The Summer of 2011 will be a season of change for former NBA Champions the Los Angeles Lakers. First and foremost there will be a new bench boss for the club as former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown takes over for the now retired Phil Jackson. There has also been all sorts of speculation that the team will explore changing the personnel on the court as the Lakers currently have one of the oldest rosters in the Association with four of their five starters from the recently concluded season are at least 30-years-old.
The “Straw That Stirs The Drink” for the Lakers All-Star guard and former NBA MVP Kobe Bryant has maintained radio silence since his team was swept in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs by eventual NBA Champions the Dallas Mavericks. Bryant has refused to comment on the hiring of Brown as head coach after he publicly endorsed former Lakers assistant Brian Shaw as his choice to succeed the retiring Jackson. Brown has said that he has spoken with Kobe and his wife and he expects to have a good relationship with the veteran but Bryant as of this time has failed to confirm those statements.
Since Kobe is not currently talking to the media the “Los Angeles Times” sat down with the All-Star’s father former NBA and Euro-League player Joe “Jelly-Bean” Bryant who is currently an assistant coach with the WNBA team the Los Angeles Sparks. Bryant responded on a variety of subjects including how long he believes his son can maintain his current level of play.
The paper asked Bryant his thoughts on the hiring of Mike Brown to be the next head coach of the Lakers. The Sparks assistant responded “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.”
Bryant was asked what his son thoughts were on Brown now calling the shots for the team and would he be able to play for his new coach. Jelly-Bean” said “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. 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 interview then switched from the short-term to the more distant future as the former player was asked how the wear and tear of the NBA campaign plus Father Time start to affect the Lakers star. Bryant responded “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.”
Perhaps no player in the recent history of the Association was able to evolve his game as his career progressed better than Michael Jordan. As his athleticism started to fade Jordan compensated by using the knowledge he had acquired during his years on the floor. Although he could no longer always out-leap his opponents; he was able to out-think them giving him the edge in the match-up. This will be what Kobe will have to do in order to live up to his father’s expectations.
Kobe’s peak physical years will soon come to an end and he will start riding down the other side of the mountain. However as long as he maintains his health there is no reason to believe that he will fail to emulate Jordan and allow his game to evolve. Bryant is a smart and savvy player and as long as he is willing to adapt his style of play he can certainly maintain his status among the elite players in the Association.