- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Maybe Kobe Bryant is changing jersey numbers next season — from No. 8 to No. 24 —because he is now competing against his boyhood idol.

Bryant wore No. 24 at the beginning of this high school career but switched to No. 33, the number his father Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant wore in high school.

When Bryant entered the league, he couldn’t wear No. 33 because it had been retired by the Lakers to honor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Instead, he chose No. 8, the number he wore as a kid playing in Italy, and he wore that number because it was the number of his favorite Italian league player — Suns coach Mike D’Antoni.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento Kings

The Spurs won Game 2, in part, because reserve guard Brent Barry scored 22 points, including a 3-pointer that hit the rim twice, bounced high off the backboard and finally went in with four seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

That’s what elevates the Spurs from contenders to favorites — their bench.

Barry, Robert Horry, Nick Van Exel, Michael Finley and Rasho Nesterovic are a playoff team by themselves — in the Eastern Conference.

Horry always is worth one or two wins a playoff season. If Barry, Van Exel and Finley prove just as valuable, then the Spurs won’t be challenged until the NBA Finals.

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