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Despite an 0-2 start to begin the season, Kobe Bryant maintains there is no reason to panic given the new offensive system the team is still trying to incorporate.
The Lakers co-captain, though, looks like his usual self despite playing through continued pain in his right foot.
After the season opener against Dallas, Kobe estimated he played at “probably 80, 85 percent,” although he still notched 22 points on 11 for 14 shooting. In the second game of a back-to-back in Portland, he scored 30 points on 10 for 20 shooting, including 4 for 9 on 3-pointers. Through two contests, he is averaging 26 points on almost a 62 percent clip from the field.
The 17-year veteran did not practice Thursday, and is listed as “day-to-day,” but will play on Friday against the Clippers.
Post practice, Kobe took some time to talk about the team’s offense through two games, cautioning critics and fans to be understanding of the new system and Mike Brown.
Q: On if the team can win while the team adjust to the new offense:
Kobe: Offensively, it hasn’t looked as pretty as it will be, but we’re scoring a lot of points efficiently. That’s not where we’re hanging our hats on right now in in terms of how we’re losing games. We’re not executing defensively, which has a lot to do with guys being on the same page and working together.
Q: On if he’s surprised at how the team has started:
Kobe: I’m always surprised when I lose, but at the same time, it’s pretty entertaining to me. Nobody wants to win here more than I do. Nobody, nobody. I’m not panicking or jumping off a bridge because we’re 0-2. It is a process, but we have to approach the process with a sense of urgency. Just because we have this talented roster, we want it to happen. But we have to push for it to happen.
Q: On learning the new offense and understanding it’s a process:
Kobe: We have to have a sense of urgency to get things right and not rely on the fact that things take time. We can’t rely on that; we have to push and play with a sense of urgency and get things done now.
Q: On the critics asking for Mike Brown to abandon the Princeton offense:
Kobe: I don’t understand. (The city) has seen us win multiple championships here, playing an offense that is tough to learn, that had a sequence of options and took five guys being on the same page working together. They know how that stuff works, so for them to be so stupid now and say: ‘Well, let Steve (Nash) dribble the ball around and create opportunities for everybody, let Dwight (Howard) post up or let me (isolate) … it’s not idiotic but it’s close.’
Q: On how the criticism is different back with Phil Jackson compared to Mike Brown:
Kobe: The message changes according to who’s giving it. The sequence of options, the equal opportunity offense – in essence – it’s the same thing. The only thing that changes is you have Mike Brown telling everybody to be patient but back then, you had Phil (Jackson) telling everybody to shut up.
Q: On whether criticism is fair or not:
Kobe: I think the critics are more likely to take runs at him than they would at Phil Jackson. It’s fair because Phil obviously won and Mike hasn’t won yet. Look at the philosophies; they’re the same type of philosophies. It’s kind of funny to me to sit back and see that and hear the arguments.
Q: On his response to people criticizing Mike Brown:
Kobe: I can say it because I’ve won. It might be tough for (Mike Brown) to say it, but I’ll say it for him: ‘Everybody, shut up.’ Let us work and at the end of the day, you’ll be happy with the results like they normally are.
Q: On if he believes in the offense:
Kobe: You have to be stubborn about the approach. The essence of the offense is everybody sharing the spotlight, everybody being able to read and react and working as one, and that takes time to do especially if you have guys as individually talented as we are.
Q: On if his teammates have bought into the system:
Kobe: The reality is that when you have talented players that are willing to sacrifice their games and play within the structure, to go along with talent they have individually, it makes you unstoppable.
In Kobe’s words, from his Facebook page:
Feeling good enough to play tonight! I’ll use my strong midsoles for added cushion on the foot for more protection.
Looking forward to this journey as I’m sure you are.
It’s Go Time.
Despite not practicing for more than a week, Lakers coach Mike Brown believes his co-captain will be ready for tonight’s season opener.
“He’s been doing this thing a long time,” explained Brown. “I think he’ll be fine, but it’s tough to predict what anybody will do at any time. I think he’ll be fine, though.”
According to Brown, there is no concern about Kobe further re-injuring his foot from playing tonight.
“From my understanding, there’s no risk,” he said. “Obviously, if it bothers him or something like that, we’ll pull him out. From my understanding, he’s good enough to go and there’s no risk with him going that he will damage it further.”
Kobe Bryant, who went through on-court activities at Tuesday morning’s shootaround for the first time since injuring his right foot on Oct. 21, said he has an 85 percent chance of playing in Tuesday evening’s season opener.
This appears to be good news for the Lakers, but they won’t know No. 24′s status until seeing how Bryant’s foot reacts to a good deal of running and pressure at shootaround. We’ll likely get confirmation during coach Mike Brown’s pregame session with the media at around 6 p.m.
“It’s just a matter of how sore it gets from now until I get to Staples (Center),” explained Bryant. “I’m not going to play with an injury that will get progressively worse and limp through the season. I worked too hard for that.”
In other words, if his foot doesn’t respond positively to the morning session, he’s not going to push it by playing in back-to-back games to start the season. The Lakers leave for Portland immediately following tonight’s game against Dallas.
Bryant credited head athletic trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto for working hard throughout the last eight days to get him back as soon as possible without risking further damage to what was a painful injury. He initially collided the foot and ankle at an awkward angle on a Kings player in a preseason loss to the Kings.
“(It) just bruised like crazy,” Bryant described. “All the swelling trickled down to the tendon … it was painful to walk on.”
But after staying off the foot throughout the week and getting constant treatment, Bryant turned a corner on Monday night.
“Since last night, I’ve had substanitally less pain, and the strength has gotten better,” he said. “That’s very encouraging.”
Bryant’s trying to determine if it’s an injury that can improve while playing through it, or one that gets worse the more he’s on it. Before concluding his session with the media, Bryant was asked if there’s a silver lining in the injury, which allowed him to get some rest for legs that have been working through the offseason in part due to the 2012 Olympics.
“I look at it as a blessing in disguise to give me some rest, because when I’m out there I’m going I go 110 percent, I don’t know anything else,” he replied. “(That) probably takes a little bit from my legs, so it’s probably a blessing in disguise that I got (eight) days to relax.”
Bryant initially strained the foot in last Sunday’s preseason loss to Sacramento, and called it “painful” when addressing the media on Tuesday. He has not practiced all week, and again sat out Saturday’s session to get treatment from L.A.’s training staff.
That said, there was some optimism surrounding the team that Bryant will be able to play in the season opener against Dallas in three days.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he did play,” said coach Mike Brown. “But we’ll see.”
Head trainer Gary Vitti and Bryant himself will play a decisive role in whether or not No. 24 is ready, but nobody is going to count out the player NBA GM’s recently voted the league’s toughest.
Kobe Bryant, who hurt his foot in the third quarter of L.A.’s Sunday preseason loss to Sacramento, will not play in either of the team’s final two preseason games on Wednesday and Thursday.
After missing Tuesday’s practice, Bryant called the foot “painful,” and said he would probably not play against the Clippers on Wednesday even if it were a regular season game.
Bryant strained the foot when accidentally making contact with a Kings opponent, as opposed to being kicked.
Kobe added that it wasn’t the worst thing that it happened at this particular time, since he’d been going so hard in preseason every day his body could perhaps use a bit of rest.
Bryant will be re-evaluated over the weekend to check his status in advance of Tuesday evening’s season opener against Dallas.
Dwight Howard Update:
Expect Howard to sit out of Wednesday’s game just to rest, but play in Thursday’s contest in San Diego. He came through his first preseason game quite well on Sunday, but the team decided not to have him play in games on back-to-back nights.
Q: On how his foot feels:
Kobe: It’s alright. It’s pretty sore.
Q: On if he sees this as a setback for the team:
Kobe: Not really. It’s probably pretty good that it happened. It slowed me down a bit. I’ve been going full bore pretty much every day.
Q: On if he’d play tomorrow:
Kobe: Probably not.
Q: On if he’d play if it was a regular season game:
Kobe: Probably not.
Q: On level of pain:
Kobe: Pretty high.
Q: On what he’s looking for from teammates without him:
Kobe: Just looking for our second unit to establish an identity, an aggressive tone, a physicality that they’ve played with that can alter games – that’s what I’m looking for. Our first unit, we know what we’re going to do, we know how we’re going to execute, we know what our identity is, so we’re looking for our second group to establish themselves.
Q: On if he was impressed with Dwight’s play in his first game:
Kobe: Yeah, but he’s been in practice running like a deer; he’s been up and down the whole time. I knew he was going to go out there and perform well … my biggest concern was the day after; he was pretty sore the next day. He hasn’t played in awhile and it doesn’t matter what kind of conditioning you do. When you get back out there, you get up and down a little bit, it’s always a big difference.
