NBA All-Star game: Kobe Bryant savors last appearance

By Larry Millson, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 15, 2016 at 8:56 AM

TORONTO -- This is a season of farewells for Kobe Bryant.

The Los Angeles Lakers forward will retire at the end of the season, so Sunday was his last appearance in the All-Star Game. He was selected an All-Star 18 times, and he played in the game 15 times, all starts.

"This is pretty cool, I'm looking around the room and seeing guys that I'm playing with that are tearing the league up that were like 4 during my first All-Star Game," he said. "It's true. I mean, how many players can say they've played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean?

"It's not sad at all. I mean, I'm really happy and honored to be here and see this."

Bryant went out a winner, compiling 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds to help the West post a 196-173 victory over the East. The total points were an All-Star Game record. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James scored 13 points for the East to squeak past Bryant in All-Star scoring with 291 points to Bryant's 290.

"It was fun," Bryant said. "I had a blast playing with those guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench. And, you know, I got a chance to stop Pau (Gasol) in a post, redeem myself from what he did to me when Chicago came to town. But all those things are just fun. I had a great time. I had a great, great time."

--Commissioner Adam Silver said that there could be changes made to combat the strategy of fouling poor free-throw shooters to slow offenses, often called hack-a-Shaq.

"I'm beginning to feel that a change needs to be made," Silver said of the tactic that is being used at a greater rate this season. "There's a clear trend."

He said he NBA competition committee continues to evaluate the policy.

"The interesting thing, though, and this is true even among the strongest critics of the so-called hack-a-Shaq strategy -- there doesn't appear to be a clear consensus on what the new rule should be," Silver said. "So I think it's my job right now to at least formulate an alternative."

--The Toronto Raptors won 14 of 16 games leading into the All-Star Game break and are second in the Eastern Conference, three games behind the Cavaliers. The past two seasons, Toronto was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but the team appears better prepared for a longer run this season.

The Raptors have 30 games left, and guard DeMar DeRozan said they plan to be aggressive.

"It's a whole new season for us," DeRozan said. "We've got to understand that. We're playing for something big, not just to win games to get in the playoffs and make some noise. I think this next 30 games is definitely a teaching tool for us to understand how we've got to win games every single night."

--James was limited to 20 minutes in the All-Star Game and scored 13 points. The East coach was Tyronn Lue, who also coaches the Cavaliers, so he might have been looking ahead.

"Oh, well, it was going as planned," James said. "If the game would have gotten a little closer, he would have put me back in the game. I think from his standpoint, he'd rather me not play as much, knowing what's ahead of us. Minutes were down, but it felt good just to be out there in the minutes that I played and be able to cheer on the rest of my All-Stars while I was sitting out."

--Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry scored 26 points to help the West prevail Sunday. His team is 48-4 and will resume its quest for a second straight NBA championship, but he was happy to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere in Toronto.

"We try to do our best to just enjoy the moment and not bring any other drama or competition outside of just the accomplishment and excitement of being an All-Star and what that means," he said. "Yeah, obviously, Thursday, Friday, when games start up, put our game face back on and figure out how we're going to try to finish out the season strong and go after another championship. But tonight, I think the more you come here, the easier it is to kind of just enjoy it.

"It's such a high-stress environment everywhere we go, and we play (hard) every regular-season game, so to be able to just enjoy the entire night is something you want to be able to take in."

--San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has the task of chasing the Warriors in the Western Conference, but he talked Sunday about how much fun he had as coach of the West team.

"Sure, it was a joy," Popovich said. "It's the most fun I've ever had at an All-Star Game just because of the predominant group of the young, talented kids coming up. ... Watching them interact with each other was a thrill for me. We had fun at practice the other day. They're just a fun-loving group and they enjoy each other as much as they enjoy the game. So it was a lot of fun for me."

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