- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant didn't know that a guy shooting alone in an empty gym could generate so much attention when he went back out to the court in Miami following the Lakers' loss to the Heat on Thursday.
"I'm surprised, yeah, I am," Bryant said Saturday after the Lakers' shootaround in preparation for the Dallas Mavericks when asked about the media blitz his postgame shooting session created. "What are you supposed to do? It's our job. Do you get surprised when baseball players stay after the game and work on their hitting? We do the same thing before the game. I get here early before a game and shoot before a game, that I did it after and it's such a big deal it's ... I don't know."
Bryant and the rest of the starters were given the day off practice Friday in Dallas, the day after his late-night shooting display. The Mavericks will find out if the extra practice Bryant scheduled for himself ended up overexerting the 15-year veteran or if it served as a proper tune-up as Bryant had intended.
"Well, we'll see tonight," said Bryant. "I feel pretty spry."
Also feeling spry are the Mavs, winners of 20 of their past 23 games -- with each of those losses coming by a single point, as Bryant made sure to point out to reporters. Dallas leads L.A. by 1 1/2 games for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
"It's very important just from the challenge of it," Bryant said. "You always want to move up and have the highest seed that you possibly can so it's a big game from that perspective."
An important game, yes, but a statement game for the two-time defending champs?
"It's tough to make statements," Bryant said. "I've been in [regular-season] series where we've lost every game to an opponent, then go into the playoffs and sweep them. It's tough to really make statements at this time of the year."
Almost as if he was making up for lost time after not speaking to the media Friday, Bryant touched on a variety of other topics after Saturday's shootaround, including:
• Where Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki falls into the MVP race this season: "He's one of the best players in the league, bar none. I'm not going to sit here and just kiss his ass for 10 seconds. He's a great player."
• What he learned about his team during their three-game losing streak prior to the All-Star break: "That we sucked. That was it. We were playing horrible basketball. But I knew that we would be fine. Everybody goes through a tough stretch, but we know each other very well, we know what we're capable of doing so I wasn't worried about it too much."
• Whether his parents, who were in Tokyo when the recent earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, were safe: "They're fine. They're still there, but they're doing OK."
• Whether the NFL labor negotiations will mirror what the NBA goes through come June 30 when the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires: "It could [happen to us]. We have to see how this plays out and hopefully learn from what's going on in the NFL and try not to make the same mistakes."
"I would," Bryant said when asked if he would be devastated if the lockout caused him to miss Eagles games next season. "Although in Dallas, I don't know how much they would miss it because it's not like they had [an NFL team] anyway."
Smith then walked by where Bryant and the reporters were standing.
"Ain't that right, Joe?" Bryant shouted. "You all had people popping champagne in your building [after Super Bowl XLV]. That's not a good look, baby."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
8hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann