Kobe delivers stern message to team
WINTER PARK, Fla. -- Kobe Bryant vowed he would have something to say to his teammates after the Lakers' 98-83 loss to the Bobcats in Charlotte on Friday, Los Angeles' third straight road defeat and second straight loss overall.
Saturday he got the chance.
The Lakers, coming off back-to-back games, did not conduct a full practice at Rollins College, about 15 miles from downtown Orlando. Coach Phil Jackson called it a "personal day" for the team. But the players did congregate and talk about their recent struggles.
"We're just working with some principles right now that have escaped us as far as what we consider good defense," Jackson said. "I kind of opened it up for how are we going to solve some of these problems that we have, basically penetration off screen-roll which has been a nemesis and is for most teams."
While the discussion began in strategy, Bryant interjected his thoughts about desire.
"We were working on some of the principles and [Bryant] brought up a notion of determination," Jackson said. "There's a willfulness that you have to have in this game and there's also a flexibility and the willfulness carries the day most of the time, about 80 percent of the time. There's strategy and then there's getting the job done."
When asked if his message to his teammates was well received, a stoic Bryant said, "I don't give a [expletive]. ... It was received."
Bryant spent the approximately 20 minutes the practice session was open to the media sitting on a bench near the entrance to the gym, isolated from the rest of the team, who sat on a row of chairs near half court. Bryant had the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head and stared at his cell phone the whole time except for a brief conversation with reserve forward Josh Powell, who approached him.
Bryant's one-word answers during the scrum with reporters and steely demeanor were reminiscent of the focused and reserved public persona he presented at news conferences during last season's NBA Finals.
Jackson said Bryant wasn't the only player to talk, adding, "We had other guys speak up too."
Said Pau Gasol: "We talked a little bit about what we have to do, especially defensively in a couple situations where we need to tighten up and stop certain things out there. Then a couple other things, just to make sure we communicated with each other and we're all on the same page and we understand we're here to get that ultimate goal and if we want to get there, there's things that need to get done."
Jackson would not comment on whether the meeting was productive until he sees if the things they talked about carry over to a game.
"We'll see it," Jackson said. "The proof's in the pudding."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.