It has been over three months since Kobe Bryant stepped away from the game in a blaze of glory. The Los Angeles Lakers will be without arguably the best player in their franchise history for the first time in 20 seasons.
But despite Bryant no longer leading the way in LA, the Lakers have an exciting future ahead of them. Armed with young talent and a new head coach, the next era of the team’s golden history is set to begin.
Nevertheless, the Lakers will still be connected with Bryant for a long time. Many of the players on this roster have been mentored, to some extent, by the shooting guard. As such, his fingerprints are all over the Lakers’ roster.
Bryant caught up with Mike Bresnahan of TWC Sportsnet to talk about this Lakers core and what the future holds in store for them. Much like many other fans, Kobe is excited about this young core and their potential moving forward:
“They have a really young core, and a really good core. Now it’s just a matter of them growing together and having those pieces mesh which I think is a great opportunity because now at this age where their games are still developing, they can develop their games and their strengths around each other. And so, they have a lot of potential. Hopefully, they can put it together sooner rather than later.”
Bryant was notably asked about two young Lakers in particular: D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. Russell has become the de facto leader of the Lakers, at least among the young core, since Bryant’s departure. Ingram is the new kid on the block but has perhaps as much potential as any other young player in the league.
Bryant was optimistic about both of their futures. Regarding Ingram, who Bryant has praised before, #24 said the following:
“I think he plays with great tempo, great pace. I like his length. His ball-handling ability is very good; he can get to his spots on the floor. I think defensively, he has the potential to be fantastic as well. He has long arms, long legs. So hopefully he starts paying attention to that just as much as the things he can do offensively.”
Kobe expressed optimism about Russell turning his good summer league play into a successful season next year:
“For sure. There’s certain things that he’s picked up on body positioning: using his size to get to places, recognizing defensive packages and where to position guys on the floor. He’s developed very nicely over the summer.”
As usual, Kobe discussed the details of both of those players’ games more than anything. The pair have certain matured skills that bode well for their future moving forward.
But that potential likely means nothing if they are not developed correctly. Luckily, the Lakers have a new coaching staff in place to do just that. Bryant, like Lakers fans everywhere, believes that new head coach Luke Walton will teach the young Lakers how to succeed:
“He’s gonna have them play the game the right way. He’s gonna have the foundation of the team; it’s going to be a championship foundation. It’s not gonna be isolation ball. There’s going to be a lot of ball movement, but ball movement with purpose. Players are going to understand why they’re moving the ball in certain situations which then makes you a very dangerous team because now you have players on the floor that can think on the fly and think together.”
The Lakers certainly do have a promising coaching staff in place to aid in the development of their young core. But they may also have an unpaid and unofficial assistant in place in case of emergencies. Bryant told Bresnahan that he will always be around to help the players and the coaches if they seek him out:
“If I can, yeah. I’m certainly busy doing a bunch of other things but I would love to come by. I’ve spoken to Luke several times and [Brian] Shaw as well. I let the players know I’m always around, man. I’m always around. If you wanna come out and work out, get up early in the morning and work out, walk them through some things. The Lakers are in my blood, man. It’s family, man. So I’m always around.”
The future may be bright in LA and Kobe Bryant is as excited as anyone to see it unfold.