Today's hottest NBA news centers on the city of Los Angeles, as well as the team of a star who spurned LA.
Phenomenal news for the Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant will return to their starting lineup on Sunday. Horrible news for the Los Angeles Clippers: they've lost three out of their last four and are pouting about it. And the Houston Rockets are taking calls for Dwight Howard's backup.
Here is a breakdown of the aforementioned stories.
Kobe Bryant Back, but Not Completely
Bryant averaged 38.6 minutes per game last season. He will not match that mark in his return to the hardwood against the Toronto Raptors, according to Mike D'Antoni.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported the Lakers' head coach said after practice on Saturday he would limit Bryant's minutes.
I don't think it's a magical number. He's totally well and ready to go. I think he'll be limited by his wind and ability to be able to take the pounding. So, I would be surprised if more than in the twenties. It shouldn't be any more than that.
Los Angeles is ranked No. 13 in the league in points per game this season. What it has missed even more than Bryant's scoring is his defense. Only two teams have surrendered more points than the Lakers thus far.
Jodie Meeks—who Bryant will start in place of on Sunday—has allowed opposing shooting guards to average a Player Efficiency Ratio (PER) of 17.1 this year, according to 82games.com (the average is 15.0). Bryant allowed a PER of 12.8 last season, according to 82games.com.
Doc Rivers Questions Los Angeles Clippers Maturity
The Clippers fell to a record of 13-8 when it lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday by the score of 88-82.
Arash Markazi of ESPN reported Doc Rivers wasn't impressed with his team's attitude throughout the letdown.
We did a lot of pouting in the game. You can't play that way. You have to keep playing. I always call them emotional hijacks, and we had a lot of that going on. That happens, but you have to be able to pull yourself out of it individually or as a group, and I don't think we did a good job of that.
Rivers went on to criticize their maturity, an oddity considering their primary eight-man rotation on Saturday consisted of five players at least 28 years old. That should send a message to the young guns in the starting lineup: Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin, who is Los Angeles' leading scorer this season, shot just 3-of-12 from the field against the Cavaliers. He finished with 10 rebounds as well, but also one shoving match with Anderson Varejao. If Griffin wants to lead the Clippers deep into the playoffs, he can't lose his cool every time his shots aren't falling.
Omer Asik on the Trade Block
Not everyone in Houston celebrated when the Rockets signed Howard this summer. Omer Asik sure didn't.
Marc Stein ESPN reported the Rockets are openly looking to trade Asik, which is what 27-year-old 7-footer wants after being demoted to the bench.
Houston sits at fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 14-7. Its offense isn't an issue. No team scores more than the Rockets, which average 107.9 points per game. Houston's defense, which surrenders the ninth-most points in the league, is the problem.
If the Rockets were able to swap Asik with a defensive specialist at point guard capable of slowing down Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Chris Paul, they'd become a much more serious playoff threat. Frontcourt depth (that actually wants to be in red and white) would also be beneficial.
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.