Kobe Bryant joined Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell and John Ireland on ESPNLA710 radio to discuss various topics, including his progress after surgery, Dwight Howard’s impending free agency decision, as well as the NBA Finals. Below is a transcription of the interview:
Q: On if he has started the rehabilitation process for his injury:
Bryant: I’ve been rehabbing now for about a month, almost about a month-and-a-half. The injury and the surgery happened about two months ago, but I’ve been at it for about a month-and-a-half.
Q: On what he’s allowed to do right now at this stage in the rehab process:
Bryant: At the beginning stages, it was just really boring stuff. Just trying to get out the inflammation, trying to break up the scar tissue, make sure your toes are working – that sort of stuff. Now I’m starting to do a little bit more things – walking on the Alter G (treadmill), doing a little bit of the elliptical, doing some strength work, like calf raises and things like that.
Q: On how he’s looking at the big picture with a injury as serious as his:
Bryant: I think it’s going to be fine, I think it’s going to be more than fine. I’m very pleased with where I’m at. I can get up in the morning, get up and walk to the bathroom like nothing was wrong. There was a point where you’d get up and it’s really stiff cause I’d been immobile all night and it was tough to walk a little bit. It feels better than it did before I got hurt.
Q: On if he watched Game 6 of the Heat-Spurs and what stands out as his fondest NBA Finals moment:
Bryant: I caught the really good part (of Game 6); I watched the last three minutes of the game and overtime. It was an exciting basketball game. For me, the most fun was Game 7 against Boston (in 2010). You’re looking a lion in the face in the fourth quarter of Game 7. That’s gut check time. That’s probably the best feeling.
Q: On if he’s rooting for one particular team to win the Finals:
Bryant: I don’t really care. I’d be happy for either one. They’re both obviously very deserving of winning a championship. I have a close relationship with the guys from the Spurs and (Gregg) Popovich because we’ve played against each other for so many years. But Lebron (James) and (Dwyane) Wade, I’ve known those guys for awhile, too, so it doesn’t really matter to me.
Q: On if he fouls in a late-game situation up by three points or just plays defense straight up (referring to late moment in Game 6 where Chris Bosh grabbed offensive board and kicked it to Ray Allen for a game-tying three-pointer to send game into overtime):
Bryant: I wouldn’t foul right away. I would play defense. It’s really, really tough to get a good look off an initial action with that much time left. But if there’s an offensive rebound, I’d foul right away. The same thing happened with us with (Shawn) Marion getting the rebound and kicking it out to Tim Thomas. Those offensive rebounds are tough to get to the three-point line and get to shooters.
Q: On the legacy of players during in-game moments, how they perform and how it impacts a player in the future:
Bryant: Whoever wins the championship, they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then everybody forgets about it and then whoever wins the championship that year, they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s whatever that moment dictates. When we all retire eventually, hopefully everybody will be able to look back at all our careers and look at the positive things we’ve done for the game.
Q: On if he’s talked to Dwight Howard and what he thinks he’ll do this offseason:
Bryant: I spoke to him maybe a couple weeks ago to check in on him, see what he’s doing, see what he’s up to, see how his summer was going. But I haven’t spoke to him since. I know he has a big decision to make. He’ll take the visits and talk to the players from the teams that he’s considering. We’ll touch base a lot more.
Q: On what it’s like to go through free agency:
Bryant: You just really try to think with two hats on. You have to look at it from a business perspective as well as from your career’s point of view in terms what team do you believe you’ll have the most success with in winning championships. It’s hard because a lot of times, those two things don’t align, and that’s where you have to make split decisions and you end up splitting hairs some of the time. But you also have to put your business hat on. I know it’s not a very popular thing for athletes to do at times, but you have to.
Q: On why he chose to stay with the Lakers rather than go elsewhere:
Bryant: I bet on Dr. Buss being able to do what he said he could. Ultimately, that was it. The history of the franchise, the history of what he’s done and what he’s accomplished, I would have been a fool to go anywhere else.
Q: On why he thinks Dwight Howard is the right person to eventually take over the team in the future:
Bryant: It’s not like you have guys like Dwight Howard walking around every day. Those guys are hard to find. They don’t grow on trees. When you have somebody like that with his talent level, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise. With the history this franchise has with great centers, this, in my opinion, would be the perfect spot for him.
Q: On if he thinks back or reflects on the series with San Antonio in the first round had he not gotten injured:
Bryant: I look at it as a missed opportunity. Had I not gotten hurt, we had been playing really well. We had settled into a nice rhythm in terms of who does what on the team, and how those roles are defined. Because of that, we really started playing well on both ends of the floor. It was unfortunate, but at the same time, I know we’re not far off. I really believe we would have given the Spurs a serious run for their money at the minimum. That makes me excited for next year.
Q: On how far the Lakers can go if everybody returns healthier:
Bryant: You saw what we were able to do in the second half of the season going 28-12 and how well we played. That being said, I still think we need a little bit more length on the perimeter defensively with guys that can cover ground. That was a really big issue for us shutting down penetration and then being able to close out on the shooters. That’s very, very tough for us to do. When you have guys that have that kind of length and those young legs to be able to do that, all of a sudden you wind up shrinking the floor and end up making things difficult for your opposition.
Q: On if the Clippers-Celtics had made a trade with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce coming to Los Angeles, and what that would have done for the Clippers:
Bryant: (laughs) It would have made them substantially better and substantially older. They would have been older than us. At least we would have been the fast-breaking team in the city.
Q: On if he sees any big-name free agents moving to other teams:
Bryant: Nah, you know how it is. There’s always so much talk going on, especially with big-name guys going here and there. That happens once in a blue moon. At the end of the day, I think everybody stays.
Q: On his all-time NBA starting lineup:
Bryant: (Magic) Johnson, (Michael) Jordan, (Larry) Bird, (Bill) Russell and (Kareem Abdul) Jabbar.
Q: On how he handled sitting around post-surgery to rest and recover:
Bryant: I handled it well. I don’t have to sit still anymore. I’m fully mobile. I can get up and do whatever it is I want to do in terms of walking. I can’t run, obviously. For that week-and-a-half (after surgery), I was literally sitting in the bed the entire time. We were on Modern Family and we watched every episode of “Modern Family.”
Q: On what his daughters watch on television:
Bryant: They dominate it. They have some great programs and Disney Channel – there’s nothing else on outside Disney Channel. When they go to sleep, then I can actually watch what I want to watch. I watch “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “Game of Thrones” … I haven’t been able to stay up on “Mad Men.”
Q: On who gets more attention walking into a restaurant: Jack Nicholson or himself:
Bryant: Depends where you go. Out of the danger of sounding too egotistical, I’m going to go with myself just because I can’t blend in. You don’t see too many 6-foot-6 black dudes walking into a very upscale restaurant. He’ll do his shades, he’ll do his hat and he’ll blend right in. If we go to China, it’s a wrap for him.
Q: On when he thinks he’ll be able to return to the court:
Bryant: I’m shooting for November, December at the latest. That’s the goal in my head and that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m really, really determined about getting there. As soon as they take the governor off, when they think the tendon is strong enough for me to progress to really heavy weights, more conditioning, running and things like that, then it’s on me. I won’t have any fear or any worry of having the tendon rupturing again. There’s nothing I can do about it. If it goes again, it goes again. Once I’m ready to go, it’s going to be on.
Q: On his summer basketball camp in Santa Barbara at UCSB:
Bryant: I’m there every day. I know what it feels like to be a part of a camp and the person actually hosting the camp is never there. That feeling sucks. I wanted to make sure I was there every day for the kids, ages 8-18. What we do is pretty cool because each age group plays in a structure. The youngest age group, they play in the flex offense; the mid-tier group, they run the Princeton offense; and the oldest group runs the Triangle offense. They actually get a chance to play the game and play the game right way.
Q: On what he appreciates most about kids looking up to him and listening to him at these camps:
Bryant: I enjoy it. Most of the kids have been doing it for so long, we have a really good relationship. It’s not like: ‘Oh wow, there’s Kobe Bryant.’ It’s more like: ‘Can you help me out with this move?’ or ‘What do you think of this particular strategy?’ It’s really become a family atmosphere.
Q: On who wins Game 7 between Heat-Spurs:
Bryant: The biggest thing that San Antonio has to be careful for is Wade exploding and going off. He’s been struggling a bit, laying in the weeds a bit and the game hasn’t been flowing his way. This is the game telling me for him to erupt. If they can monitor that, I think they’ll give themselves a good chance to win down the stretch.
Q: On having the right mental mindset each and every game, especially for a team that has been to three straight NBA Finals appearances (i.e. Lakers teams from 2008-2010):
Bryant: It’s tough. That’s why it’s tough repeating. It’s mentally draining; it’s physically draining. You just try to put yourself in a position to have the team win, and that’s what championship teams are supposed to do. Case in point for Game 6: It was a tough go for them all night, but they found a way to keep it close, and steal it at the end. To be a champion, that’s what you have to do.
Q: On what they (Mike Trudell and John Ireland) should look forward to when the Lakers go to China for preseason games in October:
Bryant: The passion they have for the game. That’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. You’re going to see so much energy and love they have for the game, and the Lakers organization, in particular. It’s going to be a blast. The passion they have for the game is incredible.