Lakers Q&A: Joe Bryant comments on the Mike Brown hiring, believes Kobe Bryant will last 3-5 more seasons
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has maintained his silence about Mike Brown becoming the team's head coach. So I figured I'd stop by Sparks practice Friday afternoon to visit Kobe's father, Joe, who's serving as the team's assistant coach under Jennifer Gillom, for some possible answers. Below is the transcript on that subject and a few other Lakers-related topics.
What do you think of the Brown hire?
That's a good question. I don't know. It could be Mo, Larry or Curly [of the Three Stooges]. If anybody stepped into L.A., it's going to be difficult. It's going to be difficult. Brown won 60-plus games in the East with Cleveland. I wish him a lot of success. It's going to be important that the people around him give him good advice. Those things are important too.
Do you have a sense of what Kobe thinks about it and why he hasn't commented on it?
We don't talk about basketball. Everybody is waiting for that. Everybody is wondering why Kobe isn't saying nothing. I'm not giving you any inside stuff. Good try. Good try.
How do you think he will handle it?
Kobe is a professional. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. There's no need to make a comment on any of that stuff now. There might be a lockout.
The rest of Kobe's career obviously centers on how he will try to find a way to play through the mileage and injuries. What's your assessment on how he's been doing that?
You can't put it on age. All players have injuries, even young players have injuries. You learn to deal with pain and you learn how to understand your body. You also understand your game. When you're a student of the game, a lot of players rely on their athleticism. Once you get older and their athleticism is not there, then you don't know how to play. But Kobe knows how to play and understands the ABC's of the game. He understands the scouting report and how players are going to play and he understands his teammates. When you understand the game, it goes back to playing chess. You know how to move the pieces and you know how to move the ball.
You're not going to run as fast. You're not going to jump as high. You have to pick your moments. The great example when he picked his moment was the playoff game when he went down the middle and dunked, the one he had against [New Orleans center Emeka Okafor] in Game 5 of the first-round series. That was checkmate. He's a warrior and understands the game. All players have injuries. It's part of it and how he can manage it. He's been doing a good job with that. Nobody is going to run and jump [like] when they were 18 or 19. It's impossible for people to think that. As long as he's enjoying the game and keeps the two seven-footers [Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum], I still think he has three, four or five more years to play at a high level.
Three to five more years?
The issue is going to be when the media talks, he can't get 30 [points] anymore, but he's averaging 25 [points] and five [assists]. The expectations they'll put on him or say he can't do anymore, that's going to be the biggest challenge, dealing with it. The important thing is as long as he's enjoying the game and enjoying the challenge and still in the race to vie for a championship. That's motivation enough. If you're with a team that has no shot at making the playoffs, then mentally you're going to be down and the energy level isn't going to be up or your'e going to want to be traded. As long as he's enjoying the game and it's a challenge for him, I think he'll continue to play.
So you said one of the keys will entail Kobe having Bynum and Gasol. How does that dynamic need to work to be most effective?
Last year's playoffs against Boston, everybody was talking about Pau and how he needs to be tougher. One day I saw Pau before a game or at practice and I said, "Pau don't listen to all that. Just play tall. All of this stuff about being bruising is not your style and be more physical. That's not your style. Play tall." He looked at me and said, "Thanks." It's simple. That's why I can help a team. Sometimes assistant coaches get to hollering and screaming and sometimes I can say those things that make sense. The common sense things. That's the hard thing about being an assistant coach because you have to be on the same page with the head coach. I'm a little different. When I told Pau to play tall, it was like a bell went off.
So what ailed the Lakers last season?
They didn't have a three-point shooter If you don't make an open shot, the defense will set. That's the problem. If you can get someone who can shoot, then the floor opens up. Then Pau Gasol and Bynum and Kobe can penetrate because they're not double teamed. It's simple.
Every year that Michael Jordan played, he always had a shooter. Steve Kerr, John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong. Name all the shooters Kobe had in his career. When crack reporters are analyzing the game, that's the first thing they should look at. What helped Michael out was he would penetrate, get double teamed and then stick it out to Steve Kerr. Kobe never had that, but he's still been successful.
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Photo: Lakers All-Star guard and NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant takes in the Angels-Dodgers game on Sunday with his father, Joe Bryant, who is a former NBA player. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / June 21, 2009