One of the most frequently asked questions about the Lakers has to deal with Kobe Bryant and how he has changed as a person. I dont have an answer, but I did appreciate a gesture Kobe made at practice Friday.
After walking into the trainers room from the practice court – - which almost always means conversation over – - he came back out to finish talking about Terrell Owens return to Philadelphia. You have to remember that Kobe is a huge Eagles fan.
I asked him something Id wondered for a long time – - namely, how could a kid who grew up in Philadelphia when the Phillies went to the World Series in 1993 wind up a Yankees fan.
Kobe said he always watched the Yankees games. Ryan Howards name came up and Kobe guessed that Howard might wind up playing for the Yankees someday, which probably would kill the Philly fans.
I have no idea if Kobe is going to be “reaching out this season, as everyone is fond of saying. It just seems like hes in a good place. And its nice to be able to talk about something other than basketball every so often.
* * *
There wont be a Saturday update as I have a wedding to attend in Santa Clara. Its on to Las Vegas after that, with the Lakers playing exhibition games there against Phoenix and Sacramento.
By Ross Siler
EL SEGUNDO–Not long after he took the court Friday for his first five-on-five game since undergoing knee surgery, Kobe Bryant found himself on the wrong end of a fast break headed his direction.
As Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis recounted the sequence, forward Brian Cook went up with the ball and Bryant went up for the block. No basket was scored. Cook argued afterward that he was fouled; Bryant claimed he made a clean block.
Either way, Bryant made a statement in his return. His right knee is not back to full strength, yet Bryant was able to bring his trademark competitiveness to what was described as a controlled scrimmage.
“He wasnt going to back down and take it easy, Rambis said. “He went right after people. In his mind, hes gearing himself up, getting ready to come back.
Bryant underwent knee surgery July 15 and said he had reached a limit as far as strengthening the knee through weight training. He has to get back on the floor and get used to the quick cuts and full-court running the game demands.
“Its just getting out there and getting my legs underneath me again, Bryant said.
With coach Phil Jackson attending practice again Friday, the Lakers were nearly whole. Rambis said Jackson ran the team more than the assistants have while Bryant described practice as “intense.
Bryant, however, is at least a week away from making his season debut, with the Lakers having all but ruled him out of exhibition games Sunday and Tuesday in Las Vegas.
The Lakers believe there has been a benefit to playing this month without Bryant, who averaged 35.4 points last season. They have played well in the fourth quarter of two exhibition victories and have run the triangle offense better than expected.
“ Hopefully, these guys will pick up the offense, Rambis said, “and continue to run the offense and hell just plug himself in.
Brown hurt: Center Kwame Brown suffered a sprained right shoulder and is day to day. Brown injured his shoulder when he and Andrew Bynum got tangled up in practice.
The Lakers are down a center in Chris Mihm, who is recovering from ankle surgery. With Bynum as the only backup, Rambis mentioned the possibility of playing forward Lamar Odom at center against Phoenix on Sunday.
Be prepared: After carving out a 10-minute role for himself as a rookie, forward Luke Walton thinks guard Jordan Farmar will have a similar chance to prove himself to Jackson during his first NBA season.
“Hes going to give Jordan opportunities, Walton said of Jackson. “Hes not going to tell him when and hes not going to be ready for it. Its going to be the fourth quarter of a close game when hes never played before.
“I think Jordan, hes proven in practice every day and hes proven so far in the two preseason games that hes a great player. I think as long as he stays ready, the better he does, the more Phil will feel confident throwing him in there.