The Lakers ventured into the 2016-17 season as unfamiliar territory. For the first time in 20 years, they were beginning a season without Kobe Bryant on the roster. While it was time for the legendary shooting guard to retire, it was nevertheless a strange and difficult transition for the Purple and Gold.
Bryant recently appeared on ESPN Radio to speak to Stephen A. Smith about his new ventures in business and content creation. Within the same interview, number 24 took some time to talk about the only franchise he ever played for and the direction that they are heading in the post-Kobe era.
Noting the “handful of games” he’s watched this season, Bryant spoke about Luke Walton and the job he has done as a rookie head coach for the marquee franchise:
Well I think Luke’s doing a fine job. It’s tough because you have to teach players how to play within a structure, and within that structure you have a myriad of options that you must be able to recognize and take advantage of. If one player is taking advantage of them, then the other four players on the floor must understand what the opportunity is, and they can read and react accordingly. And it’s very difficult to teach that to a group of young guys so fast. I think patience the the key word here.
Bryant seems to understand the tough task that Walton has with a roster constructed mostly with young players. The patience that Bryant is preaching indicates that he knows there are still plenty of issues with the team (their record does a good job of showing that) but that they are headed in the correct direction.
Nevertheless, Kobe also understands that roster construction is just as important especially with regards to having a go-to star on the team, the role that he played for the majority of his career in Los Angeles.
“It certainly helps the game to have a marquee player in Los Angeles. That player could come in a myriad of ways, could come through free agency, could come through trades, could come through one of the young players that we have here to grow up into being that. But it’s certainly true that a star kind of drives the market. But it’ll happen.”
To that point, Bryant’s legacy in LA could be a main selling point for a star player to consider the team in free agency. Similarly, Bryant’s own knowledge of the situation could be a factor in how the Lakers approach moving forward with this core, building around it, or scrapping it entirely for a big move.
Smith asked Bryant about how involved he would be with the Lakers in light of recent reports that Jeanie Buss asked Magic Johnson for consultation regarding the state of the franchise. Kobe’s response will bring smiles to Lakers’ fans:
“I’m always around behind the scenes for Jeanie, Jimmy, and the entire Buss family if they ever need assistance or need to reach out or call for advice. Being front and center about it is not something that’s my cup of tea. I’d rather be behind the scenes and focus on the company that I’m creating because that’s where my passion truly lies. But the Buss family knows I’m always one phone call away.”
This seems like the perfect way to handle it for Bryant and for the Lakers. Kobe has moved on to new passions and careers but his knowledge of basketball is something that the Lakers should use when they can. That said, it is beneficial for them to have Kobe be behind the scenes rather than a public spokesmen in the mold of Magic. That way, he can have honest discussions about his beliefs towards the team without potential backlash or incendiary public comments.
Regardless, it is a pleasure to hear that Kobe Bryant is still involved with the Lakers in some capacity. His 20 years in Los Angeles made him an icon in the city and even as he moves on to new projects, his knowledge about the game that he played at such a high level is an invaluable asset for the Lakers as they attempt to continue and perfect their rebuild.