After Thursday afternoon’s practice in Washington D.C., Kobe Bryant spent a good seven minutes talking to assembled reporters from both L.A. and D.C., an interview I’ll post at the bottom of this entry.
Sometimes you’ll catch stars like Bryant in a mood to answer any and all questions, and today was one of those days … Not only that, but after he finished talking the first time, Bryant spent about 10 more minutes chatting with various reporters, including TNT’s David Aldridge. Furthermore, after seeing me in a juggling contest with Sasha Vujacic after practice (I managed to pull out a win, but only because juggling a basketball’s easier than a pumped-up-too-much volleyball), Kobe and I chatted briefly about one of his true loves: soccer. His favorite team is F.C. Barcelona, and favorite player Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who also plays for Barcelona (not surprisingly Gasol’s favorite squad as well). Messi performed in front of Bryant at the Olympics in China, though I didn’t have a chance to ask Kobe if he spent any time interacting with Messi.
I’ll try to catch Bryant soon for more on that front, but for now, here are a few bullet points leading into Thursday’s audio:
Road trips are team bonding experiences: “Every time you go on the road you build it up a little bit,” Bryant said. He mentioned that the long trips (L.A.’s first long one lasts from Jan. 29 to Feb. 8) are the best for that. Obviously.
Strength, not toughness the problem? A D.C. reporter implied that the Lakers weren’t tough in last season’s Finals, and Bryant said this: “We need to get stronger … I don’t think it was a matter of being tough. They were just stronger than we were.”
Kobe suggested, indirectly, that Washington’s struggles were due simply to injuries, not to the coaching of now-fired Eddie Jordan. “It was an injury problem … The guys just weren’t there. When they’re not on the floor, it’s tough for a team to progress when the key guys aren’t there.”
Kobe said he’s “not a ‘poor me’ kind of guy,” referring (kind of) to the fact that he’s not dwelling on last season’s loss. Instead, he’s trying to energize himself and his teammates towards gaining the title this year. In short, any time the Lakers go to a different media market and there’s access, he’s going to get asked about the Finals and how the team’s doing trying to get back there. He usually answers in the same way, of course.
I asked Kobe about Pau’s having to guard a lot of perimeter players (like Antawn Jamison tomorrow), and he said this: “Pau had to chase Dirk around, David West … He’s had his hands full quite a lot this season, and tomorrow’s going to be no different.” OK true, but I mean, what can you do to help? “We’re always going to team defend anyway, so it’s just a matter of forcing him into situations where we can provide help and support for (Gasol).” Fine, I won’t push it. I was looking for some analysis of how L.A. can specifically confront defensive mismatches when teams go small at the four position, but I’m not trying to ask Kobe the same question three times.
Aldridge asked Kobe if he anticipated having to guard point guards in the postseason, citing Deron Williams and Chris Paul in particular, and I found Bryant’s answer pretty interesting (as well as the question): “It all depends, really. I’m up for it if that’s what works best for us … But we mostly use myself and Trevor (Ariza) as roamers – like free safeties. For example, if there’s a non shooter in the game, or even if it is a shooter and a guy’s really hurting us, I can roam around and be disruptive to what he’s doing, and then get back to my guy. That’s what we do a lot of times, because if you’re guarding a main guy, they’re going to set picks for him anyway. They’re going to get you off him, and he’s going to be attacking a big, so if you’re on the weak side, you might as well just come and help out.”
That’s my favorite time to listen to Kobe – when he’s really breaking down the hoops.
Here’s your audio: