Sixth Man (cont.)
Kobe scores 30,000 points. Bryant, who joined the Lakers at age 18, became the youngest player to reach that level in a victory Wednesday in New Orleans. Health permitting, Bryant, now 34, could pass Wilt Chamberlain (fourth all time with 31,419 points) and Michael Jordan (32,292) to stand No. 3 in NBA scoring. Karl Malone ranks No. 2 (36,928) behind leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).
The Grizzlies remain on top. Memphis (13-3) has been playing at a consistently high level early in the season. A 99-95 overtime loss at San Antonio last weekend was just the Grizzlies' second defeat in 15 games.
Anthony Davis sidelined. The Hornets' rookie big man and Olympic gold medalist is expected to miss another week while recovering from a stress reaction in his left ankle. His absence has opened the door for Portland point guard Damian Lillard in the Rookie of the Year race.
Rip Hamilton injured. The 34-year-old shooting guard is sidelined indefinitely by a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. Hamilton is the Bulls' No. 2 scorer with 13.9 points. He will return from the painful injury "as his symptoms permit," according to the Bulls. Chicago leads the Central Division at 9-8 without Derrick Rose, who is expected to return from knee surgery later this season.
Rick Majerus dies. The renowned college coach was 64 when he died of heart failure after being hospitalized for several months. His mourners included NBA coaches Doc Rivers and George Karl, who were among the many coaches and players mentored by Majerus.
New Orleans Pelicans? That will be the new name for the New Orleans Hornets, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports. New Orleans has been discussing a name change since before Tom Benson purchased the team. If the Hornets' identity becomes a free agent, it may be reacquired by Michael Jordan in Charlotte, whose current nickname -- the Bobcats -- is linked to the team's original owner, Bob Johnson.
The Spurs' hilarious photo. A Halloween snapshot of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker pointing fake guns at the bald head of a partygoer dressed as referee Joey Crawford -- Duncan's nemesis -- spread virally. Talk of a potential penalty for the Spurs was ridiculous. No doubt Crawford got a kick out of the image.
The 6-foot-8 small forward is in his fifth season with the Trail Blazers. Batum, a 23-year-old Frenchman, went 25th overall in the 2008 draft.
His father, Richard Batum, died of a ruptured aneurysm. "My father was a pro basketball player in France," Batum said. "He passed away while playing in the game on the basketball court. I was 2 years old. I was in the crowd with my mom when it happened.
"That's a terrible memory. I think about it sometimes. I just remember he got fouled and went back to the free-throw line to shoot his free throws, and then he was falling down at the free-throw line. I can remember when my father went down, and I can remember later, when I wake up, all of the TV stations around and my mom crying and all the craziness going around. Here I was 2 years old, but I've got memories about it."
When Batum arrived in North America as a 19-year-old to try out for the '08 draft, he heard repeatedly from NBA coaches and executives about the death of Hank Gathers, who was 23 when he suffered a fatal heart attack during a 1990 college game in Los Angeles. "People were scared that the same thing could happen to me," Batum said.
Batum's pre-draft workout with Toronto was suspended when he failed to pass a stress test of his heart. "It became a huge story and it was 10 days before the draft, so I didn't have a lot of time to show that I'm good," he said. "So I did some different [medical] tests in San Antonio and Cleveland and I showed I was OK. It surprised me, like, why now, 10 days before the draft -- 10 days before my goal and my life dream? So that was a tough moment.''
He thought of his father when the Blazers chose him in the draft. "He was crazy on the court; me, I'm like a cool guy, smooth," Batum said. "He played inside, he was a power forward and he had to fight almost every game, and he got crazy after every game. So I'm totally different from him.
"But I think I have to continue his legacy. He was a basketball player, and so I have to do it too. I would talk about it when I was a kid. At school people would ask me, What do you want to do when you become a grown man? I want to play basketball. That's it. That's all I want to do. Because I knew he was a player, I just wanted to play basketball. I didn't know I was going to play in the NBA; I just wanted to be a basketball player somewhere. But now it's good for me to be in the NBA, because I know he's proud of me and watching down on me.''
Free agency helped Batum recognize his potential. As a restricted free agent last summer he was surprised when the Timberwolves offered him $46.1 million over four years. "I knew the team would be interested in me, but I was surprised about the offer," he said. "They saw something in me, and they gave confidence to me. And when the Blazers actually matched the offer, that gave me much more confidence. I knew they loved me and trusted me, but that [signing] showed me much more. I know people are going to talk about the contract but I don't care, because the Blazers trusted me and believed in me.''
Batum had averaged no more than 13.9 points in his first four seasons with Portland. He credits his improved production this season -- career highs of 16.9 points, six rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals -- to the inspiration he drew from Portland's decision to match Minnesota's offer sheet in order to retain him.
"It showed me I can be this player," he said. "I have to be this player. I think I can be this player, so I have to work every practice and every game."