NEW YORK — As a way to ease his anxiety over the Lakers’ latest struggles, Kobe Bryant spent time the team’s off day on Wednesday seeing The Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall with his family.
Still, the Lakers sputtering 9-13 start remained fresh on his mind. So much that Bryant talked with Lakers legend Magic Johnson about the state of the team.
“We just talked about some of the experiences he went through and some of the systematic changes that he had to go through after Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] retired,” Bryant said, and how he kind of managed through that and how he dealt with that. It was very helpful.”
Abdul-Jabbar retired after the 1998-89 season following the Lakers losing to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals in a four-game sweep. Johnson played just two more seasons after tha before retiring for the first time after learning he had the HIV virus. The Lakers lost in the 1990 Western Conference semifinals to the Phoenix Suns. They then lost in the 1991 NBA Finals to the Chicago Bulls under Mike Dunleavy, who succeeded Pat Riley as the Lakers’ coach.
“The advice I get from Magic, Michael and those guys, that’s always sacred,” Bryant said. “That’s going to the mountain top and talking to Buddha, know what I mean? That’s privileged information.”
Still, it’s safe to presume some of the topics.
Johnson has expressed strong criticism in recent days toward how Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense doesn’t suit the Lakers’ veteran-laden group. He also advocated that D’Antoni feature Pau Gasol more in the post once he recovers from knee tendinitis, an injury that will keep him out for his sixth consecutive game tonight when the Lakers play the New York Knicks.
Johnson has also said in the past that Dunleavy’s overloaded playbook initially stunted his ability to run the offense, prompting him to ask him for more control. Bryant suggested after the Lakers’ loss Tuesday against the Cleveland that D’Antoni should adjust his system for a slower tempo. Yet, the Lakers’ star strongly supported his head coach.
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” Bryant said. “He’s a very intelligent basketball coach. I have no doubts that he’ll figure this thing out. But it’s been fun playing for him. Aside from, you know, the losses.”
Yes, Bryant said those losses have caused the Lakers’ frustration level to remain “extremely high.” Bryant attributed most of the struggles to the “too many moving targets,” ranging from Mike Brown’s firing, long-term injuries to Steve Nash (fractured left fibula) and Steve Blake (lower abdominal strain and adjusting to D’Antoni’s system.
That’s why he agreed with James Worthy’s recent sentiment expressed on Time Warner Cable SportsNet that the Lakers don’t appear to be having fun.
“It’s not fun when you’re losing,” Bryant said. “He’s right in a sense. Your spirit is just not there. You’re not playing with the type of enthusiasm. I think a lot of that has to do with uncertainty. I think a lot of that has to do with the stability that I was just talking about. It will come.”
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