Kobe Bryant did a rare thing Thursday afternoon and spoke at length on a number of subjects, ranging from the Lakers’ improved play to a desire to send Phil Jackson into retirement with his 12th NBA championship. Here’s are some of the highlights:
Question: Are the defensive adjustments becoming clearer? Are you executing better?
Answer: “Yeah, we’re doing a much better job. We’ve done a good job of it for the last few weeks or so, and we just continue to get better.”
Q: Are you seeing the team performing better as a whole?
A: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
Q: You always talk about the process of going through a season. Is keeping the process interesting a challenge, or is there something you point at to keep it that way?
A: “Not really. I think it’s just the will to get better. That’s always interesting. That always makes the game interesting. And then just continue to have an infinite curiosity about the game. I think that keeps it fresh.”
Q: Since Andrew Bynum came back to the lineup, your ballhandling duties increase with Lamar Odom starting on the bench, does that change anything with what you want to do coming down on offense at all?
A: “Not necessarily. My responsibility is to be a threat, and that entails many things — scoring the ball, or penetrating, or whatever it is. It’s to be a primary threat, and try to make life easy for the rest of my guys.”
Q: Your shooting efficiency has gone up. Anything from that with the ballhandling duties? Is it getting set up better, or just as the season goes along, you want to ramp up?
A: “No, it’s just getting better, becoming a better player. Fifteen years in, you never stop trying to get better. So I continue to make improvements.”
Q: What kind of advantage do you get from having Andrew and Pau Gasol in there at the same time, with that extreme length?
A: “I think offensive boards is something that gives us a huge advantage, because we get more cracks at it. For a team that’s as potent offensively as us, to get get second and third opportunities is a big difference. The length that they have does that for us.”
Q: This game coming up (Friday against the Kings), there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth on the all-time scoring list. Could you talk a little bit about that time you spent working with him, and what you gained out of it?
A: “I learned a great deal, obviously, just the details of the post game, and recognizing double teams and how to deal with those. Hakeem is incredibly smart and extremely competitive, and for him to take the time to kind of welcome me into his home and show me different things is a tribute to his greatness.”
Q: His footwork was off the charts, wasn’t it?
A: “Oh, yeah. In my opinion, he’s the best post player ever. With all due respect to (Kevin) McHale, Hakeem was phenomenal.
Q: “You look up the list and there’s only one more guard on there, and that’s Michael Jordan. Does it say something about the history of the game that you do have big men at the top?
A: “I mean, yeah. Typically big guys have been the ones to dominate the game and dominate the ball. For the most part, the game goes through them. The bigs on that list are obviously all-time greats. I guess there’s a couple little guys that are feisty, me being one of them.”
Q: Phil keeps reiterating that this is his last year. How much of a loss will that be?
A: “You’re asking me a question now about something in July? It will be a sad day, but I’m sure I’ll get together with him and go fly fishing or something at some point.
Q: Does it add any incentive to the season for the team?
A: “Yeah. Yeah. For me, especially, because we’ve been together so long. I want to make sure I do everything in my power to send him off the right way.”
Q: Hakeem’s attention to detail, how did that distinguish him from other players?
A: “Well, it’s always the attention to detail that separates the great players from the greatest of players. It’s no different with Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and Michael and any of the others. It’s the attention to detail that separates those guys.”