NBCSNW. 

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the players!

Damian Lillard makes history with 50-point performance vs. Pacers

Damian Lillard makes history with 50-point performance vs. Pacers

What a week it has been for Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.

It’s pretty fitting for a number of reasons that Lillard went off on Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers.

Lillard has been on a scoring tear this past week and Sunday was no different.

In the Blazers 139-129 victory over the Pacers, Lillard finished with 50 points, 13 rebounds, and six rebounds.

Lillard now becomes the first player in Trail Blazers history to score at least 40 points in three straight games.

Here’s a quick look Lillard’s last three games:

Monday night vs. Warriors he finished with 61 points.

Thursday night against the Mavericks he finished with 47 points.

Sunday night in the win over the Pacers, Lillard notched his 11th double-double and makes history once again.

Lillard also becomes the first member of the Trail Blazers to score 50 points or more three times in one season. He scored 60 points vs. Brooklyn back on November 8th. 

The Trail Blazers will get a couple of days off before they're back in action Wednesday night vs. the Houston Rockets. Tip-off is at 7pm on NBCSNW. 

Former Trail Blazers Jermaine O'Neal and Rod Strickland reflect on the life of Kobe Bryant

Former Trail Blazers Jermaine O'Neal and Rod Strickland reflect on the life of Kobe Bryant

The NBA world was shocked early Sunday when news started to circulate that Kobe Bryant had passed away in a horrific helicopter crash. 

It was the type of news that at first, you thought was just a cruel social media joke. You didn't want to believe it. 

But eventually, you had to. 

Reports trickled in from Los Angeles, and eventually, the news was officially confirmed - Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi were gone. 

The news was hard to swallow, but fans, friends, and NBA players past and present took to social media to share their grief. 

Prior to Sunday's game against the Pacer, the Blazers held 24 seconds of silence and honored Bryant in a special way once the action got underway. 

Sunday also happened to be 90s night at Moda Center.

Former Trail Blazers Jermaine O'Neal and Rod Strickland were in attendance, both of whom played many games against the Lakers legend. 

Said O'Neal, "It still doesn't seem real and it's hard to digest" as he shared some thoughts about his close friend Bryant.  

Strickland, too, had some fond memories of Bryant, but they had little to do with their on the court battles. 

The former point guard's memories had more to do with the Mamba Mentality. 

The NBA lost a legend on Sunday, and the game just doesn't feel the same without him.