January 30, 2020 / 3:34 AM / in 2 months

NBA notebook: Vanessa Bryant thanks well-wishers on Instagram

Vanessa Bryant has yet to speak publicly since her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday, but on Wednesday she thanked well-wishers in a statement on Instagram.

FILE PHOTO: Fans gather around a mural to pay respects to Kobe Bryant after a helicopter crash killed the retired basketball star, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot

Earlier Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant changed her Instagram profile picture to one of her husband and daughter hugging. She also made her Instagram page public when she released the new profile picture, changing her account that went to private after the crash.

Later posting a photo of her with her husband and their four daughters, she wrote, in part, “My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them.

“We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.”

—Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is weighing whether to continue using helicopter commutes to get around Southern California. Leonard is pondering the practice after the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others on Sunday.

“The things that you hear, you don’t know what’s real yet,” Leonard said when asked if he has concerns. “I can’t really speak on it. I don’t know. I don’t know yet. It’s a lot of thoughts in my head.”

Leonard knew the helicopter pilot who died in the crash — Ara Zobayan — from his own trips, primarily from Los Angeles to San Diego and vice versa. Leonard was a college star at San Diego State and has a home in the area in addition to having a residence close to the Staples Center.

—Shaquille O’Neal said he will donate proceeds from his annual Super Bowl weekend party to the families of those killed riding in Kobe Bryant’s helicopter, as well as to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation.

Shaq’s Fun House Miami, as the event is called, will be held as planned Friday night, O’Neal announced Wednesday. Diddy, Diplo and Pitbull are among the entertainers scheduled to perform, and it is billed as “part music festival, part carnival, part circus” on the event website.

“Been going back and forth the past couple of days on if I should even have my event in Miami this weekend,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter announcing his donation. “Part of me wanted to stay to myself as I reflect what my brother and his family mean to me and my family. But in thinking what would Kobe want, what would he do? Kobe would want us to push through and celebrate life.”

—Carmelo Anthony is enjoying his time in Portland so much that he says he wants to finish his career with the Trail Blazers.

Anthony was out of the NBA for more than a year before Portland signed him in November. Now he is thinking about returning after his one-year deal expires after the season. The 35-year-old veteran is averaging 16.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in 32 games (all starts) since joining Portland.

“I would love to stay,” Anthony told the Portland Tribune. “I feel like this is the place for me to end my career. It could have happened earlier, but it didn’t. Now, where I’m at in my life and my career — this is where I want to retire.”

—LaMelo Ball, out with a foot injury, left his Australian team this week to return to the United States to rehabilitate and prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft, leaving behind some hard feelings.

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A bone bruise on his left foot sustained last month was expected to keep the 18-year-old on the bench for the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League for the rest of the season, but the team thought the projected top-five draft pick might stick around a while longer. The league is holding a big event — its first-ever Indigenous Round — this weekend.

Instead, he apparently left without saying goodbye. His teammate with the Hawks, Todd Blanchfield, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. News that he had no idea Ball had left when the network contacted him for his reaction.

—Field Level Media

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