"This is a legacy defining moment. This is the decision."
On the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Kobe Bryant spoke about Carmelo Anthony’s upcoming decision on whether he should join the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We’ve clicked since 2008," Bryant said referring to the 2008 Olympics in China. "I would love to see him out here."
Bryant did not dodge questions and touched on a variety of topics of interest during his time with the media.
"Yeah," he answered point blank when asked if he would like Byron Scott to be the next coach of the Lakers. Scott is the leading candidate and most likely person to fill the open post.
"He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league," Bryant explained his special relationship with Scott went back to buying donuts and running errands. "We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years."
Asked about his fitness and whether he was feeling good enough to play pickup basketball, Bryant was not amused.
"It seems like if I want to sports source now--accurate sports source--I have to go to TMZ because ESPN got (it wrong). I wasn't even there. I was in Orange County," Bryant berated an ESPN Los Angeles reporter about false reports of him playing pickup basketball with Anthony and Minnesota Timberwolves’ star Kevin Love at UCLA a few days earlier.
Getting back to the point, Bryant said he was lean and felt like he was in midseason form.
"I’m at 218," he said. "Physically, I feel great. I don't think about the knee at all when I train. I don't think about the Achilles at all when I train. I feel sharp, crisp."
Moving back to talk of free agency, Bryant was asked about his conversations with Pau Gasol. Bryant said the Spaniard was "loyal" by nature, so if the Lakers land Anthony, Gasol’s decision would be much simpler.
"It’s a very tough position for him to be in," Bryant said about Gasol. "My biggest message to him was 'dude, make sure you enjoy the process. Don’t stress yourself out. The ball’s in your court. It’s your decision to make.'"
Bryant then touched on the Lakers’ ownership, direction of the franchise and the Buss family. The lifelong Laker spoke highly of the two family members most involved with the team.
"Jim (Buss) and Jeanie (Buss) are on the same page. They're ready to go," Bryant said without hesitation. "They both understand what they need to do individually and how that works together as a unit to turn this organization around. I think you’ll see some changes that will really fall in line with the history and the culture of the organization."
"They’re pulling out all the stops to ensure that we put a contender on the floor next year."