From Kevin Ding, OC Register: To know Kobe Bryant is to know that he changes all the time – his footwork, his messages, his moods – yet doesn’t change at all. When he says he really does want to keep winning and winning and winning, believe it. He’s not normal when it comes to this stuff. He’s a geek about basketball, but he’s a freak about winning. Two things since he won one for the thumb last June 18 speak to this, one shortly thereafter and one just the other day: Bryant did head off soon after the Lakers’ championship parade, having his exit meeting with Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson and then one last gathering with reporters before going on holiday in South Africa for the FIFA World Cup.
From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: They’re back. And if the Lakers needed any proof that Coach Phil Jackson wasn’t pleased with how their European excursion went and that it was time to get serious, they got it Saturday at practice. Jackson worked his players for three-plus hours at the team’s training facility. He said it was because his team “is not playing well” after two exhibition losses in Europe, because the Lakers were “out of focus a little bit” and because they didn’t “have a lot of practice time” while in London to play the Minnesota Timberwolves and in Barcelona, Spain, to play FC Barcelona. So after an 11-hour flight Friday from Spain to Los Angeles, Jackson had his players at work Saturday before he gave them Sunday off. They will practice again Monday.
From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times (with video): The NBA had hoped the Lakers’ trip to Europe would help showcase the league’s best talent before an international audience. Instead, fans from London and Barcelona saw the defending champs lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves and FC Barcelona. This trip included plenty of sightseeing for the Lakers — but also 11-hour flights, a travel alert in London because of perceived terrorist threats and multiple NBA Cares events. The Lakers’ visit to Spain marked a homecoming of sorts for forward Pau Gasol, a Barcelona native who, with all the activity, seemed to feel more drained than inspired. “It was more or less what I expected,” said Gasol, who visited with family and friends and had, as well, numerous publicity and media obligations. “That’s why it was filled with mixed feelings.”
From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: The Lakers hit the ground running Saturday. Well, most of them anyway. Kobe Bryant still isn’t fit to practice every day after having offseason knee surgery. Andrew Bynum still isn’t ready to practice or play after his knee surgery. Luke Walton still isn’t recovered from a hamstring injury. Of the three, Lakers coach Phil Jackson sounded most concerned about Bryant, who played only six minutes in last Monday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in London and then 25 in a defeat against Regal FC Barcelona on Thursday in Spain. “I didn’t like the way he looked on the floor, personally,” Jackson said of Bryant’s play against Barcelona. “He wanted to be competitive and tried to keep the game competitive. He’s decidedly not ready to play yet.
From Saurav A. Das, Silver Screen and Roll: Andrew Bynum. The next Shaquille O’Neal? Not quite. The next Yao Ming? Maybe. Or at least, that’s what Phil Jackson says. Now I would not pay any mind to that statement, as it is undoubtedly said purely with the intent of motivating Andrew and highlighting Phil’s current displeasure with him for being nonchalant in taking his sweet time to return from injury. However, it still bodes ominous, as Andrew Bynum’s injury history is, to put it in rather basic terms, ugly.
From Mike Snider, USA Today: How has the game changed from your playing days? [Michael Jordan]: It’s less physical and the rules have changed, obviously. Based on these rules, if I had to play with my style of play, I’m pretty sure I would have fouled out or I would have been at the free throw line pretty often and I could have scored 100 points. Of course, there’s always the comparison of you and Kobe Bryant. Where does Kobe stand in the status of NBA players through history? [MJ]: It’s so hard to say. I think he is always going to be within the conversations of some of the greatest players who’ve played by the time he is finished. Where does he rank among those, if you are talking about positions? If you are talking about guards, I would say he has got to be in the Top 10.