Late this afternoon, Kobe Bryant (shooting guard, Los Angeles Lakers, used to wear a mask) appeared on 710 ESPN's Mason and Ireland Show -- click here for the full interview -- and covered a lot of ground over about 12 minutes. He called the Lakers contenders, commented on his relationship with Mike Brown and the coaching staff, weighed in on the question of whether Ramon Sessions should start, and why the Lakers have struggled on the road.
The nugget likely to get the most attention came at the end, when he was asked about Jim Buss:
"We have a good relationship. People misunderstand that relationship. We’ve had good times. We’ve had dinner together, things like that. He’s a great guy. He wants to do the right thing, he wants to help us win a championship. The biggest thing is, the same with his father who he’s learned from, he’s not going to make rushed decisions. He’s going to be patient, he’s going to take his time, and the one thing I will say about the Lakers organization is that this is one of those franchises that always seems to land on it’s feet. Always seems to make the right choices, always seems to make the right decisions. Even the tough ones. He’s a great guy.”
Not that you'd expect Bryant to go Category 5 and blow up his boss on the radio, but his answer is still a lot nicer than many would guess, even if he's not being completely forthright. It doesn't make some of those things ticking Kobe off in recent months less real, but as a money quote could quell some of the whispers about major fractures in his relationship with the team. That's no small thing at a time where the Lakers are at a very uncertain place, caught between winning now and trying to prep for the future.
Among the other topics covered (arranged chronologically for your convenience)...
His thoughts on Brown and his staff. "We have coaches on staff who are very smart and understand the temp of the game. [Ettore] Messina in particular, who has a great deal of experience in coaching overseas and brings more of a European style of play, that’s more fun to watch and involves more movement and things of that nature. Our coaching staff as a whole is very unselfish, and they don’t mind other coaches sharing ideas and players sharing concepts."
How he can go shoot a combined 13-of-47 against Utah and Houston, then go 11-for-18 vs. Dallas.
On starting Sessions. "I don't really see it as a major issue or a big deal."
Why they struggle on the road, and how Sessions can help them improve.
Lamar Odom's struggles in Dallas. It's not just lingering disappointment from the trade, but his role as well. "“You have to feature him. He was a playmaker for us. He was a point forward for us. We ran our offense through him and allowed him to make decisions. It’s tough to do that in Dallas, because they already have their structure.”
His belief that this is a team capable of winning a title.
Finally, he was asked -- jokingly, of course -- if he and Derek Fisher would go easy on each other when the Thunder come to town next Thursday. "“The most disrespectful thing we could do to each other is take it easy on each other. That’s not what we’re about.”
There will, he said, be elbows thrown and bruises inflicted.