Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard took questions from assembled media members in advance of Tuesday’s practice regarding the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as other topics. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: On the impact Dr. Buss had on him and if he finds it ironic the Lakers will be facing the team he most wanted to beat the most on Wednesday (Boston):
Bryant: Yeah, I do. To me, personally, he obviously believed in me since Day 1 being a 17-year-old kid to where I am now. His competitive spirit, his vision where this organization should be and how it should go beyond basketball with the global outreach that he had on his mind. We talked quite a bit about that and we talked about the old times. He’s obviously had a profound impact on me, to say the least.
Q: On Dr. Buss having an influence in him staying with the Lakers:
Bryant: Of course. I think in 2007 was really the big one. I had to make a choice and believing in him, which wasn’t very hard to do once I took a step back and see everything that he accomplished. I had a chance to sit down with him and we talked about what his vision was and his vision for rebuilding this team and rebuilding this team quickly. It was easy for me because I was a Lakers fan growing up, so I saw how many championships he’d been able to win and see how many times he was able to rebuild. It was a pretty easy call for me.
Q: On his talk with Dr. Buss about rebuilding the team:
Bryant: He went into a little bit of the salary cap, free agents and all this other stuff, which, his memory was pretty remarkable in terms of what he was able to remember, the space he had available, who was available and how he was going to put it all together. When somebody has that kind of detail, it’s pretty easy to roll with.
Q: On if he’s concerned about the future of the organization:
Bryant: It’s tough. It’s tough to follow in those shoes. I think the important thing to do is to take the lessons he’s taught – and I’m sure there are many – and things that they’ve learned from him, and try to carry it on to the future.
Q: On if there a sense of the team going all in because of their offseason knowing Dr. Buss’ health and is it something that he was cognizant of as the season has progressed:
Bryant: I know I have, and that’s part of the reason why I drive so hard. When we talked, we talked about getting another championship and trying to put the Celtics in the rearview mirror. That’s something that was driving him and that’s something that continues to drive me.
Q: On a particular memory or two of Dr. Buss from a personal aspect:
Bryant: The last meeting that we had, I had a chance to visit him in the hospital, he was in good spirits, he was feeling fine physically, it was a really good day for him. He went on a couple walks. We just talked, and talked about my career, we talked about Magic (Johnson), the Showtime Lakers, the Celtics and all kinds of stuff. That was a good day.
Q: On why it was important for him to tell Dr. Buss to make it to Staples Center for a game to be recognized:
Bryant: He’s never really gotten that. It’s always been Dr. Buss along with the players and the accomplishments the team has had. But not really just him as an individual and what he’s done not only for this franchise, but for the city and the NBA as a whole. He hasn’t got that standing ovation.
Q: On what he learned most from Dr. Buss:
Bryant: To be patient, to be patient and not rush decisions. When you believe in something, you act despite what public opinion may be or what others and when public pressure sometimes can persuade people into making choices that might not be necessarily the best in the long run. He never did that. He always stuck to his guns and made his decisions what he felt was best for the organization, and that’s what I take from him.
Q: On how difficult it is to have that much patience like considering how competitive both he and Dr. Buss are:
Bryant: You have to have strong conviction in what you believe in. You have to know what you want and you have to have the vision, and then you have to go after it. He never made decisions made based off of fear of criticism or anything like that. He made sound decisions based on what he felt right was for the team.
Q: On his confidence level in the Buss children carrying on the success Dr. Buss had with the franchise over the years:
Bryant: Very confident.
Q: On if they’ll be able to match that success in terms of 16 NBA titles:
Bryant: You can’t. Like I said before, you’re following the greatest owner in sports. When you try to match that or equal that, it’s nearly an impossible task. In their own way, they’ll have success for sure.
Q: On if something like this can help galvanize the team the rest of the season:
Bryant: I hope so. A lot of the guys here never had a chance to meet him and didn’t really know him. Some of us were too young to understand the impact and significance he had. Now it’s a chance to get somewhat of a history lesson and understand what this franchise is, what it really means, where it comes from and hopefully we can carry that on.
Q: On what it means to be a Laker and if it can be:
Bryant: That’s a tough question for me to answer. I just so happened to grow up a Laker fan. I’ve bled purple and gold my whole life. It’s tough for me. That’s unfamiliar territory for me. That’s all I know. I don’t know if it can be taught or not.
Q: On his role as a leader in preparing for two games this week:
Bryant: Just stay focused on the moment, have a good practice today and come out tomorrow night ready to put on a good show in his honor.
Q: On what stood out about Dr. Buss and what he meant to him and the franchise:
Gasol: He was an owner that did everything he could to make sure his team had the best chance possible to win the title. He was all about success and he was very passionate. That’s something you could feel from him. I wish I could have spent a little more time with him during this time, but he meant a lot to us. He was a leader for our team, for this franchise and for this city. He was someone you’d enjoy being around. It’s been a tough hit even though we knew he was sick and battling hard for awhile, but when it does happen, it’s still very difficult to deal with.
Q: On when he was in Memphis and there was a reputation around the league if other players wanted to play for the Lakers:
Gasol: Obviously, the Lakers are a franchise that I think the great majority of players would love to play in and be a part of for multiple reasons and definitely because of Dr. Buss’ desire and wish to have a great team here and to win titles. It was all about winning championships and being an elite team. I think any player would want to be involved with that. When you’re on another team, you only have so much control of your own destiny. So you try to focus on your reality and the present. You can’t really dream too much about wanting to play here or there. But as a player, it was a great deal to have the opportunity to be here. When I first got here and traded, I was in shock for a few days how lucky I was that it was my destiny.
Q: On if he has a particular memory or two of Dr. Buss:
Gasol: We would always see him for the team picture. He was always a very joyful guy. The most time I spent with him alone was the time I went and visited him at the hospital. That was probably the most meaningful time I spent with him. We had great times when we won championships. Those magical moments were brief and are overwhelming and there are a lot of people around you. But I always appreciate those one-on-one times, even though it was under those circumstances. It’s a moment I’ll always have with me.
Q: On what was talked about between him and Dr. Buss:
Gasol: We were talking about the season and how excited we were for the upcoming season. He was very excited and hopeful he’d make it out of the hospital and be at the opening night. It was kind of a goal that he and the doctors had at the time. we talked about sports. I remember he was watching college football. It was on TV and he’s a big USC fan, obviously, but he enjoyed watching college football more than pro football. I just enjoyed that time even though, again, it was under those circumstances.
Q: On if he sensed the team going all in at the beginning of the year knowing Dr. Buss’ situation:
Gasol: I think we all are trying to make the best out of our team and our situation. Knowing him and knowing the franchise, we all came in with the mindset that we have a great team and a great opportunity here. Even with the new rules and new collective bargaining (agreement), the franchise is making the effort to have the best possible team. We knew that, we were aware of that and we are aware of that. That’s something that we’ve been keeping in our minds.
Q: On if he talked to Dr. Buss about his situation regarding being traded:
Gasol: No, I think when that happened I didn’t know but he was already in the hospital and already battling with his health issues. I didn’t know and I didn’t find out till later. They kept it, as they should, very private and in house. To me, life is beyond basketball. I wouldn’t talk to him about those small things. There’s nothing like that.
Q: On what Dr. Buss meant to him in such a short period of time:
Howard: I’ve heard nothing but great things since I’ve been here. I actually had an opportunity to see him when I first got traded here. We had a great conversation. He’s a great guy to be around. I wish I would have saw him before he was in the hospital when he was active with the team. I was just happy to have the opportunity to sit down and see what he was really about. It’s a sad situation, but like I said, he’s a great man.
Q: On his experience during the All-Star weekend :
Howard: It was the first time I’ve had a chance to really get some rest in. All-Star weekend is normally a busy time, but this time, I got a good chance to get some rest and get some work in with our trainers. I’m looking forward to the second half.
Q: On if he’s surprised he only played 14 minutes in the All-Star game:
Howard: No, I wasn’t surprised. We had already talked about my minutes and everything. One thing I told (Gregg) Popovich is the second half of the season is very important. I didn’t want to risk anything out there playing and understanding that in the All-Star game it starts to get super serious come the third or fourth quarter. With me being out there, anything around the basket and those guys will try to foul me, and I didn’t want to risk it. There’s plenty more All-Star games to be played in, God-willing. Like I told coach the second half, it’d be better for me and my team to just pull me out. That’s what he did.
Q: On if his shoulder feels better or if he’s trying to maintain where it’s at right now:
Howard: For anybody who has had a torn labrum, they understand there are days where it feels super good. All it takes that one movement or that one hit and it starts to hurt and it gets numb and all that stuff. There’s really nothing I can do at this point, but continue to rehab, continue to strengthen it and hope I don’t have any problems during games.
Q: On if each time he gets hit, everything is taken away from when he was trying to strengthen the shoulder:
Howard: Not each time. It just depends. There are some days where it feels good and there are some times I get hit in the game, fight for position down in the paint, boxing out, or whatever it may be where it gets hit. There are certain situations where the times I’ve gotten fouled where I’ve had to come out of the game and I’ve had to miss games because of that. As of late, it’s been pretty good and holding up. Hopefully, it can stay that way for the remainder of the season.
Q: On if he senses any progress that he made over the weekend in his shoulder:
Howard: I really can’t tell until we start playing, but our trainers understood it was a busy weekend and I was doing a lot of stuff. They didn’t want to overwork my body – just making sure I got in the gym and make sure I did something with my body just to stay in pretty good shape.
Q: On what it means to be playing for the Lakers franchise:
Howard: It’s a great experience, for one. It means a lot to see what this team actually stands for and what they mean. It’s different from being around the league and going to different arenas. It’s a totally different atmosphere here. I understand the longer I’ve been here the more I understand how important this franchise is and how people see this team – the legacy, the history and it means a lot.
Q: On if he’s concerned the Lakers culture will change now that Dr. Buss is gone:
Howard: I don’t think so. This franchise and organization will be great. There are a lot of great pieces here and we’re going to do our job to make sure this organization stays the same.
Q: On how much pressure he feels to carry that legacy on:
Howard: Right now, the only focus is for our team is to make sure we have a great second half and make sure we get on the same page and start winning games.
Q: On if he finds any relief about Mitch Kupchak’s comments that he will not be traded:
Howard: He’s been saying that for the last month-and-a-half or two months. There’s always rumors and stuff swirling around. One thing he tells me every day is to trust him, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do and control what I can control.
Q: On why there is so much controversy surrounding him:
Howard: I really don’t know. I haven’t changed as a person. I’m still going to be the guy I was before stuff started to go down. I don’t know, but I’m not going to change who I am. I’m not going to let the stuff that’s been happening defeat me as a person. I’m going to find a way to push through it.
Q: On if he’s had any conversation with Kupchak or Jim Buss about his future:
Howard: They haven’t really said too much about it all year. There’s always stuff that goes on on the outside. As far as on the inside, what we talk about is how I can improve and what we as a team can do to get better. That’s the only thing I’m more concerned with – how we can win games and how we can come together as a team.
Q: On what is different about his role here in Los Angeles and his role in Orlando:
Howard: I have to do whatever I can to help this team win. All of us had to sacrifice parts of our game for this team. Some guys have had to sacrifice more than others. But as a team, we have to figure this out. We can’t rely on anybody else but ourselves. We have to keep whatever happens or whatever we talk about between us. We can’t allow anything to separate who we are as a team. Sometimes we’ve done that. We have to do a better job of keeping it in house, but at the same time, making sure we realize that the only people that can control our destiny is us.
Q: On if there’s any part of him that wants to be traded:
Howard: I just want to win. I just want to win right now where I’m at. I’m committed to this team, to this season and what we can accomplish right now. I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win. That’s it.
Q: On a report about him being unhappy in Los Angeles:
Howard: Listen, I have never said anything about none of this stuff. So if anybody has a report or anything about what’s going on, if it’s not from me, then obviously it can’t be true. I’m not going to let this situation defeat me. I’m not going to let whatever has happened up until today or in the past affect me. I’m going to get back to being who I am and defeat whatever is in front of me. That’s where I stand in this whole situation. We’re going to look at this second half of the season as an opportunity for our team to do something special and something great, and we’re going to do this for Dr. Buss.