Mike D’Antoni remained fully aware of Kobe Bryant’s talents, his work ethic and his insatiable quest to win.
But he’s also learned that Bryant remains honest about the team’s struggles, and hardly bites his tongue when doing so. Bryant called for Pau Gasol to be featured more in the post. He’s sarcastically described the Lakers “as old as [expletive]” following the Lakers’ 104-99 loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant argued following Thursday’s practice that the Lakers need to take a tempered approach between running at the pace D’Antoni wants and knowing when to slow things down.
“He’s colorful and he says stuff,” D’Antoni said. “He won five titles. He’s won the right to say a lot of things. But he’s all about winning and trying to perform at the highest level. As a coach, you appreciate it.”
So much that it appears D’Antoni has somewhat adjusted his approach.
Although the Lakers still feature Gasol more as a facilitator, D’Antoni recently talked with the Lakers’ forward about maximizing his post presence. Even if he believed Bryant’s exaggerated about the team’s age and lack of speed, D’Antoni said he’s tried to reduce practice times and minutes to accommodate that reality. After boasting at the beginning of his coaching tenure that the Lakers will be a fast-paced team, D’Antoni has admitted the Lakers need to take a nuanced approach.
“We’re going to be find an opportunity run,” D’Antoni said. “We won’t just go up and down. We’ll keep the pace.”
As the season keeps progressing, D’Antoni will have an open ear to what Bryant says.
“You always pay attention,” D’Antoni said. “The only thing I tell you is Kobe will come out tonight and give you 100 percent. Other than that, I’m not worried about too much else. That’s what he does. He’s a warrior. I’d rather get in a foxhole with somebody like that.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org