We put together Kobe Bryant’s quotes from last night’s locker room session and Monday’s practice session, with some editorial notes in select places:
Q: On if he feels for Dwight Howard’s free-throw struggles:
Kobe: He should look at it as an opportunity because once he conquers the ability to make free throws, the sky is the absolute limit for him. So he should really approach it as an opportunity.
Q: On pushing Howard for more:
Kobe: Honestly, there’s really not much for him to do. The thing about his intensity is, if he’s upset, it affects the team. So everybody’s mood changes and everybody becomes a little bit more serious. Truthfully, his biggest thing is conquering the free throws a little bit. If he makes those free throws, the guy would be averaging 30 points a night. That’s the thing people try to attack with him, and once he gets that down, there’s going to be no stopping him.
Q: On if it’s better for Dwight to be angry during games:
Kobe: It’s really not for him. He can play loose and do the things that he does. It’s just at certain times, it impacts some of the other guys. When you see him a little feisty and a little chippy, all the guys kind of get a little feisty. His biggest thing is mastering the free-throw line. He does that, there’s no stopping him.
Q: On the level of concern regarding the team’s lack of consistent play:
Kobe: The pressure is on me and Dwight (Howard) to really perform well. We’ll pick up for everybody’s else’s mistakes – whatever that may be – and he and I have to perform at a really, really high level night in and night out.
Q: On where he feels the team is at right now:
Kobe: We’re up and down. Some games we come out and we shoot the ball extremely, extremely well. On those nights, obviously the game is a lot easier for myself, it’s easier for Dwight (Howard), it’s easier for everybody because the floor can stay spaced because everybody is knocking down shots. Then there are nights where we don’t hit and it becomes a little harder, but like I said, we just have to make the easy ones.
Q: On how he feels emotionally:
Kobe: It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity. Pau (Gasol) has to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he’d like. But he just has to adjust. The reality is I’ve adjusted. I’ve never run this many screen and rolls in my entire life, but I’ve worked on it. I’ve worked on handling the ball, worked on coming off the screens and making plays. I’m used to being in the post much, much more, but you have to adjust. You have to master what it is that we’re trying to do here. Pau is talented enough and good enough to be able to do that.
Editor’s Note: This is maybe the 1,000th time in the past few seasons that Bryant has made a comment about holding either himself or his teammates accountable to making adjustments or changing their games or improving effort, etc. It’s necessary from his leadership position. He wasn’t calling Gasol out, simply sharing his opinion. Bryant is also aware that the tendinitis in Gasol’s knees has become an issue that has limited the Spaniard’s explosiveness and ability to move with the type of quickness he has at full health. That doesn’t excuse adjustments or simply playing better, but is an explanation for his career low field goal percentage. But 42 percent for a guy that has never shot below 50 percent does suggest such an injury affecting his performance.
Q: On keeping players connected when playing time is limited:
Kobe: Put your big boy pants on*. Come on, just adjust, just adjust. You can’t whine about it, you can’t complain about it. Like I said, I’m 34 years old and I’m running screen and rolls out there because Steve (Nash) is out my ass is running up and down the court more than I ever have my entire career. But you have to adjust to it. I stay after practice, I work on my ball handling, work on my screen and rolls and stuff like that. When you have the talent to adjust to it, you have to adjust to it.
*Again, this is a phrase Kobe has said over and over again about many of his teammates. He wasn’t specifically singling out anybody.
Q: On Mike D’Antoni saying he doesn’t want to “lose” players like Jordan Hill who aren’t getting minutes, or Gasol who’s minutes were cut in the fourth quarter in part because of his lack of athletic movement on the court (i.e. tendinitis):
Kobe: We’re not going to lose (Gasol). That’s just not going to happen. I’ve been around him long enough. I know how to deal with him.
