Monday afternoon at the team's shootaround in Philly, Kobe Bryant was asked if the Lakers, as constructed, can win a title.
"We can, but we have to play very solid, near perfect basketball, particularly with our second unit. Which we’re capable of doing," he said. "We’ve done it in stretches. So we’re capable of contending, but our margin for error is not as great as some of the other teams."
In the art of the qualified yes, Kobe has done museum quality work.
When a guy starts talking about the need for "near perfect" basketball and a small margin for error as part of a potential title run, what he's effectively saying is "no," straddling the line between creating headlines and making sure his opinion is fully understood. Kobe didn't say anything most people haven't picked up by now -- that the Lakers have too many holes to successfully navigate the postseason without upgrades has been apparent for a while now -- but to this point he hasn't quite said it this way.
He'll take some help, thanks. That much is clear.
Big picture, Bryant told Stephen A. Smith following the game he's not interested in playing somewhere else. "That ship sailed, in '07 or whatever it was. If there was ever a time I was going to move and go play someplace else, that time was then," he said. "I'm not going to jump ship to go chase a sixth ring. I'm just not going to do that. It's either going to happen here, or it's not going to happen."
Still, the desire for one more piece of jewelry is strong. "I just want No. 6, man," Bryant said in the locker room Monday. "I'm not asking for too much, man. Just give me a sixth ring, damn it."
I don't think Bryant, who has repeatedly said (and reiterated in his conversation with Smith) he won't stick around to be an 18 or 19 point a game guy, is being disingenuous when he says it's L.A. or nowhere. And I absolutely believe him when he says the desire to again reach the mountaintop burns. But at some point, those goals might prove mutually exclusive.
If that time comes, which "want" wins?