As I said earlier, Phil seemed to have better mobility than he did in July on his surgically repaired hip, but he’s still using a cane to get around. The line about Hillary Clinton is classic Phil. For those who don’t get the joke, Hillary has been accused of “cackling” when she’s asked a tough question. Here’s what Phil had to say at Media Day today…
(Q: Was there any thought in your mind that Kobe might not show up today?)
No, there wasn’t.
(Q: What was your reaction to Kobe’s attitude and demeanor today?)
You know, I just spent a few minutes talking to him in the locker room. He was talking about his trip back to the USA after his vacation, and his time in Vegas. He was very positive.
(Q: Any sense of frustration on his part?)
(Q: How do you heal this team, when he made comments like that so publicly?)
You know, I went around and asked some of the players how they felt about it, and none of the players took offense to any of the words that were spoken, so I think playing will help it out but we’ll talk about that a little bit later.
(Q: For chemistry purposes, do you think he needs to address the team and air things out?)
You know, I don’t think so. I asked the players about that and none of them said they wanted to hear it from him directly. So I think that that’s par for the course. I think they said, `That was said back in June and now we’re here in September and we’re ready to go in October and we’re ready to play ball.’
(Q: Any sense about whether Kobe was happy to be here?)
He seemed perfectly at ease with it.
(Q: During the offseason you indicated that you empathized with Kobe. Did you encourage management to make a major move? And if you didn’t, why not?)
(Chuckles) That’s a Hillary Clinton laugh, right there. I learned that from her. Yes, I was a person that thought we had to make some chemistry changes on this team from last year. I thought we needed some changes. We changed a part of that, I think, for the better. With Fish coming back in and some things that we’ve had happen to our team, I think we’ve helped us out. I just think we need to be a little more aggressive out there. I think we were out there this summer, and things just didn’t happen even though we were aggressive.
(Q: But don’t you think that moves still need to be made?)
I’m not putting that out there. You know, this team ran to a 29-13 first half of the season last year. Their second half of the season was just the complete opposite. It was as bad as they could play, almost, in the second half. And I think that they can play at that level, that they played in the first half, which is top-level in the NBA. So we have to give them a chance, and that’s what we’re going to do.
(Q: Is this going to be a difficult coaching job for you?)
Well, you know, I’m going to see how these guys play together. That’s the first, and most important, thing, because if guys play together well, you have a team. And if they don’t, then you have a problem. The big key is about moving the ball, passing the ball and playing defense for each other. We’ll see how that goes. That, you’ll see right away in camp. As a coach, that’s what this is all about. We’ve always said, it’s not important that the players embrace each other and be great friends. They just have to professionally respect each other’s ability to play.
(Q: Do you think Kobe has any fences to mend?)
It’s a fair statement. I’ve kind of answered it a few times already. I think I’ve kind of covered it here.
(Q: How are you doing physically? Are you going to be able to get through the season?)
I’m feeling really good physically. It’s just that I can’t run. I can’t walk either. (laughs) No, I’m using the cane but I’m doing good. Physically, the discomfort that arthritis brings, it’s gone.
(Q: Knowing that this is the last year of your contract, are you comfortable with that?)
Yes, I’m very comfortable with that.
Because, you know, it’s about productivity. I think that’s the great thing about this job, is that you’ve got to produce. Right now that’s what it’s about. I don’t want to make it sound like that’s what the organization wants from me. They’d like me to step up and sign again, but I’ve got to see that I can physically and mentally get back on being with this team, and that they can get back on being with me.
(Q: Does that also have something to do with the roster you have, the team you have?)
No, that’s not it. I mean, yes, we want to make a run for a championship, but if we’re not going to challenge, certainly I don’t want to be a guy that’s coaching this team on the kind of salary that I’m getting and not feel like we’re getting the best effort out of the end result. So sure, it has something to do with it, but that’s not really it.
(Q: Do you think that, with everything that has happened, Kobe will have trouble leading these guys?)
No. I don’t agree with that. I think that these guys are willing to play ball. We want to play with the guys we played with in the first half of the season. He wants to play ball with them. There’s not two camps. It’s just going to be about sharing the ball and playing within the system.