Q: On evaluating his patience level when the offense isn’t running well:
Kobe: To me, it’s night to night. I really just read the defense in front of me and take the shots that are available. I really don’t have to force anything. If I have mid-range jump shots, I take them. If they come off me, I make the pass. It’s pretty simple for me.
Q: On the level of concern about adjustments not occurring quickly as he’d like:
Kobe: They’re not happening fast, but they have to happen. Come hell or high water, it has to happen. There’s always a level of concern, but it has to happen. There are no excuses to be mad, there’s no whining or putting your head down. We persevere, we have the talent to make the adjustments and we have to make them.
Q: On if he’s taking it upon himself to get that message across to everybody:
Kobe: Yeah, I’ll kick everybody’s ass in this locker room if that doesn’t happen*. That’s just the attitude you have to have. Metta (World Peace) is the same way. Dwight (Howard) has that in him as well. He smiles a lot, but he still cares a lot about this thing. Like I said, come hell or high water, this has to get done.
Getting Steve Nash back certainly won’t hurt.
Q: On nearing 30,000 points:
Kobe: That’s a lot of points, that’s a lot of points. I’ve just been very fortunate to play for a very long time and be relatively healthy for the majority of my career. I’m proud of being able to play 17 years and still be able to perform. Just been very fortunate.
Q: On if he thinks the team is overcomplicating things at times:
Kobe: You just got to show up and do your job. It’s not rocket science. We’re not solving world hunger. Just got to go out there and do your job. It’s as simple as that.
Q: On the team being without Steve Blake:
Kobe: It’s a big concern for me. Steve and I always played extremely well together. He’s a clutch shooter and he’s a tough competitor. That’s one of the things I like about him. He’s going to be missed a lot. I’m not sure how long he’s going to be out, but I’m assuming it’s going to be awhile. Hopefully he’ll keep his head in it and be ready to go.
Q: On reaching 30,000 points and being in that type of company:
Kobe: It’s a huge honor, to say the least. Whenever you hear those kinds of names, you think about the amount of players that have played this game, and then to be in that kind of company, it’s always extremely, extremely special.
Q: On if he ever thought about reaching 30,000 points when he was younger:
Kobe: When I was a kid, the only thing I looked at was the ring count because that was the thing that was most important. I knew how many Magic (Johnson) had, I knew how many Larry (Bird) had, I knew how many Doc (Julius Erving) had. Those are the things I looked at the most – teams that won, teams were successful. I never really knew this person had this many thousand points, this person had this many thousand points. To be honest with you, I was always pretty bad at math and something I wasn’t excited to look at.
Q: On four of the five top scorers in the NBA playing for the Lakers:
Kobe: How unbelievable is that. That’s incredible.
Q: On how proud he is of knowing that:
Kobe: Beyond. This is franchise that, like I said in the past, guys whose jerseys hang in the rafters are some of the all time greats, not just greats for the franchise. I don’t know if there’s any organization that can say that.
Q: On keeping his composure during this time as a leader of the team:
Kobe: Yeah, it’s a balance, it’s a balance. You have to be able to find that and understand the personality of this team. It’s a figuring out process. Obviously everybody here is brand new. They’re brand new to playing with me. I’m brand new to playing with them. You just kind of have to figure out that balance.
Q: On if he thinks everything will be fine when Steve Nash returns:
Kobe: I think the flow will open up a little bit more. He’ll be able to direct guys and keep us spaced. That’s really the big thing. Steve (Nash) has been conducting this offense for awhile and when he gets out on the floor, he’ll be able to make sure guys are in the right places.
Q: On if it’s good for the team to go on the road and figure themselves out:
Kobe: It can be. Turnovers have killed us and free throws have killed us. You just got to cut that stuff out.
Q: On free-throw shooting advice:
Kobe: It’s just repetition, it’s just repetition. It’s muscle memory. That’s how you get to the point where you don’t think about things. You just overload your system. We come out here at practice, shoot a ton of them and then in he game, you don’t think about it because it’s muscle memory at that point.