EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Kobe Bryant is beginning his 16th season with the Los Angeles Lakers and seeks his sixth NBA championship, a distinction that would equal Michael Jordan's six titles. This season also could become one of Bryant's tougher challenges. Swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round last season, the Lakers and Bryant return with a new coach and questions about the strength of their roster.
After the Lakers had their trade for Chris Paul blocked by NBA commissioner David Stern, they sent Lamar Odom to the Mavericks and watched Paul end up with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers remain interested in acquiring Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, which means Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should continue to hear their names in trade talks.
Bryant, 33, discussed a number of issues in an interview with Yahoo! Sports: his offseason knee surgery; new coach Mike Brown; the Paul and Odom trades; Howard; and whether he might seek his own trade. The one subject Bryant wouldn't address: his pending divorce.
Q: Do you see yourself retiring with the Lakers? There's been speculation you might want a change.
Bryant: "I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t have any feeling about [leaving] whatsoever."
Q: So you definitely want to stay a Laker?
Bryant: “Of course. No question. Why not? I’ve been here for 16 years. I’m going to up and leave now?”
Q: Do you want to be one of those rare stars that played in only one place during a long NBA career?
Bryant: “Oh yeah. That would be special. It’s rare to see that nowadays. It’s almost nearly impossible.”
Q: Why do you believe the Lakers can win a title this season?
Bryant: “We have a good roster here. People look at our roster and it doesn’t have the sexy names people want to see nowadays with the super teams. But I believe it’s good enough to get it done.”
[ Related: Kobe Bryant and his wife headed to divorce court ]
Q: There's been a lot of talk about the Lakers trying to trade for Dwight Howard. What do you think of the chance he comes to L.A.?
Bryant: "I try not to. I have to lead my guys. If management changes the personnel then I will have to lead that roster when that time comes."
Q: After getting swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round last season, what is the chip on your shoulder like now?
Bryant: “No different. It’s the same as it’s always been.”
Q: Did you dwell on that Dallas series long after it ended?
Bryant: “No, no. I went and got healthy and got back to work.”
Q: How did you vote on the new collective bargaining agreement?
Bryant: “I didn’t vote at all. I got it too late. I really didn’t feel like doing it. I felt everyone was going to pass it anyway, so I didn’t vote at all. But I would have voted yes.”
Q: What was the worst thing about the lockout for you?
Bryant: “It was a waste of time to end up where we ended up. We could’ve figured it out a long time ago.”
Q: You looked at options to play in Turkey, Italy or China during the lockout. Were you close to playing overseas?
Bryant: “Yeah, but not because we were just waiting to see what was going to happen with the season. I didn’t want to go overseas without knowing whether or not the season was going to be canceled. If the season was going to be canceled, yeah.”
Bryant: “Energy. Expected success, which is what they haven’t had in the past. Now they’re expected to be successful. In the past, the Clippers have never had that energy about their team.”
Q: Seven years ago you chose to remain with the Lakers over going to the Clippers. Did you really seriously consider the Clippers back then?
Bryant: “I did. I absolutely did. [The Lakers] traded Shaq and I had the space here. I’ve been with this organization. I like being here. I like playing for the purple and gold. This is where I want to finish up.”
Q: Do you ever reflect on what it would have been like if you were a Clipper?
Bryant: “No. Once I made my decision that was it.”
Q: Does Paul change the Clippers' culture?
Bryant: “It’s changed already. They’re expected to be successful. They’ve never had those expectations before, but now they do. It changes things.”
Q: What were your emotions when Lamar Odom was traded to Dallas?
Bryant: “[Expletive]. It’s tough because I didn’t know what was going on or why he got traded. Did he ask for a trade? Was it something we kind of facilitated? I didn’t know. It sucked.”
Q: Have you talked to Odom since the trade. And if so, what did you say to him?
Bryant: “Yeah. I just wished him the best. I told him to just do your thing and make us proud, except when you are playing against us.”
Q: Do you have any say in personnel moves?
Bryant: “No. That’s how they feel most comfortable handling their business, which is fine by me. I don’t take it personal. I just let them do their thing and trust that they’re trying to win right now. It’s not something where they are just tearing apart and starting from scratch.”
Q: How would you describe your relationship with new Lakers head coach Mike Brown?
Bryant: “He’s very good. He’s a workaholic. He has an attention to detail. When you come to practice, he has a practice planned. He is prepared. Boom, boom, boom. He’s right at it. I’m learning new things every day. He doesn’t let anything slide. You’re learning right then and there. When you’re doing something wrong, he’s not going to sugarcoat it. He’s going to tell you how it is and I can respect that.”
Q: You guys had two meetings before the lockout started. What do you remember about your first meeting at the golf course clubhouse in Orange County?
Bryant: “My first impression was that he was very meticulous, which shows me he is going to work as hard as I’m willing to work – or more – to make sure we are very well prepared mentally and physically.”
Bryant: “I still don’t know what other moves we are going to make or are we going to try to do anything. I really don’t know. I’m just trying to work every day with the guys and trying to be as sharp as can be with the guys here and then see where we end up.”
Q: Can you talk about the surgical procedure you underwent on your right knee in Germany this summer and why you had it there?
Bryant: “I’m not a big medicine, techie guy. But I know my knee feels 90 percent better. My understanding was that the guy who invented it … [Germany] is where he’s from and where his home base is. So I didn’t want to go someplace else where he had to move his equipment. If I am going to do it, I want to do it right and do it in the place where he is most comfortable doing it.”
Q: What can you do physically with that knee that you couldn’t do at the end of last season?
Bryant: “Anything I want. I can run. I can jump. I can run the track. I can lift weights the way I want to lift weights. I can practice every day. Those are things I couldn’t do last year.”
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