Archive for the 'Exit Interviews' Category

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Devin Ebanks: 2012 Exit Interview

Devin Ebanks started 12 games for the Lakers in 2011-12, including seven for Kobe Bryant when No. 24 went down with his shin injury, and played in a backup capacity in 12 other contest to average 4.0 points, and 2.3 rebounds per game.

He started six of the team’s seven first round playoff games with Metta World Peace serving a suspension, and averaged 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in his 14 minutes per game.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

On his meeting with Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown: “They had a lot of good things to say. They liked the way I played to start the season, and when I was thrown back out there. I got a lot of encouraging things (said) up there and it’s going to motivate me to work harder and come back ready for next season.”

On if he thinks he’ll be a Laker next season: “That’s something we still have to work out, me and my agent have to speak about it with Mitch, but I’d definitely love to stay here in L.A. and continue my career here.” Ebanks said it’ll be a process for each side to figure it all out, as he’ll both listen to the Lakers and also see if other teams are interested. Ebanks said he felt that the Lakers were “pretty interested” in him.

On getting some more opportunity this season: “This was my first year getting time on the court, so there were a lot of things I learned out there and a lot of things I improved upon. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready, and if my number is called, (I was) ready to perform.”

- Ebanks saw time at both the 2 and the 3 this season filling in for injured/suspended Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, but he could also play some stretch 4 in the future depending on how his game develops. If he develops some additional strength, he does have the length to have success at that position. “I believe so … that’s going to come with me working on my body and being able to bang and stretch out as well, it’s just one of the facets of my game I need to work on this summer.”

- Ebanks will spend most of his offseason working out at the team’s facility, he said, though that might depend on what happens in his conversations with Kupchak.

Jordan Hill: 2012 Exit Interview

Jordan Hill, acquired at the trade deadline from Houston in the Derek Fisher deal, played in only seven regular season games for the Lakers while battling a sprained knee, but came on so strong against Oklahoma City in the second-to-last contest that he earned a spot as the third big in Mike Brown’s rotation behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

In the playoffs, Hill averaged 4.8 points and 6.3 rebounds (third on the team) in 18.1 minutes per game.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

On what Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown had to say about the free-agent-to-be big man: “My productivity and how I changed the game when I’m in the game. Good things. They just want me to continue to do what I’m doing … obviously I’m a free agent right now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just have to keep working.”

On if he’d like to come back? “Yeah, I mean it’s one of if not the best organizations in the league and I had a great time in the short time I was here. The staff, the players, everybody … I enjoyed it.” Hill said the Lakers were definitely a good fit for him, but implied that what he’s especially good at – like rebounding – can be used on any team.

- When asked about Mike Brown, Hill said it was clear that the coach “Just wanted to win.” He also recalled the time that Brown called him at 2 a.m. after the team was blown out in San Antonio on April 20: “I was definitely surprised. We talked a little bit, and he said we need more rebounding and energy, and I just stayed ready. The next game against Oklahoma City I just did what I had to do, and kept going with it.” Hill grabbed 15 rebounds with his 14 points in that double OT Lakers victory, delivering what Brown asked for and more.

- On playing with Bynum and Gasol: “They’re definitely hard workers, man. Like me they want to win and get better. Definitely two great All-Stars, it was a blast playing along with them. That’s why I definitely didn’t try to concentrate on scoring, because that’s what they do, so I tried to get an offensive rebound and pass out so they’d get a chance to score. I love offensive rebounding, that’s one way to get my points. But I just want to do things to help my team win, work hard on the floor and hopefully get a championship one day.”

On playing with Kobe: “I never thought that would happen to me, playing alongside one of the greatest. People would think he’d be a different guy because of who he is, but Kobe’s just like one of us. Have fun, smile, laugh, jokes – it was crazy seeing all that. But when it’s time for the game, that’s what he’s about.”

- Hill let out a deep sigh when thinking about all the struggles he’s been through in his life, overcoming the odds by making NBA roster. “I just have to keep my head up high.” Hill’s done a lot of moving, has had to learn a lot of systems, but he understand that things happen in the business. He wants to “find a home.”

Ramon Sessions: 2012 Exit Interview

Ramon Sessions had immediate success upon being acquired by the Lakers at the trade deadline, averaging 12.7 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 48.6 percent from three plus 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

His production tailed off in the postseason, when in 12 games he averaged 9.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds while struggling from the field, shooting 37.7 percent from the floor and just 16.0 percent (4 of 25) from three as the offense ran much more through Kobe Bryant.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Sessions described how it was a dream come true for him to be put in this situation, that he learned a lot from his first playoff experience and first time on a team with a winning record, which he called a “dream come true.” Of course, he was disappointed that it ended when it did, calling it “too soon.” There’s an unfulfilled feeling there, but Sessions was generally thrilled to have the chance to be a Laker.

- Next season? Sessions has a player option for next season that he’ll need to decide whether to pick up by June 20: “Definitely hope to be here. Hopefully everything works out … we’ll just see what happens. I haven’t thought about it yet, the season just got over. I’ll take some time to reflect.” Sessions denied reports about him either picking up or waiving his player option year, and said he simply had yet to make a decision.

- On what will go into his decision: “Tomorrow is not promised. It’s not something I’m weighing everything on, because I was fortunate to get one deal, and financially is not an issue, so I’m definitely going to look at how can I become a complete player, one of the top guards in the league, the best situation, the best winning experience. I just want to win, there’s no secret about it.”

- On if the Lakers is the right fit for him: “I think so. With my game maturing more, with me being able to knock down that (jump) shot. I know I can make it work … in my career I always played with the ball in my hand, but this summer I’ll work at playing off the ball more and making that better.”

- He plans on working on every aspect of his game in the offseason, including spot-up shooting, ball-handling and the like, but more specifically on the types of shots he knows he’d get playing with the Lakers. Sessions thinks that he can fit in with L.A. however they’re playing, whether slowing it down or speeding it up. He’d really be helped by a training camp and practices to determine what to do, where to do it and when to do so. He’d like to become better at knowing the personnel and how to run the team, which was more difficult due to such a lack of time he had in the purple and gold.

- On if his shooting struggles in the playoffs had to do with trying to get the ball to the bigs or Kobe more and not being in a rhythm: “It’s tough to figure out, because the offense changes a little more than in the regular season, but there were still shots that I was getting that I’d knock down if I got them tomorrow,” he said. “Sometimes they just don’t go in, that’s how basketball goes sometimes.”

- Sessions felt like the Lakers simply needed to be consistent for 48 minutes, which was a problem all season and in the playoffs, and lamented letting “some slip away” against Oklahoma City. “We played a great 46 minutes of basketball” in Game 2, he said, and 42 minutes in Game 4. That’ll hurt in the offseason.

- On what needs to improve defensively: “Just sticking my nose in there a little more on the weak side. A lot of little things. When you’re on teams that are rebuilding, defense is not the most important thing, so you don’t really see the little things. But when you’re playing with a championship team like the Lakers, those little things – like a box out or chasing the guard all the way through, things you can get away with on a rebuilding team – are big when you’re trying to win a championship.

- Sessions and his dog Sesh will return to Atlanta for the offseason as he makes his decision and works on his game.

Troy Murphy: 2012 Exit Interview

Troy Murphy appeared in 59 games for the Lakers in the regular season, averaging 3.2 points with 3.2 rebounds while making 28 of 67 three pointers (41.8 percent). He played 15 total minutes in the postseason, as Jordan Hill claimed the majority of backup big man minutes behind Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Below is a summary of Murphy’s exit interview:

On his season as a whole: “I enjoyed playing here. Unfortunately it ended sooner than we’d expected. I’m going to take some time off and collect my thoughts and see what the future has in store … It was an honor to play here. So much history, great fans, great players and every year you know you’re going to be playing for a championship. It’s a real honor.”

On having to stay ready. “It was tough being in and out of the rotation, but when my number was called, I tried to go out there and do what the coaches asked of me, and stay ready for when they called.”

On staying healthy: “It was huge for me to be able to be healthy the entire time after (being hurt last season) was tough, so I feel good about that.”

- Murphy explained that the offense was designed to utilized the size advantage the Lakers had, and that no team in the league had better bigs. His role was basically to space the floor for either Bynum or Gasol, and rebound the ball on the other end. But more specifically, Murphy got into how the league is in terms of “stretch 4′s” like himself, and how Gasol essentially had to play out of position and sacrifice much of his game: “The way our I think it’s based on the personnel. You look at a team like San Antonio that was a low post dominating team for many years, and as Tim Duncan has gotten older they’re relying more on the 3-point shot, so they have a guy like Matt Bonner space the floor for them.”

And that, said Murphy, is why not having camp or much time to practice was difficult for the Lakers: “I think that’s where the abbreviated season was a detriment to us, trying to figure out with those three guys that can each post up and command a double team where to put those guys. That’s a hard thing. Other teams have been together know where guys are going to go and how to play off each other.”

- More specifically on Gasol: “I think Pau is a different kind of animal because most guys that are stretch fours are as good as Pau is in the post. You might think Pau is better in the post than he is as a stretch four. He can command a double team and is effective in both areas, so you don’t really want to take that away from him as much. It’s a tough thing for him to try and balance out when to play inside and when to be that stretch guy because he has the ability to do both.”

And finally, what stood about about playing with Kobe: He makes some impossibly difficult shots every game. His basketball IQ is by far greater than anybody I’ve ever played with. He understands where the defense is coming from, where he’s going to be open, and that was very impressive just observing that situation. He makes it easier for guys because he gets double-teamed … he’s just a great player.

Metta World Peace: 2012 Exit Interview

Metta World Peace overcame a slow start to the 2011-12 season – plagued by offseason injury during the lockout – by rallying after the All-Star break, his numbers jumping to 10.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.08 steals on 43 percent field goals and 33.1 percent on threes compared to 4.9 points, 5.9 boards, 4.0 assists and 1.72 steals on 33.5 percent field goals and 23.9 percent three pointers.

In the playoffs, MWP went for 11.7 points plus 3.5 boards, 2.3 assists and 2.17 steals on 36.7 percent field goals.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On still believing the Lakers should be playing: “Definitely underachieved. We’re the best team in the NBA, lost in five, we should be up 3-2 playing tomorrow. But the better team (OKC) that took advantage of the moment, of their time, seized it and they grabbed it and held onto it. We gotta find a way to hold onto our moments.”

- On next season, while describing his slow start: “I gotta come back just how I left off. I was playing at a high level and need to be able to stay there. The lockout hurt me a lot, because last season going into the playoffs I had a nerve issue in my back … once the lockout happened I wasn’t able to address it so all I could do was rest. It took me 2-3 months to get in shape. I was hitting the front of the rim a lot at the beginning of the season, but as I got in shape, shots started to go right. I started to get a lot of dunks … that was only because I was in shape.”

- Metta says that several of the Lakers need to trust themselves more and not depend on Kobe so much. “Mitch brought you here for a reason,” as he put it. He said it can be difficult to play with Kobe while thinking about his greatness and legacy, that teammates – not himself – had a problem being assertive knowing that Kobe was there. He has a good point, but it can be a chicken and egg argument. Is that lack of aggression at times because Kobe is extra aggressive? For World Peace, at least, that stopped being an issue; he didn’t just stand and watch Kobe try to win games like he may have in his first season. Think Game 7 of the Finals vs. Boston for a good example. He was never afraid to shoot or create a play, make or miss.

- World Peace on Mike Brown: “It was a new regime … a drastic change. It took a bit getting used to.” But World Peace said it wasn’t the coaching staff’s fault that guys missed shots, turned the ball over and the like in – for example – Game 2 and Game 4, when they led big late. “Mike didn’t come in out of shape” … then he reconsidered, and said, laughingly, “wait he did come in out of shape … he’s a fat#&@.”

- Metta kept returning to the theme that the Lakers had plenty of talent, but couldn’t find a way to channel it properly when it counted. He likes to discuss the inside dominance that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum possess, discussing – for example – how they controlled the tempo of Game 2 against the Thunder by playing at that pace, but lamented that they couldn’t do it more consistently. Throughout the season, MWP would often say the Lakers couldn’t be beaten if they played at the pace of Bynum and Gasol, but that became easier said than done against teams like Denver and Oklahoma City.

- On his loyalty to the Lakers: “The Lakers did a lot for me. I like it here. The Lakers did nothing but great things for me; I got a championship here, something I always wanted. I don’t really talk about myself, just what can make the team better, whatever is in the best interest of the Lakers.”

- World Peace wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find his dominance again, but credited Dr. Judy Seto, the team’s physical therapist, for figuring out what was wrong with him and getting him back to what he was physically. That excited him greatly, and has him eager for next season. He also cited the work of the team’s strength coach, Tim DiFrancesco.

Mitch Kupchak: 2010-11 Exit Interview

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak met with the media to wrap up the 2010-11 season. Below are highlights from his exit interview:

- On a timetable for finding a new coach: “We’d like to be deliberate. In Los Angeles, typically we hire coaches and they stick with us for a long time, and hopefully win championships. So we’ll take our time in making that decision. I have not met with ownership, so that process has not really begun. We think this team can still win, so we’re going to get a coach that we think can help us contend for championships in the foreseeable future.” Kupchak didn’t want to get into naming names, but said L.A. would “obviously” interview a “candidate or two from existing staff.”

- Kupchak detailed how this coaching search is different from the last time Phil Jackson retired after the 2003-04 season, because of the discrepancy in players that are returning. Where as Kobe Bryant was about the only player coming back the first time around, almost the entire Lakers team, full of talent, is under contract for next season.

- When asked what went wrong with this year’s team in the playoffs, Kupchak cited L.A.’s 2003 loss to San Antonio following the three straight trips to the Finals. He explained that with that team, fatigue was clearly a factor, and suggested that it was this season as well: “Initially, I think there’s a lot of contributing factors that would lead a team that’s played over 110 games. Whether it’s fatigue or the continual challenge, distractions, the fact that other teams continue to say ‘Well they’ve been there three times now, we know them, we’re getting tired of this.’ It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think the contributing factor (is) would be that you’re now going onto your fourth time trying to get back to the Finals, and that’s a mountain that’s pretty hard to climb.”

- As he maintained throughout the year when we interviewed him, Kupchak said he felt this group of Lakers had earned the right to fight its way through to the end. He didn’t think there were any moves that could have been made that would have changed the outcome. He obviously looked at opportunities, but didn’t see anything enticing.

- It wasn’t about age: “We didn’t lose to Dallas because we were an older team, they were an older team than we were. Certainly our team continues to age, and veteran teams in this league contend for championships. With the core players we have in tact, we do think we can continue to contend. We may have to look to improve certain areas.”

- On losing providing motivation for next season: “I think if there’s a silver lining in losing, that’s it, you get hungry again.”

- Kupchak had some very positive things to say about Andrew Bynum, first of which being that he finished the season healthy. That couldn’t be said for any of the previous three seasons, as he entered each offseason having to either continue rehabbing or go under the knife for various knee issues. He called the steps Bynum made this season “gigantic,” talking first about health, then general maturity, a willingness to devote himself to defense and rebounding for the betterment of the team, not to mention an ability to hit face up jumpers that hadn’t been seen previously.

- On losing Phil, and what Kupchak will miss: “His impact on his return has been huge. From a personal level, he’s made my job a lot easier. We worked, I thought, very well together. I’ll miss him on a personal side and I’ll miss working with him. I’ll miss watching him conduct a practice … (joking) I’m not sure I’ll miss watching him walk across the floor. I don’t know what the future holds for him. He goes through his medical check, and hopefully everything checks out, and whatever it is he decides to do I (hope) he’s happy doing it.”

- It’s clear to Mitch that Phil’s done and is ready to move on. Kupchak was originally planning on trying to get him to stay one more year, but it was clear that Jackson’s mind was made up, so Kupchak didn’t really try to twist his arm again.

- Kupchak said he’s unsure about what Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes will do with their player options. He thinks it’s premature to say what’s going to happen until the deadline for deciding comes. He encouraged both to meet with their representatives, and said that if he does have a good idea (which he implied he does), he wouldn’t share it anyways. Very GM of him.

- When asked about the Dallas series: “They just ran us ragged. They were an exceptional jump shooting team, (extremely) energized, feeding off a Game 1 victory. My feeling is with the exception of Game 3, we just didn’t contend or defend as well as we could have, but at that point, the series started on a Monday and it was basically over on Sunday. After losing Game 1, we were on our heels.”

- Kupchak was asked how offseason acquisitions did in his mind, and while he said that only Lamar Odom (obviously not an acquisition) stood out individually, he gave brief summaries of the other signees. He said that Matt Barnes simply got injured, which was extremely frustrating for him as it really affected his production, and said that Barnes’s right knee is actually still swollen. Theo Ratliff also got injured and wasn’t able to help, and on Steve Blake he had more details: “I thought did an excellent job of defending, running the offense, being a good teammate, he was fun to play with but he just didn’t shoot the ball, open shots, as well as he has in the past and he indicated that he just never got completely comfortable with the offense. One thing he was able to do historically was to make open shots.”

- Kupchak did not see any reason to be disappointed with anyone individually from an effort standpoint: “They’ve all shown great remorse, they’re disappointed, quite frankly they look terrible. Hushed tones when they speak. I’m not thinking for a second that there’s a player who quit or doesn’t deserve to be a Laker.”

- Back on the coaching topic, Kupchak implied that running the triangle offense was not necessarily a mandatory item for the next coach.

- Kupchak on Gasol: “He was noticeably down and hurt.” Kupchak declined to share what they discussed in their meetings, though he was also asked about how he felt about Gasol playing for his Spanish National Team in the summer, and responded that with the additional time off due to the unexpected exit, it “might not be a bad thing.”

- Asked about Phil Jackson’s suggestion that the Lakers needed to get faster to get easy buckets, Kupchak responded that it’s not quite so simple. “You don’t want a guy that can run and jump and has great quickness if he can’t play the game.”

- On the four second round picks L.A. has: “We do pretty good in the second round, we think. Maybe we can get a prospect. I trust our scouts and (Assistant GM) Ronnie Lester, who’s basically in charge of the draft … but you’re probably not going to get someone in the second round that’s going to (make a major impact).”

- Finally, Kupchak was asked if he “did want to blow up the roster,” and whether or not it would be difficult to do. His response: “I think our players have pretty good value around this league. If we wanted to have a completely different look, I don’t think that would be a problem. I don’t know if we’d win many games, but I think around the league, we have several of our players — I could be mistaken — that have value around the league.”

Phil Jackson: 2010-11 Exit Interview

Phil Jackson concluded the greatest coaching career in NBA history with the most coaching championships (11), the highest regular season winning percentage (70.4 percent), the fourth most regular season wins (1,155), the most playoff wins of all-time and the highest playoff winning percentage (68.8 percent). In 20 seasons, he went to the Finals 13 times (65 percent).

Below is a summary of Jackson’s final interview with the collected media:

- Opening Statement:

I wanted to thank the L.A. fans, the Lakers fans particularly have been generous to me. When I first came here they thanked me for coming to L.A.; I hope they thank me for leaving. Members of the press have been just about 99 and a half percent good to me to, so thank you guys for all the generous comments you made over the years. It’s been a remarkable run, everybody knows that, and it was a devastating loss. We have to accept that and move forward as a team. Players these last couple of days all have resolve to come back and finish it better. I like what I saw with the players, (who were) I think humbled. They know that they have to find a way to build that chemistry back that makes a team move in the right direction as one.

- On what the Lakers need moving forward: “It’s still a good team. It needs to build speed. It needs to have some speed and they get some easy baskets as a group. I think that’s the biggest key in basketball, you have to be able to find a way to score that’s not always in a set offense, not always in the half court offense.”

- Phil was not emotional. Perhaps his players were, but not him. He was doing just fine.

- On running the triangle offense, and if L.A. should sustain the system: “There are four or five players that really know how to work it pretty well. There were players that struggled with it … but there are always going to be players that aren’t into execution. But this is something that cost us in the end result, an inability to execute when we needed to.”

Phil on how he was able to do what he did as a coach: “I’ll sum it up (by saying) talent wins. When you have talent to coach, it makes all the difference in the world. I’ve coached some of the best talent that’s ever played the game. That’s a real fact of the matter. To be able to generate momentum so it wasn’t just one trick and it was over, has a lot to do with the staff that joined me. Tex Winter, Johnny Bach, Jim Cleamons, Jimmy Rodgers, Frank Hamblen, Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis and Chuck Person … Bill Cartwright was there for a year, and Johnny Paxon in Chicago. So there was a combination of people that came into the staff that were dedicated to what we were doing, were interested in the execution. Tex Winter was a stalwart companion of mine as a coach for 15 years of these 20, so that was real good teamwork that we had together. It was a lot of fun, and players caught on and got with it. The strengths that I have are probably are about community, about groups, about the chemistry on a team.”

- Phil mentioned that the first time he interviewed for a head coaching job he didn’t know X’s and O’s as well as he should have, and didn’t get the gig. Figuring out how to make a last second play work wasn’t always his strength, and Jackson said that strategy elements weren’t what he was best at throughout his career.

- Phil on what he wants to do in retirement:
“Some of the musings that I have always had are adventures. I was a kid that liked to read Robinson Crusoe. The last time I had a year off I traveled to the South Pacific, but I realized on that trip I was not physically capable of that kind of adventure.” He’d like to get back to that type of thing if he’s physically capable. One thing he might like to do is travel the world east to west and north to south on a motorcycle, like he said Johnny Rogers did.

- On players putting pressure on themselves to win for him: “That’s the way I anticipated it to be. I thought they played with that on their shoulders a little bit this season, but I thought that was OK for them to do that, a good challenge. But I wanted it to be about themselves, to three-peat and go out with that kind of opportunity to finish like that would have been a special occasion.”

- Phil on what he’s learned from his players: “How to be patient and generous … they’re impetuous and impulsive kids, a lot of the times that we get here, and they’re awfully strong willed, and that’s what makes them good players. They’ve taught me a lot.”

- Jackson’s ability to build a relationship with Kobe in the second stint was rewarding to him, as was re-capturing his relationship with Derek Fisher, the two players serving as his captains. One of the reasons Jeanie Buss called him to return to the team in the first place was to build those bridges again, and create the strength of character in the organization.

- Phil doesn’t think he’ll particularly miss coaching so much after retiring, and is definitely not be interested in broadcasting.

- Jackson didn’t want to use the word “love” to describe how he felt about coaching, choosing rather to say that he was “challenged by it. Essentially, it is the next best thing to actually playing basketball for a competitor, and Jackson’s an extremely competitive person.

- Jackson was asked how he could be sure that he doesn’t want to coach again when, inevitably, another team calls him down the road: “Today I’m sure.” Then he almost slipped in: “What it’s going to be like in six months, who knows?” This was the first time he’d even hinted at something like that, but we can’t be sure if he was just suggesting he can’t predict the future, or actually wasn’t sure if he’d ever want to coach again.

- Phil said he’s always thought of himself as an outsider in the coaching community. In fact, he never wanted to be a coach in the first place, when first thinking about it as his coach Red Holtzman urged, wondering why he’d want to get involved with all the coaching “knuckleheads” he had around him. He wondered why he’d want to get himself involved in anything so difficult. Once actually looking for a job in the NBA after having successes in the CBA, Jackson didn’t really have a coaching tree to cling on to, instead just blazing his own path.

Lamar Odom: 2010-11 Exit Interview

Lamar Odom’s best season as a Laker had a tangible individual reward, as he garnered the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year trophy after playing all 82 games to average 14.4 points on 53 percent field goals, with 8.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists plus 38.2 percent from three-point range.

In the playoffs, Odom averaged 12.1 points on 45.9 percent, 6.5 boards and 2.1 assists, his numbers down as were almost all of his teammates in a rough stretch of 10 games.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- If you took a poll amongst the media that covers the Lakers about which player is the most enjoyable to interview, Odom would win in a landslide. His first comment, while sitting down, was “With how many of you’ll are hear, I’d have thought we won. What are you guys doin’?” with the usual twinkle in his eye and smile on his face, even though he was clearly down from the playoff drop out.

- Reflecting on his time with Phil Jackson: “Amazing. History. Being a part of his championship teams, watching him win championships with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaq and Kobe … to experience that as a basketball player is a dream come true.”

- On his meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson: Odom relayed his appreciation for the time and the run that this group had with Phil, and how now it’s time to gear up and try to start another one. Later, Kupchak would tell the media that Odom was the only player who he thought had a “great” individual year. That said, Odom was talking to Derek Fisher about individual success he may have felt this year on the plane ride back from Dallas, but after experiencing championships, Odom said “to hell with it” to individual accomplishments. “The one year I get noticed or I get accolades, get to work with my wife and have a reality show and a fragrance happen is the year that we come up short, that we lose.” Odom said it would be “silly” to associate his off court activity with his shooting the show. While shooting, L.A. won 16-of-17 games, and the show wasn’t shot in the playoffs. Furthermore, Odom said his teammates certainly didn’t have a reality show being filmed, implying that guys didn’t play poorly because of something like that.

- Count Odom amongst the several Lakers that said they definitely wanted to stay together as a unit. He knows that the team was expected to win again, and is disappointed that they didn’t, but confident that adjustments will bring them back. He added: “When you play on a high level, three four years in a row, all the teams are gearing up for you, and (this year) they got us. Some times you get beat, sometimes you lose. We lost.”

- Odom on where it went wrong: He certainly mentioned fatigue as a big factor, as most players did, but added this: “We never got to that consistency of playing defense at a high level, from the beginning of the season to the end. You’re going to miss shots, you’re going to be tired, but you always can play team defense, be one of the best defensive teams in the league. I didn’t think we did that throughout the year, making it hard enough on teams.” It wasn’t that the team wasn’t hungry, which he said he knew because of how much it hurt when the lost, but added this: “What happened was, we got cocky and we played cat and mouse with the rest of the league. We just couldn’t recover.”

- Odom on what type of coach the team needs: “Keep us bonded, push us. This should be an easy team to coach. You’ve got veterans who know how to play.” He said that “of course” Brian Shaw would be a good candidate, and Odom would like to stay with the triangle offense. When done right, it gets everyone involved and lets people use their advantages, which is how L.O. likes to play.

- What Odom will miss most about Phil: “His sarcasm. Our weird relationship … it was fun though. How he used to push me, how it was fun for me to try and prove him wrong. But I learned so much for him. He got me into reading, which helps me learn something new every day.” Odom was also one of the few to put it in perspective with Phil, suggesting that “I think Phil will be all right,” referring indirectly to his great coaching success and general demeanor.

- Odom detailed how he’s been trying to get his mind off the playoff loss by staying at home, then joked with reporters who misunderstood by saying: “I’ve got a back yard. I’m not hiding under my bed or anything like that. I got some sun, I just wanted to stay home.” He also said he looks forward to getting back to his original home in South Jamaica, Queens, getting his kids together, and “sit on a crate at the store.”

- Odom had lamented L.A.’s inability to call upon the chemistry that had been so good within the group wasn’t there against Dallas, but thinks the loss will make it easy to find again for next season.

- Two reasons Odom cited for having his best season this late in his career were: 1) learning from the players around him throughout the years like Kobe, Fisher and Gasol, which coupled with his natural growth around talent that’s always been there* and 2) the he family element off the court that made him just “feel support,” which we wrote about in a feature back in January. He specifically cited having his wife Khloe there at home, being able to talk to Bruce Jenner (Khloe’s step father and former champion decathlete) about winning, and having beautiful women cheering for him, which always makes him play better.
*Odom had a quick anecdote about when he’d go to the park in Queens as a six or seven year old, and people would say, “That kid can play!”

- Confidence never left Odom despite how the team was playing: “I thought we were going to win four championships in a row. After getting there against Boston and losing, then winning two in a row, I’d be lying to tell you (otherwise). We were down 3-0, I thought we were going to come back and win that series (against Dallas). Honestly. I thought it was meant to be. I think we can get there again, and really push the league, do the same thing we’ve done before.”

- Odom said he’d take two weeks off from hoops, then get back to work with his personal trainer. However, he said he’d probably do some boxing tonight, just so his legs won’t die on him.

Matt Barnes: 2010-11 Exit Interview

A solid start to the season by summer acquisition Matt Barnes was stalled in January when he tore meniscus in his right knee, which kept him out of 29 games and made it more difficult to find a late-season rhythm.

Barnes averaged 6.7 points on 47 percent field goals, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 19.2 minutes in his 53 regular season games, and in 13.1 postseason minutes per game averaged 3.6 points, 2.8 boards and 0.7 steals on 39.5 percent field goals.

- Barnes opened by talking about the disappointment of the season: “It’s a tough way to go out. For a team to win consecutive championships and it being Phil’s last year, a lot of things were at stake, and to be swept out of the playoffs was hard to swallow.”

- On hurting his knee in January having a hugely negative impact on his season: “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. To finally have an opportunity to play for a championship organization with a legitimate chance to win a championship, and the season starting off so well, to tear my knee up and never really get back into the flow of the game… Once I returned, I just never really was comfortable, never really got back in the rotation, so to speak, so I’m still beating myself up about that. It was just really, really hard to swallow to know I had a chance but I was hurt.” Barnes said every part of his game was affected, because his game is about energy, and he wasn’t able to get up and down the floor effectively. He prides himself on running lanes, offensive rebounding, knocking down jumpers, and wasn’t really able to do so.

- The most difficult part of learning L.A.’s system for Barnes wasn’t so much the triangle offense, but learning all the counters that the players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom instinctively do after years in the system. More time with the offense and those players would breed improvement, of course, as nothing can replicate time spent on the actual floor.

- Barnes made the point that you can’t really look at L.A.’s bench and compare it scoring wise to a Dallas bench that simply gets more minutes and is supposed to score (Jason Terry almost plays more minutes himself than Blake and Barnes together). The intention of their unit, with such skilled bigs and Kobe Bryant on the floor, is to change the rhythm and tempo of the game, and create things on the defensive end. The Mavs bench is a strict scoring bench, Barnes said, which “we saw in Game 4.”

- Barnes, who has a player option on his contract with L.A., said that he and his agent know what they’re going to do, though he said they’d keep to themselves. He did say this: “I want to win, and I still think this is the best team in the NBA.”

- Barnes was asked what it’s like not to live up to the championship expectations of the team and the city: “When you bust, it’s trouble. But it’s great to be in an organization where nothing but winning is accepted, that’s a great standard to live by on and off the court. To be here and to bust, you see the repercussions.” Barnes, who said he’s still mad, hurt and shocked, said he’s heard reports about breaking the team up, that they’re old, and the new guys need to get out and so on … but he said he realizes that goes with the territory when expectations are deservedly high.

- On next year, with his health back: “I know I’m going to bounce back strong. I just look at this as a missed opportunity, not that I would have made the difference, but I know would have helped.”

On what he saw from Kobe Bryant this season: “Just what makes him him, what makes him the best player in the game. His attention to detail, his hunger, his will to win. You can kind of see it as an opponent, but as a teammate, it’s second to none. I’ve played with a lot of great players, but he’s the one.”

- Finally, Barnes said he joked with Phil that he’s “like the (beer commercial) of the “Most Interesting Man in the World.’ His approach to things, the meditation, the trust he has in his players, the buttons he knows how to push to get the best out of each guy. And with a team like this with Hall of Famers, superstars, all-stars, there’s a lot of different egos and personalities, and I think he did a great job of juggling those and keeping us all on the same page.”

Kobe Bryant: 2010-11 Exit Interview

In his 15th season as a Laker, Kobe Bryant made another All-Star team and was elected to the All-Defensive First Team for the ninth time by NBA coaches, but will likely remember only the fact that he wasn’t able to win a sixth NBA title. Bryant played in all 82 regular season games for the third time in four years, rarely practicing to keep his legs for games and save some juice for the playoffs.

He averaged 25.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 33.9 minutes, the fewest he played since 1997-98, and shot 45.1 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from three. In 10 playoff games, Bryant averaged 22.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists with 1.6 steals on 44.6 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from three.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Bryant identified fatigue as the biggest factor in L.A.’s fall: “It’s been a long run, a great run but a long run. I’m sure that had something to do with it. I think the biggest thing was the fatigue factor. Guys were tired. A lot of times when you get tired, you get burdened by things that you’re normally not burdened by. I love quoting Tex (Winter), who always used to say “Fatigue makes cowards of all men.” It’s definitely true.

- On Phil Jackson going out in such fashion: I’m very disappointed. I just had a chance to spend some time with him before coming down here, and it’s sad because of the way it ended. But still we gotta remember the good old times, last year and how that ended and the year before that even.” Bryant went on to discuss what he learned from Jackson, which includes just a general life philosophy that Bryant said he adopted and carries with him. Obviously, he affected Bryant a great deal in terms of basketball as well.

- Bryant discussed how different his first (1999-2004) and second stretches (2005-2011) were with Jackson: “The first time around I learned a lot from him … the second time around even more so, because he was more open around me. I trusted him more, and the first time around I really didn’t. The second time around, we could have conversations and they just stayed between us. We talked about a great deal of things, and because of that, I learned so much more. I understood the first time around that it was a different dynamic. He had to appease the big fella (Shaq). In doing that, a lot of times I was road kill. The second time around we didn’t have that issue, it was pretty easy for us to just stay with just the two of us.”

- Bryant does not think Phil Jackson will ever coach again.

- Bryant’s simple answer to what LAL need to do in the offseason: “Just refocus. Some guys will rest, some will train, some will get healthy. Re-focus, and come back next year with a good sense of purpose.”

- Kobe spent some time discussing his health, an ever-interesting topic: “I’m actually all right. My foot’s still a little swollen, but other than that I’m OK. This is a good summer for me to train and get strong.” Kobe said that he hasn’t really had that chance in the past two summers, with surgery last year and playing deep into June the season before, so he couldn’t strength train as he’d have liked. Much of this revolves around Kobe’s knee, which is why he didn’t practice much, trying to save himself more for games. But without being able to come into the season strong, and then not practicing, he just wasn’t able to reach his peak, physically. He could do everything, but not quite at the level he thinks he can when physically stronger. “There’s a difference between feeling healthy and feeling as strong as I know I can be … there’s another level I can get to.”

- Does Kobe think L.A. can win again next season? “I absolutely believe that.”

- One challenge for LAL to grasp onto is just trying to do it without Phil: “I think we have a challenge right in front of ourselves … you have a coach that’s different from Phil at the helm. That’s a challenge right there. And then the window closing theory, us being done, that kinda stuff. We can latch onto that pretty easily.”

- Kobe on what Brian Shaw could bring as a coaching candidate: “Familiarity. He communicates with all of us very well. You’re very clear about your role on the team.” Bryant said later that no matter who the coach is, the players will have to realize that things are going to be different, that they can’t lean on what Phil did.

- Kobe on what he’ll miss about Phil: “Just talking to him.” He cited all the long conversations he had with Jackson on the team plane, as Kobe sat right across the aisle. He also alluded to how they were able to get over the first stint, including Phil’s famously calling him “uncoachable.” Kobe said he doesn’t like to get, or give, apologies, and that they both just grew past it. He didn’t make it seem like it was all that difficult. Furthermore, Kobe said he will always talk to Phil, and will probably chat with him in a couple of weeks.

- On rumors of Kobe and Pau having personal issues: “It didn’t anger me so much as it made me laugh. People will angle for anything when we struggle. It was ridiculous.”

- An issue for L.A. all season was Kobe’s not practicing, as Bryant described: “I think it played a part in that fact that guys felt like they could take days off ’cause I’m not there. It’s like if your big brother’s not around, you feel like you can go around the house and (mess with) toys and stuff, because I’m not on the court with you. It’s upsetting to me. They knew going in what my knee situation was, and we communicated that with them. Me not being able to practice, and them having to pick up some of that responsibility in practice because of my knee. So, it’s upsetting, it’s disappointing to me, because I wasn’t able to be out there with them every day. But at the same time, you can’t use it as a crutch or an excuse because I wasn’t out there, (and not) work as hard as they should have.” The gist of what we heard from other players about Kobe not practicing was that it made it difficult to find a rhythm in games, for example, when they couldn’t fully run things in practice, as opposed to it being about a lack of hard work.

- Kobe believes that will change for next season, however. With a full offseason to get strong, as referred to in the health paragraph above, Kobe thinks he’ll be able to get on the practice floor more often.

- On changing his game in recent years, which he says means he won’t have to do much differently moving forward: “I’ve adjusted by being in the post a lot more, the mid post, the elbow area, which conserves a lot more energy. That adjustments already been made.”