Kobe loving the hate

Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell got some national airtime when he said good riddance to Kobe Bryant after the Lakers superstar scored 38 points in Bryant’s final game against the Wolves on Tuesday night.

Mitchell deadpanned, “I hate him,” then repeated himself after adding it’ll be too soon if he ever sees Bryant again.

“Well, I thank you for the hate,” Bryant said when told of Mitchell’s comments. “I appreciate that. I truly love that.”

Mitchell gave an L.A. reporter an icy stare Wednesday when asked about a 2006 game in which Bryant scored 81 points against a Mitchell-coached Toronto team that refused to double-team Bryant, just like the Wolves seldom did Wednesday.

“I gave him a hard time, too, about it, just joking about it,” Bryant said. “Honestly, that night there’s nothing much he could have done. I was rising up and just shooting over guys. It was just one of those freakish nights, man. But I’ll still continue to rib him every time I see him.”

Calling for KG

Fans worldwide voted Bryant to start in next Sunday’s All-Star Game, for the final time. TNT analyst Kenny Smith, for one, would like to see somebody else so honored.

“This is a great showcase of Kobe’s career,” Smith said. “It’s a celebration of his career, what he has done in the NBA. I also think at some point the NBA should bring in Kevin Garnett, doing the same thing. It’s a celebration of two guys over the last two decades, [who have] probably been at the peak of not only their basketball abilities, but exemplify the NBA and what it has been all about. I would love to see them bring in Kevin Garnett as well and make it a celebration for those guys.”