On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers confirmed reports that Kobe Bryant would sit out the remainder of the 2013-14 season due to slower than expected healing in his fractured knee. Shortly after the story was confirmed, Bryant sat down with reporters at the Lakers’ practice for about 10 minutes.
With this season effectively over, Bryant was focused on next season and shared strong opinions that did not help the public perception that Lakers’ management is fumbling away decades of goodwill and underperforming at an accelerated rate.
Asked if he was “satisfied” with the direction of the team and where all the dominoes currently stood, Bryant grew visibly frustrated.
“I mean, we’re like a 100 games under .500. I can’t be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for,” Bryant pointed fingers. “Start with Jim (Buss). You got to start with Jim and Jeanie (Buss) and how that relationship plays out. I mean, it starts there, having clear direction and clear authority. And then, it goes down to the coaching staff.”
Bryant’s words indicated that he was not pleased with the dynamic between the co-owners most involved with the team. A year on from the death of Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers’ longtime owner, the Lakers had lost their luster and looked like a team on the decline and an organization in disarray.
Bryant did little to change that image before touching on the coaching situation.
“You know, what’s Mike (D’Antoni) going to do? What do they want to do with Mike? And then, it goes from there,” Bryant still, however, put the responsibility on ownership. “It’s got to start at the top.”
D’Antoni’s return next season is far from guaranteed, and Bryant mentioned that the Lakers had a decision to make on whether the coach was coming back. Bryant may not have outright called for D’Antoni to be fired, but he did not exactly lend his endorsement to the unpopular coach either.
“I just want to get a phone call when somebody gets traded,” Bryant responded when asked about his input into decisions management makes. “Let’s start there first.”
Most recently, Bryant publicly shared his discontent with the Lakers trading away Steve Blake the day before the trade deadline. Clearly, Bryant was notified of the trade after the fact and was unhappy about being in the dark at this point in his career.
“Oh yea, let’s just play next year and suck again,” Bryant responded when asked if he would accept a losing team next season as a means to rebuild. “No! Absolutely not! Absolutely not!”
“It’s my job to go out there on the court and perform--no excuses for it, right? You got to get things done,” Bryant related him doing his job to the front office doing its job. “Same thing with the front office. Same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there.”
With rumors his former coach and one of his mentors, Phil Jackson, was on the verge of accepting a front office position with the New York Knicks, Bryant was asked how he felt about the move.
“Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice,” Bryant alluded to Jackson being passed over for the Lakers’ coaching position in 2012.
Like all outsiders looking in at the dysfunctional family politics that have kept Jackson separated from the Lakers despite being engaged to the co-owner and winning five championships with the team, Bryant expressed his wonderment at the Lakers’ lack of interest in offering Jackson a position.
Bryant summed up, “I don’t really get it.”