HONOLULU — The nostalgia struck Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott, their return trip here to Stan Sheriff Center sparking memories that seem so long ago.
Scott began his last NBA season 19 years ago at training camp here at the same time Bryant entered the league, the player-mentor relationship eventually morphing to a coach-player partnership.
“It feels beautiful,” Bryant said. “It’s the cycle nature of sports. It feels good to be in this moment.”
Scott and Bryant experienced this moment many times.
The late Lakers owner Jerry Buss began this tradition in 1988, which morphed into the Lakers going here for eight of the nine next NBA exhibition seasons. Scott appeared in five of those training camps from 1988-1990, 1992 and 1996, viewing them as a refuge from the ordinary.
“It was always great to come here to get away from Los Angeles for a little while so you concentrate and focus on the things you had to do in training camp,” Scott said. “Now you can’t go home to your wife, girlfriends and kids. You have to stay around with your teammate and get that camaraderie and togetherness that you want.”
Bryant sounded just as sentimental, saying he has “a lot of great memories here” and that he “felt like a local from day one.” But Bryant did not always experience the camaraderie that Scott enjoyed at training camp here.
The Lakers came here in the middle of their three-peat in 2001. But the Lakers’ training camp in Hawaii also coincided with less positive incidents. Bryant missing training camp here after being accused of sexual assault, though charges were later dropped (2003). The Lakers returned in 2005 a season after the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. The Lakers came back in 2007 a few months after Bryant had publicly demanded a trade amid frustration with the franchise’s rebuilding efforts.
Still, Bryant marveled that he played along enough to return again after Lakers president Jeanie Buss spearheaded the trip as a way to continue tradition and attract potential free agents.
“All my teammates that were here before,” Bryant said, “they’re all now either retired or coaching. Or on TV.”
The Lakers will hold practices here this week, including two-a-day sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. They will play two exhibition games against the Utah Jazz on Sunday and Tuesday and hold practices on Monday and Wednesday before returning to Los Angeles.
“It’s great to be back in Hawaii,” Scott said. “I don’t know if it’s [Kobe’s] last training camp or not, but to be back at the place he started is very special.”