Kobe not recruiting Durant to Lakers -- yet

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has openly praised Kobe Bryant, saying he'd love to play with the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard.

And while Bryant said he hasn't yet recruited Durant, who is set to become a free agent in 2016, Bryant didn't rule out trying to lure last season's MVP to the Lakers either.

"No, I think we know each other pretty well," Bryant said Thursday at the Lakers' practice facility here, leading into Friday's game between the Thunder (12-13) and Lakers (8-17) at Staples Center.

"I don't think it's a discussion that you have in terms of coming here. But I think it's more of an understanding how to play with each other."

Said Bryant, "If the opportunity came up, then that's the time to have that discussion."

It's no secret that the Lakers are among many teams that plan to pursue Durant when he hits free agency.

Durant recently told USA Today that he wouldn't mind playing alongside Bryant, even if it has been reported that Bryant's dominating presence alone is a hindrance for the Lakers as they try to recruit top-flight players.

"Excuse my language, but that's [expletive]," Durant told the newspaper. "I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I'd want to play with a guy like that every day. ... [His style] may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff. I think [the accusation] is B.S."

Said Bryant: "I greatly appreciate" Durant's comments.

Bryant added, "As players, we play for each other. We play to have the respect from one another. So to hear those comments coming from your peers, it means a lot."

The two played together on the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 and Durant has said that Bryant has offered him plenty of advice through the years.

"He's a constant learner like myself," Bryant said of Durant. "He's not afraid or embarrassed to ask questions about certain things just like Michael [Jordan] has done for me and other great players have done for me growing up. I'm more than happy to share what I know."

Lakers coach Byron Scott said Bryant and Durant are more similar than they might appear.

"I think they both have the killer instinct in them, but Kobe's is a whole lot more visible [and] Durant's is more quiet," Scott said. "But he's a guy that, I remember [coaching] against him and the ball got knocked out of bounds toward the bench and I was standing and he said, ‘Coach, if I get it, you know I'm going to make it.' So he has a world of confidence in himself too. There's no doubt about that. You don't get to be that good if you don't."

Scott predicted that Durant, who at 26 is the second youngest player to score 15,000 points (LeBron James is the youngest), would one-day join the 30,000-point club.

"He's a unique basketball player," Scott said. "There's not a whole lot of guys that you can put on him that can stop him, because if you put somebody on him that's 6-11, they're probably a lot slower and a lot bigger. If you put somebody smaller on him, he's just going to shoot over him."

Bryant praised how much Durant has changed his game since joining the NBA.

"When he first came into the league, he was more of a perimeter player," Bryant said. "He's since evolved his game to now being a great post player, a great passer out of double teams, a great mid-range game. His evolution as a basketball player just keeps getting better and better."

Bryant was asked if adding Durant -- or any star -- would entice him to extend his career beyond next season, when his two-year extension worth $48.5 million is set to expire.

"I don't know. Maybe," Bryant said. "But it's really my call, man. If I want to play, I'll play. If I don't, I don't. If I don't want to play anymore and go through the process of getting my body ready day in and day out, I'm not going to play."