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Star Taipan on going head-to-head with Kobe

DURING Nate Jawai's stint with Minnesota in the NBA, his Timberwolves were not exactly considered title contenders.

In fact, in the 2009-2010 season when the Bamaga product was in Minneapolis, the club went 15-67 - finishing 15th overall - the worst record in the western conference of the NBA.

So, the top teams would often take it easy on the Timberwolves, rest their star players or blow them out quickly and sit the big names in the fourth quarter.

That did not apply for Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, who this week passed away following a helicopter crash that killed nine people, including his daughter Gianna, continued to play with force against the battling Timberwolves, which displayed to Jawai just how committed you have to be to make it in the NBA.

"We played against him that year, we were not in playoff contention or anything, we were the bottom-placed team but he was still competitive," Jawai recalled on Wednesday.

"We were the last team on the ladder and defensively, he was a machine, and he was the same on offence.

"He had a competitive nature that was just unbelievable, and I was able to witness that.

"He had such a good impact on the world and it was so sad waking up to the news."

LOS ANGELES – MAY 31: Kobe Bryant #8 and Karl Malone #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk downcourt in Game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2004 NBA Playoffs on May 31, 2004 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the
LOS ANGELES – MAY 31: Kobe Bryant #8 and Karl Malone #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk downcourt in Game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2004 NBA Playoffs on May 31, 2004 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the

Bryant would go on to win NBA Finals MVP that season, defeating one of his biggest rivals, the Boston Celtics in the decider.

Cairns coach Mike Kelly was born in California and grew up a big-time Lakers fan.

While he lived in Australia for much of Bryant's career, the 52-year-old says his Snakes squad will play with Bryant's "Mamba Mentality" on Friday night against Illawarra.

"I keep hearing about how he prepared and played to win all the time," Kelly said.

"As a group, we take something from that and spoke about that a little bit.

"I think this generation of young players grew up with Kobe and it impacts them in a profound way, more than it would impact me.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, gets a rebound against Minnesota Timberwolves centre Darko Milicic during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, gets a rebound against Minnesota Timberwolves centre Darko Milicic during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

"We have reflected on it as a group and just said let's compete as Kobe would compete, and have that attention to detail, and I think we saw some of that at training today."

The NBL will honour the late Bryant and his daughter Gianna before each game in Round 18.

Beginning with Wednesday night's clash between Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats at Melbourne Arena, there will be 24 seconds of applause before tip-off at each game.

The 24 seconds of applause will be accompanied by a video celebrating the life of Kobe and Gianna Bryant on the big screen at each venue.

The NBL will stage its inaugural indigenous Round this week.

The round will recognise and acknowledge indigenous culture and basketball across Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Taipans guard Jarrod Kenny has been selected in an extended Tall Blacks squad of 14 for Round One of FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers next month.

 

Round 18

TAIPANS V HAWKS

When: Friday, 7pm, at Cairns Convention Centre

Likely starters

Taipans: Majok Deng, DJ Newbill, Mirko Djeric, Scott Machado, Cameron Oliver

Coach: Mike Kelly

Hawks starters: Todd Blanchfield, Andrew Ogilvy, Tim Coenraad, Sunday Dech, Emmett Naar

Coach: Matt Flinn

Ladbrokes odds: Taipans $1.18, Hawks $4.90



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