For Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson‘s decision to become the team president of the New York Knicks does not come as much of a surprise after the two sat down for breakfast a week and a half ago.
“I wasn’t surprised by it, I had already known that was going to happen,” Bryant said on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday. “He and I had a great opportunity to get breakfast together and just kind of talk. I just wish him all the best.”
With Jackson at the helm for the Knicks, Bryant believes that the 68-year-old will have a similar impact in the front office as he did as a head coach.
“I think his mentorship shifts,” Bryant said. “It goes from having a direct influence on the players themselves to having a direct influence on the coaching staff, which he is accustomed to doing because that’s how he coached as well. He really had a great rapport with his coaching staff and he was really a great mentor for them, and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing and it will just kind of trickle down from there. It’s really no different from what Pat (Riley) has been able to do in Miami with (Erik) Spoelstra.”
As for the Lakers’ aspect of things, the 18-year veteran was given the impression that the organization did not offer Jackson a similar position with the team.
“From my understanding, they never had that dialogue since last season,” Bryant said. “So if there was some interest there, I’m sure our organization would have reached out and had those conversations with him.”
Bryant in a press conference last week questioned the direction of the team’s management and could not understand how Jackson could be passed up for the second time in the last two seasons. So with Jackson no longer available for Los Angeles, the 35-year-old is confident in the team’s management to get the job done and reassemble a team that will once again contend for an NBA title.
“I think what we can do as players is just trust the organization,” Bryant said. “I’ve had conversations with [executive vice president of player personnel] Jimmy [Buss], and Jimmy is really adamant about the direction that he wants to go with this organization, and he feels really confident in the fact that he can be able to turn it around. Him and [president] Jeanie [Buss] seem to be really focused on being on the same page, getting on the same page and pushing this organization to have the same legacy that their father was able to maintain for so many years.
“It’s hard to really see that when you’re in this type of situation where the future seems bleak, it’s really tough to have that faith and trust, Bryant said. “But that’s what you have to have. I’ve been with this organization since I was 17 years-old and I have known Jimmy and known Jeanie. I know they bleed purple and gold, and they want to do the right thing for this organization.
“When you have people that passion about it, then it’s really about communication and moving forward in the same direction. I have no doubt that will happen.”
As for the future of the organization, head coach Mike D’Antoni will play a large role in it, and his job security will be one of the big questions this upcoming offseason. Bryant feels since D’Antoni has taken the job, he hasn’t truly been given a chance to coach a team that suits his style of play.
“It’s really been tough on him,” Bryant said. “The two years that he’s been here, he’s been dealing with so many injuries left and right that he hasn’t really gotten a fair deal, a fair shake at it since he’s been here.”
Bryant also touched on his former olympic teammate Carmelo Anthony, stating that he has the necessary makeup after winning a collegiate national championship in his only year at Syracuse in 2003 and feels that Anthony is more than just a scorer in the NBA.
“I mean, he won a championship at Syracuse, so he’s won a championship before,” said Bryant, . “He’s been a part of a championship roster. So he has that championship DNA inside of him. I think a lot of times people get wrapped up in a categorization of a player and they start running with it and that is what he is labeled as. “
As for own physical ability moving forward, Bryant believes that he can still play at an elite level once he returns from his injury.
“I personally think you’re going to see the same old Kobe that you’re used to seeing,” said the 16-time All-Star. “The Kobe that was present there after the All-Star break last season. I have never had a year with this much time off and to recover rest, and get stronger.”
The five-time NBA champion has missed all but six games this season due to a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee that came just nine days after returning from a torn left Achilles tendon that sidelined him for almost eight months. This surpasses his previous low of 50 games played in a regular season that occurred in the 1998-99 season.
So with that said, if playoffs were still a possibility could Bryant play right now if needed?
“Probably,” Bryant said. “Even when I was injured (against the Memphis Grizzles), I finished out the game. Even though it was sore, I still finished playing the game. So if this was like a playoff situation, I’d play through it. I’d have to deal with it heavily in the offseason, but I’d be able to manage it.”
So as the Lakers and Bryant move forward through the remainder of this season and into the offseason, it will interesting to see what course of action the organization will take to once again bring the team back to prominence and contend for a championship without Jackson, who helped bring the franchise their last five NBA titles.
Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez, AP
Here is Bryant’s full radio interview on the “Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday morning: