Josh Powell maintains positive attitude despite lack of playing time
Before every game, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hears words of encouragement from teammate Josh Powell.
It sounds like a simple gesture, until you realize what the dynamic means. Bryant, one of the world's most recognizable players and the Lakers' franchise player, openly admits there's not many he allows within his inner circle. Yet, Powell, who averaged only 2.7 points in 9.2 minutes per game in the regular season and struggled in becoming an effective fourth big man, somehow has earned Bryant's respect. It all points to what Powell presents in practice where he's solidified his reputation for his hard work and positive attitude, two admirable qualities for a bench player whose opportunities remain scarce.
"Through my work ethic and my drive," Powell offered as reasons veterans, such as Bryant and Derek Fisher value their relationship with him.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak offered similar sentiments Friday in Powell's exit interview, an assessment Phil Jackson and his assistants outlined in note form since Jackson has already left for Montana to help clear his mind before deciding next week whether he'll retire or remain the Lakers' coach.
"He was understanding of the fact that the opportunities were less, but just saying I worked really hard and was a professional off the court," Powell said of the meeting with Kupchak.
It's unclear what Powell's future entails once he becomes a free agent Thursday. It if it were his call, he'd remain on the Lakers because of the two championship rings he's gotten, the learning experience and the appreciation he's felt from the team. Whether the Lakers cut Powell -- something an NBA executive told The Times' Broderick Turner the team will likely do -- or keep him, Powell says he isn't going to fret about his future.
"I'm just going to put it in God's hands and understand the organization has decisions they have to make," Powell said. "I understand it and respect it. I just have to make sure that no matter what, I'm ready, wherever it is I'm supposed to land next year."
It's the same mindset he carried as a reserve. Even if the constant work in practice yielded little in playing time, Powell wanted to show he could somehow contribute to the team. Even if his approach required extra work since limited minutes makes it harder to maintain a rhythm, he wanted to remain sharp in case he earned some run. Though Powell played a team-low 3.1 minutes per game in the playoffs, Jackson often said he'd feel most comfortable with Powell playing in the NBA Finals if Lamar Odom remained ineffective because of how alert Powell had been in practice.
Powell never received those kind of minutes Jackson envisioned, but he believes his attitude opened many eyes. It gave Jackson reason to consider playing him, Bryant a willingness to listen to him and other teammates to appreciate him. Whether or not the Lakers keep him remain another issue. But Powell said he felt at least comforted hearing the staff noticed his effort.
"We did our parts especially in practices to get the guys ready and make it competitive and go really hard," Powell said of himself and the bench. "Whatever we could do to help with the practice or the energy we brought in games, hopefully that was very helpful to the guys performing."
-- Mark Medina