Derek Fisher on Kobe Bryant: 'He's healthy'
There are plenty of bonds connecting Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
They won five NBA championships together with the Lakers. They played most of their career together dating back to their rookie season. Despite the talent disparity between Bryant and Fisher, both universally respect each other's work ethic and competitive streak. And most importantly, the two remain confidantes and fully understand what makes each other tick.
So when Bryant boasted to Fisher last week when they played in a pair of exhibition games at the Philippines that his surgically repaired right knee felt fine, Fisher remained skeptical. Bryant had just come off a controversial procedure in May involving a derivation of platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee. Bryant's heavy basketball mileage and sprained left ankle left him fatigued for much of the 2010 NBA playoffs. Then there's the never-ending reality that Bryant rarely tells the actual truth about his health to reporters and even teammates.
After watching videos of Bryant's 360 dunk at his basketball camp and his overall play last weekend in the Philippines, Fisher's skepticism quickly vanished.
"I saw it for myself that his knee is the best that it's been in a long time," Fisher said Friday outside his own basketball camp at the Roybal Learning Center in downtown Los Angeles. "I didn't believe him when he was telling me he was doing some stuff at his basketball camp. I didn't believe it. But when I saw him a little bit, I believe him now."
I've seen those same tapes too and frankly reach a different conclusion. No doubt, it's nice for Laker fans to know Bryant isn't exactly hobbling on one foot and he displays a decent amount of athleticism in these games. But these snapshots don't really provide anything to give us anything definitive. Bryant dunking at his game before a cheering crowd provides no indication on how he'll fare attacking the basket next season in games that actually matter against stifling defenses. Bryant throwing an alley oop to Derrick Rose spoke more to the poor competition he faced in the Philippines and the lax defense than if Bryant had suddenly displayed the hops he had as a young player.
But that doesn't mean Fisher's assessment is wrong. It's most likely correct. But describing his "knee is the best that it's been a long time" doesn't equate to Bryant suddenly being 100%. It's just relative to how much agonizing pain he's suffered the past few seasons. Still, at least there's some good news Laker fans can grasp onto during an otherwise sour offseason.
-- Mark Medina
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