(photo credit: NBC Los Angeles)
As we wrote yesterday, media day is mostly a circus. And when you’re Kobe Bryant, heading into your 20th season, coming off three straight years of season ending injuries, and playing on a newly constructed team where as many as five players (by my count, at least) will be rookies, the circus wants your take on it all.
This is, pretty much, the summary of media day. Kobe, engulfed by a media scrum, speaking on everything from how he feels physically to the prospect of this being his last season to his Lakers’ allegiance to getting this new team on the same page to, well, whatever other topic you can think of about this upcoming season. Kobe, as he has in recent years, provided honest insight, honest push-back, and an honest reflection of where he’s been, is, and wants to go.
With that, let’s get to the links of the day, starting with, you guessed it, words on Kobe Bryant…
Baxter Holmes get’s us started with a nice summary of the days events and, somewhat poetically, it starts with the beginning for Kobe who — and this is an understatement — has been at this for a while:
Kobe Bryant thought back on his career and shook his head.
“It went by fast,” the Los Angeles Lakers star said at the team’s media day held at their practice facility Monday. “It went by fast.”
Bryant, entering his 20th NBA season, said he remains excited, maybe more so than some might expect entering a season in which his team is projected to miss the playoffs for the third straight season.
Yet it remains unclear how Bryant will play. The 37-year-old spent the offseason rehabbing from his third consecutive season-ending injury, this time a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that ended his 2014-15 campaign after 35 games.
“I expect Kobe to play great,” said Byron Scott, now in his second year as head coach. “I expect him to be Kobe, but not to be the Kobe that we were so used to seeing maybe 10 years ago or five years ago. I just really got to watch the minutes and the workload that he has to take on a day-to-day basis.
Byron Scott may have clear expectations about Kobe, but he might be the only one. Kobe himself noted he was not sure what this year will bring, but, at times, did speak with hopeful optimism while also bringing us back to the idea that he just doesn’t know how things will go. From Marc Spears at Yahoo! Sports:
“I don’t have any expectations yet because we have a new group and a lot of young guys,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “Julius, this is really his rookie year. Clarkson gained valuable experience at the end of last year. You got D’Angelo coming. You got a lot of players that have a lot of figuring out to do of the pro game still.
“So we’re not sure how that is going to mix. We don’t even know how our starting five is going to look like. We got to figure that stuff out first.”
Spears also gives us the lead quotes from the day about the one thing Kobe did seem to speak with some certainty on: his future with the Lakers.
“A lot of players want to go to different teams or contend to win championships,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports at the conclusion of the Lakers’ media day on Monday. “I’m a Laker, man. I’m a Laker for better or worse.”
Jackson, who coached Bryant and is now president of the New York Knicks, recently told New York media that he thinks Bryant could play for another team after his contract with the Lakers expires after this season.
“I don’t think it’s his last year,” Jackson said. “Sounds like it might be his last year as a Laker.”
Bryant, 37, is entering his 20th season with the Lakers. He’s making $23.5 million in the final year of his contract, and if he does continue to play, he expects he’ll do so in a Lakers uniform.
“I’m a Laker, man. How many times do I have to say that?” Bryant said “Dude, I bleed purple and gold.”
I chalked Phil’s comments up to Phil being Phil, but Kobe’s take was even simpler — everyone has an opinion and even though Phil knows Kobe well and they have all this history, his thoughts on this subject are still only an opinion.
Of course, as Kobe mentioned earlier too, he’s not the only guy on the team. With an assortment of imports both veteran and young, the team has an entirely new look. The key young player to many is rookie D’Angelo Russell. At Silver Screen & Roll, Drew Garrison discussed the rookie after Byron Scott noted he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen from Russell since summer league concluded:
“The last three weeks of him in this gym playing, I saw some things that I didn’t see in Summer League. I saw some explosiveness. I saw some quickness,” Byron said of D’Angelo during the in-house training sessions. “He was never really just going by people in Summer League, where as here now we know why. It’s because of the injuries that he had.”
“I saw some things that made me go ‘Whoa okay.’ I didn’t see that from him in Summer League.”
It’s an interesting revelation that Russell was banged up during summer league. I’m not going to chalk all his struggles up to having “knee and ankle” issues, but I could imagine it affected his play some.
Moving on from Media Day, but back (at least somewhat) to Kobe, over at Sports Illustrated Ian Levy wrote a really good piece on the nine remaining players in the NBA who started their careers in the 1990’s:
At the extremes, the statistics are skewed?—?Kobe has the only 18-year-old season in the sample, he and Garnett were the only 19-year-olds, and only four of these players have hit age 38?—?but you can see both their collective peak and their age-related regression that has left them as solid contributors (a BPM of zero represents an average level of performance). What’s interesting is that there doesn’t appear to be anything especially shallow or slow about their declines. The shape of the curve above is fairly consistent with standard aging curves. This group was just so good, with such a lofty peak, that even an expected level of decline still leaves them in a very good place…
Each player already has a rich career behind him, and they are all still relevant today. Dirk and Kobe sit the closest to fading out of the conversation, but as much for the erosion of the rosters around them as for the deterioration of their own skills. Duncan and Ginobili have a very good chance to add win another championship this season. Terry, Carter and Pierce all play for strong contenders, and could earn rings as well. Garnett and Miller won’t be winning a title this season, but they are helping prepare the next generation of talent in Minnesota, which could go on to win championships.
Finally, we end with a good watch and a good listen. Over at Lakers.com, you can find Mitch Kupchak’s full pre-training camp press conference. Mitch spoke at length about a variety of topics and the entire thing is worth your time. And over at Grantland, Zach Lowe had ESPN’s Lakers’ beat reporter Baxter Holmes on as a guest to talk Lakers, Holmes’ background in journalism, and much more. The stuff on the Lakers is smart and astute, but the entire thing is worth your time.