On Wednesday, ahead of their game against the Knicks in the Garden (which they lost), and in the midst of a 3 game losing streak and 4 game under .500, Kobe Bryant sat down for an interview with ESPN’s
Screamin’ Stephen A. Smith.
The 40 minute interview naturally touches the Lakers’ pre-season great expectations and their terrible start to the season, Kobe’s feelings on the current roster, the whole coaching debacle and Kobe’s feelings and thoughts on his future, and retirement.
In the interview (watch all 4 parts, below) it’s clear the ever-sensationalist Smith is hoping to get a headline or two from Kobe, something to the effect of “I hate D’Antoni / I wante Phil”, “D’Antoni’s system is wrong”, “Dwight is a bum missing free-throws”, “We have no bench”, etc.. Alas, Kobe stays calm and collected, not falling for Smith’s bait. Kobe clearly states that transition defense is the key issue at the moment, and that D’Antoni’s system and style – running and gunning – could still work for this current roster. Kobe goes on to openly talk about Pau’s importance to the team (“he’s the key to the whole thing”) and endorsing his return to the low-post (after D’Antoni moved him to the perimeter, and then to the bench (especially in the 4th…), his satisfaction with the current roster (despite it’s obvious weaknesses), his affection and respect for Phil Jackson, his thoughts about Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting, and more.
As for his teammates’ state-of-mind in regards to his own high level tenacity and intensity, Kobe explains that he hopes they are “determined and not discouraged”. That’s a very interesting point, and one that I think as a leader, you have to make sure your teammates do indeed feel and understand. As Kobe admits in the interview, it’s not easy to play with him because he’s so demanding, but, at the same time, it’s on him to make sure his teammates buy in to his style and put their trust in him.
I feel Kobe is almost zen-like in his responses, keeping his cool while preaching patience, focusing on the game, trusting the process and believing that the togetherness and execution, rather athleticism or speed, are the real keys to a championship. As Kobe himself put it: “I think I’m doing a pretty good job of sitting on my lillypad and meditating through this process”, which must not be easy for him given his extreme competitiveness. But, it is what it is.
This is definitely one of the more candid interviews I’ve seen with Kobe. As a Laker fan, it’s too bad it comes during such a low point in his career (in terms of the Lakers’ record), but, listening to what he says, it does give hope that things may still change.