Kobe: Not motivated by ranking

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant grinned from ear to ear as the question was being lobbed his way, then the Los Angeles Lakers star offered a deep laugh.

No, Bryant said after a pause, he did not consider ESPN.com ranking him as the 40th-best NBA player to be any form of motivation.

"I've known for a long time [that] they're a bunch of idiots," Bryant said Thursday after the Lakers' 119-86 preseason loss to the Utah Jazz, hours after ESPN announced its ranking online.

In 28 minutes against the Jazz, Bryant scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the floor and 7-of-13 from the free throw line, reaching highs in both field-goal attempts and points through four games this preseason.

Last year, as questions surrounded the Achilles injury that ended Bryant's 2012-13 campaign, ESPN ranked him as the 25th-best NBA player.

He called that ranking "silly" and "laughable."

He changed his Twitter avatar to the digit "1225," the first two digits representing what place in the Western Conference that ESPN had ranked the Lakers.

Then Bryant played just six games in 2013-14 after suffering a left knee fracture.

But this season, after falling 15 spots, Bryant said he wasn't going to use the ranking as motivation -- not like a year ago.

"I tend to use things as motivation that tend to be in the realm of reality," he said, still smiling.

Did last year's ranking bother him more?

"Honestly, all jokes aside," Bryant said, shedding his smile, "it really doesn't bother me too much. I'm going to do what I do regardless. God willing, I can stay healthy, and if I wind up proving a lot of people wrong in the process, that will just wind up being collateral damage."

Before his team's 33-point loss, Lakers coach Byron Scott chimed in on the subject of Bryant's ranking.

"I think he probably gets a kick out of it," Scott said. "I do too. .... I would just hate to be one of the guys that doubted him. I get to see him every day, so obviously I've got a different opinion of him. I think everybody in the league respects the hell out of him. There's no doubt about that.

"I just look at it and I kind of smirk. Like I said, I see him every day practicing. I see how hard he works and I see how where he's coming from to this particular point after the injury, and I know he's going to get stronger. I think he'll have the last laugh."