by Chris Fedor
For the first 56 games of the season, Kobe Bryant’s role on the Los Angeles Lakers was clear. He was the go-to guy on offense and the closer. His consistency was one of the biggest reasons why the Lakers were right in the thick of things in the Western Conference despite so much drama surrounding the team in shortened regular season. Since injuring his shin in a game against the Rockets last weekend, Kobe Bryant has taken on a new role as observer and coach from sidelines. During his absence, the Lakers haven’t missed a beat. The team is 4-1 in the five games that Bryant has missed. It’s unclear when Kobe will return to the court. Of course, the Black Mamba has a shot at the scoring title in a close race with Kevin Durant, but because of his supporting cast, Bryant has no reason to rush back to the floor before he is completely healthy. That’s a luxury he never had before.
Kobe Bryant joined Fox Sports Radio with the Loose Cannons to talk about what he has been learning from the sidelines and his new role as “coach,” when he expects to return, how much winning the scoring title means to him, if he would like to return before the playoffs start, and what has gotten into Metta World Peace.
On his new role as “coach”
“Being around the game for so long, 16 years, I understand where guys need to be and I can communicate it very well. It’s part of learning how to win a championship, which I’ve been fortunate to do five times and you have to be able to communicate well with your teammates and I think me being out, what it helped me do, it helped me to see where these guys want to have the ball in certain situations and it also gave them the ability to then trust themselves as opposed to saying ‘I’m not going to step out onto that ledge, I’m not going to be overly aggressive because I have Kobe and Andrew (Bynum) here so I’m just going to defer to them.’ Now that I’m gone it’s like ‘no you have to, you have no choice’ and the fact that they’ve been coming through just gives them a great deal of confidence.”
When he plans on returning:
“We’ll see man. We’ll see how it goes. The beautiful thing is there is really no rush right? We’re playing very well and this is the first time ever in my career where I’ve had an opportunity to kind of take my injuries and really be methodical with them and let them heal and get ready for a postseason run. In the past I didn’t have the luxury of doing that.”
If winning the NBA scoring title is important to him:
“Alright let me give you a Black Mamba answer. The fact that the question is even asked to me after all these years is silly to me. People, listeners, or whoever thinks that Kobe is really concerned about scoring, stats, or about individual play, just look at the facts. Just look at the facts over the last whatever, decade and a half, nobody has won more championships than I have and you can’t be a selfish player or individual player and win that many championships, it just can’t work. Does that answer your question?”
If he thinks it is important to return before the playoffs:
“From experience we had a similar experience, we had a similar situation if you remember back in 2001 when I went down with an ankle injury. We started finding a groove, then I came back, we continued to play well, went into the postseason and had a historic run to our second championship of 16-1. I’ve seen this before and I think it’s important to come back before the playoffs because you want to try to get some kind of a rhythm, continuity, and guys are going to have to readjust a little bit and I’m going to have to adjust a little bit as well. We have to figure some things out and I think it’s important to do that so you’re not going into the postseason cold turkey so to speak.”
What has gotten into Metta World Peace:
“Me and Metta had a conversation after the Clippers battle that we had at the Staples Center, there were like 100 scuffles in the game and Metta was involved in pretty much all of them. We were talking after the game at dinner and I said ‘Metta do you know, first of all World Peace is a hot name, it’s a dope name.’ Then he started looking at me out of the corner of his eye and was like ‘okay where are you going with this?’ I said ‘some people believe for us to achieve world peace the only way that can be achieved is through sheer will and through force of nature so sometimes you just have to go and conquer the territory and that’s when you establish world peace.’ He’s looking and he’s like ‘huh?’ I said ‘man you go out there and kick butt and then you establish order.’ He’s like ‘okay, I’ve got it.’ He’s playing extremely well. The biggest thing for him was getting into game shape. Once he got into game shape he dropped his weight and his foot speed is a lot faster, his hands are incredible and he’s shooting the ball extremely well.”