Q: On how he feels about his injury considering how well he takes care of his body:
Kobe: It’s always frustrating – freak accidents. It always upsets me.
Q: On his advice to Dwight regarding injuries:
Kobe: Be patient, be smart and listen to your body. That’s the biggest thing – listening to your body and not trying to get too far ahead of yourself. Just listen to your body and get your treatments, even when you feel like you’re 100 percent and just make sure you’re doing your physical therapy.
Q: On how he admires Grant Hill and how he’s been able to maintain his health:
Kobe: There’s a certain mutual respect that goes along with that. I know what goes into the preparation and the daily grind … the fact that he’s been able to do it for a long period of time is remarkable.
Last week, an interaction between Bryant and former teammate Smush Parker made headlines, words having been exchanged in various mediums. Bryant discussed his philosophy on leadership in a Facebook post that seemed to at least indirectly address the issue.
It’s no secret that Bryant has repeatedly ripped Parker and that he is demanding of his teammates, but he remains close to many, past and present.
Most recently, in an extensive Lakers.com Q&A, camp signee/three-year veteran Chris Douglas-Roberts offered his thoughts on Bryant as a teammate:
Kobe is my man. He’s been great to me. I don’t know about Smush, but Kobe’s been great with me from day one. He’s a lunatic out here on the court, but I am too. He’s one of the greatest to ever play this game … and I’ve seen a guy who comes in here every day and treats practice like a game. I’ve seen a guy that will do anything to win. I’ve seen a guy who’s extremely competitive in each part of his day. I figured out that Kobe talks trash to keep you at a certain level. It’s about the alpha. This is what he does, and if you run with your tail between your legs, he sees this and he’s going to act on this. I have no problem with that. I like that. (Lakers head coach) Mike Brown assigned him as my 1-on-1 partner on my first day, and it got real. It got physical, some elbows were thrown, there was trash talking both ways, but it was all in the competitive nature. We were going at it. And I guess that’s why he respects me. He looks at me and he sees some characteristics in himself. I’m out there trying to kill you out there. Point blank, period. We can hang after practice, but I don’t see any faces while we’re on the court. I just see an opponent. If it’s Kobe that day, we gotta go at it, man! He’s extremely talented and skilled, so he’s going to win most of the time – but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to compete … And the bottom line is just that he’ll do anything to win. That’s it. That’s what I love the most. People used to try and make me feel bad for that, but that’s what he’s all about.
*Click on each name to watch the video.
Q: On not having his starting five once in this preseason:
Brown: Yeah, but that’s OK. I’m OK with that. Whenever Dwight (Howard) is healthy, he’ll play and whenever everybody can play, we’ll play. The first three ball games, I thought we played the right way on both ends of the floor — for the most part. We just didn’t win them, which is understandable because it’s tough for (Ronnie) Aguilar, (Greg) Somogyi and some of the other younger (guys) to come in the last five minutes of a ballgame and try to win it, or come in the last 10 minutes of a ballgame and try to win it. To me, that’s understandable. I thought we played well the first three games, especially with where we were in the preseason. I thought tonight we took half a step backwards in terms of our execution and ball movement, and even our overall defense, especially in transition, which is going to happen from time to time. Out of the four preseason games, this one I’ve probably been the most disappointed. I was OK with the other three because we did a lot of other good things in the other three.
Q: On what the team needs to correct first to improve:
Brown: Right now would be good but I know it’s not going to happen. Our transition defense right now is probably the biggest thing that is of concern. Besides that, there are little things that pop up. Sometimes we gamble too much, which takes us out of position. But our transition defense is something we’re not doing a good job of at all.
Q: On if the team’s transition defense is attributed to the amount of turnovers:
Brown: Yeah, we’re turning it over, but I’m OK with some of our turnovers because we’re trying to make plays and the right guys are trying to make plays. We’re not having the wrong guys out there trying to make too many plays. Part of the reason we’re turning the ball over is we’re trying to execute the offense a little bit and trying to do things the right way. I think we’ll get better turnover wise, but it does hurt us when we do turn the ball over and they run out and get dunks and layups in transition. But hey, Utah is a good team, too, so you have to give them credit for playing as hard as they did.
Q: On if there were any positives he can take away from the team’s fourth preseason game considering the outcome:
Brown: It was great to see Jodie Meeks shoot the ball the way he did. I thought (Robert) Sacre did some things that make you go: ‘Maybe,’ which is a positive thing. I thought, at times, we did a nice job of trying to execute, but once we took Jamison off the floor, it was really hard for us to execute because we don’t have another guy that was able to play tonight that has played the power forward position. It takes us completely out of our offense because that specific position you have to know specific routes and reads, and all our power forwards right now from Pau (Gasol) to Jordan Hill to Earl Clark are out. So offensively, we had to keep our execution simple and run baseline screens or middle pick-and-roll when Jamison was out. Those guys tried to execute the right way, but it just didn’t happen all the time.
Q: On Jodie Meeks hitting four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and if that kind of play can help limit Kobe’s minutes during the regular season:
Brown: Yeah, but we’re still searching for guys that are going to come off the bench. I’m not quite sure who it’s going to be yet. So to see Jodie step up and knock some shots down, but also defensively, he did some good things, too. So to see a combination of those two things was a positive at that two guard position.
Q: On if he saw any positives in the game:
Nash: I was only out there the first quarter and I thought there were some things on both ends that were positive, but again, not a great performance by any stretch. But sometimes you learn a lot more from the nights you struggle than the nights that everything goes well. This is good for us, it’s good for us to struggle, it’s good for us to want to come tomorrow with more resolve to improve and if we floated through the preseason, we might be fooling ourselves. So we got a lot of work to do and we continue to know that and realize that and tonight was a motivator as well.
Q: On if the team’s effort disappointed him the most:
Nash: Like I said, I was only out there the first quarter. I was getting treatment a lot of the night, but the effort wasn’t bad in the first quarter. We just had some matchup problems in the post that allowed them to score. Our defense was pretty good other than the fact that they had some terrific one-on-one post players. Offensively, we created some good opportunities, but we’re a work in progress. That’s the bottom line.
Q: On Kobe’s scoring outburst in the third quarter:
Nash: I wasn’t out there, so I missed it, but it’s certainly nice to have a player of his ability to go off like he can. I’m thrilled he’s on my team.
Q: On his rhythm in the third quarter:
Kobe: Yeah, I just had to come out and kind of get going a little bit, work on some things, shooting out of the offense, catch-and-shoot and things of that nature. Up until this point, I had just kind of been practicing throughout the course of the game and trying new things. Tonight, I just went back to the basics.
Q: On if he saw any positives in the game:
Kobe: You kind of just threw it out a little bit. We didn’t execute as well as we should have as a whole in the first half, and as a result, we dug ourselves deep, but you kind of have to throw it out. Their bigs dominated us for obvious reasons. All our bigs were out, so they kind of had a field day down there.
Q: On what he wants to see from the team in the second half of the preseason:
Kobe: Hopefully, we can get everybody out there at some point and work on our rhythm a little bit more and playing together. The more we play together, obviously, the better we’ll get — and that’s the most important thing. That’s what we try to do in practice; we just try to play a lot together and work on our execution, work on our rhythm, likes and dislikes and things of that nature.
Q: On not playing with the starting five once in this preseason
Kobe: In practice, we do it a lot, though. In practice, we play quite a bit together. Mike (Brown) has been really good about it of throwing the ball out there and letting us scrimmage and get some timing down. But you’re right — that’s the most important thing for us is to get out there, play together, work out some of the kinks out and communicate with each other on the floor.
Q: On how close Dwight Howard is to returning from his viewpoint:
Kobe: He’s extremely close. He’s making plays defensively that no big outside of Bill Russell can make in the history of the game in terms of playing the passing lanes, getting steals, guarding guards, stripping the ball from them. He does things defensively that no other big can do.
Q: On if he and Steve Nash can take more chances defensively:
Kobe: Sure, we can. It all depends on how the game goes in a ballgame. Early in a ballgame, you don’t want to do that depending on how they officiate the game. You don’t want to get Dwight in foul trouble. But certainly, at certain points of the game, we can.
Q: On his mindset in the third quarter:
Kobe. No, I just really went back to the basics. I was just kind of experimenting the entire preseason, just working on different moves and things of that nature. In the third quarter, I just went to the basics: catch guys off of you, just rise up and shoot, if you have a lane, drive, bump the guy off you, pull up and shoot it. I just went back to the simplicity of it.