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At least 27 media members swarmed around Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol and four other Lakers in the final practice before Tuesday’s much-anticipated season opener.
Amidst the media search for starting lineup news, some very interesting questions – and answers – appeared. For example, Phil Jackson was asked if his team’s depth is its best quality. Instead of taking the bait and simply praising his second unit as he often (deservedly) does, Jackson said that the best thing about the Lakers is the “supreme talent” of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Jackson explained that having superstars who have the ability to simply do things better than their opponents is what truly transcends in basketball. Sure, it’s great to have depth of talent, but it’s not doing much good without super talent. Makes you think about Jordan, Pippen, Shaq and Kobe from Jackson’s title runs. He gets it.
Among Bryant’s most interesting comments was his description of why Jackson spent extra time on defense this preseason: It’s a young team. Bryant explained that on L.A.’s three-peat squad, there were a number of vets who already understood team defensive concepts (Shaq, Rick Fox, Brian Shaw, Robert Horry, etc.). Ditto for his Bulls teams (Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and so on). But this Lakers team is young, and needs more prodding in that area, because truly picking up defensive rotations takes years. Bryant dismissed that defense was simply about effort, saying that effort can be fruitless if not given to a solid team defensive concept.
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