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Court Vision: Looking back at Kobe Bryant, the rookie, on his 35th birthday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaJMLnt5bdU

Kobe Bryant turned 35 on Friday. In honor of his birthday, the NBA uploaded a series of highlight videos to their YouTube channel, including the top 10 plays of his 1996-97 rookie season. As an 18-year-old, Bryant averaged just 7.6 points in 15.5 minutes per game, but No. 8 showed plenty of flashes. Included in the reel: a no-look pass to Nick Van Exel, a double-clutch dunk over his left shoulder in transition, a high-rising alley-oop finish, and plenty more. Video via YouTube user NBA.

• Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reflects on the finer points of the sportswriting craft.

You work hard at getting to know the people you’re writing almost daily about, you work to find out what makes them tick, how they got to where they are, what tugs there are in their lives and you make your judgments based on that. Are they good people? Or bad people? Does what they say come from the heart and the mind or is it just boilerplate tripe that offers no insight and is given simply out of a sense of obligation or something.

And when you hear that tripe, you try to ignore it because to present it as fact when you know it’s not is cheating the readers, and that’s who you’re ultimately working for.

I think many of you know me well enough to understand one of the tenets of how I do my job is an age-old cliché: If you don’t have something good to say, say nothing.

One of the nuances of this business is comment but no comment; if you don’t read here things that some people say it’s because I’ve filtered it out, figured it was misleading or self-indulgent and not worth my time or yours.

• There are some truly vicious moments in DailyThunder.com's recap of the best dunks in Oklahoma City's five-year history.

Nicolas Batum tells Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype.com that teammate LaMarcus Aldridge isn't seeking a trade out of Portland.

There have been these rumors that he has privately demanded a trade from Portland...

NB: I heard that too and I laughed when I read that. He doesn't want to get traded, he wants the team to get better. LaMarcus is a winner.

He has told you that?

NB: I mean, I know that's what he wants. We had two bad seasons and missed the playoffs and wants the team to improve. I think he didn't ask for a trade. He wants to stay and win with the Blazers. He just wants a better team around him so we can get back to the playoffs.

• Here's Kevin Durant and Kent Bazemore putting on a show in a Bronx gym. Talk about a crowd-pleasing pair. Video via YouTube user JRSportBrief

http://youtu.be/uyIJOA9qeSM

Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk

• Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times wonders what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's retirement will mean for pro basketball in Seattle, given Ballmer's pursuit of the Sacramento Kings earlier this year.

Steve Ballmer’s going to need to do something in his retirement besides mow the lawn at his Hunts Point mansion. He’s also clearly been bitten by the pro sports bug, after nearly winning an NBA franchise for Seattle over the last year.

...

Ballmer would be a force in the league. Not just because he’d be the wealthiest owner, but because of the rare combination of personal skills and analytical capabilities that have enabled him to steadily grow Microsoft sales and profits, if not its stock price and stature in consumer computing.

• Zach Lowe of Grantland.com writes that the Bucks' signing of Larry Sanders puts the onus on Milwaukee's perimeter players to move the franchise out of its middle-of-the-pack funk.

But it’s hard to see a high long-term ceiling with the current backcourt and wing rotation. The Bucks have aspirations of being the Pacers, a small-market team that builds something special without the benefit of a homegrown top-10 pick. SANDERS! can be their Roy Hibbert, only with pick-and-roll finishing in place of Hibbert’s soft-touch post game and offensive rebounding. But who among the guard and wing crew is ready to be George Hill or Paul George — the young guys who reach high enough ceilings so that the team is one free-agent home run (i.e., a David West) away from 45 to 50 wins and playoff excellence?

That’s the question the Bucks face now.

• Adam Harris of SportsBusinessDaily.com reports that ESPN's John Skipper is looking ahead to the next round of NBA television rights negotiations.

ESPN President John Skipper said the net is intent on remaining a broadcast partner with the NBA and he expects "to be aggressive in doing that.” Skipper said during ESPN's Media Day yesterday, “There are plenty of live sports rights, but the ones that make a difference are scarce.” He called the NBA a "critical product" for ESPN and added there are "not many things that move the needle like that." The net's current rights deal expires after the '15-16 season, and there have been rumors Fox will make a heavy play for the NBA to add content to the new FS1. Skipper addressed speculation that web-based platforms are increasingly competing for major sports rights, saying, “It is incomprehensible to me that the NBA would decide to put their games on a digital platform, and that sports fans are going to make a transformation, saying, ‘I’m going to go to Yahoo to watch my games tonight.’ I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think they have any way to monetize those rights in the same way that traditional (networks can).”

• Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times interviews new Clippers coach (and executive) Doc Rivers.

He sees no urgency to make massive changes and he credited his predecessor, Vinny Del Negro, for providing a solid foundation.

"Listen, they won 56 games, so they're not all bad," Rivers said. "That's why I'm watching all the films, because there are things that you absolutely want to continue to do. Vinny did so many good things here. And you want to continue to do some of those things, and then you want to add some of the areas where you think you can make improvements.

"As athletic as we are, we didn't run enough. We have to get up and down the floor more offensively. We have to do a better job of our spacing offensively. And we have to find a way to close games. Over anything, that's what stands out. We have to execute as a group better. Each guy has to buy into that execution, and so there's things we have to do."

• Another summer day, another Durant ad. In this one, he plays the role of spymaster for Foot Locker. Video via YouTube user FootLocker.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtkfOE1ObEA

Hawks guard Lou Williams has released a rap mixtape. The first song opens with samples from The Godfather, Scarface and Jay-Z.
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