Between Tuesday and Thursday, every single Los Angeles Lakers player on the team's final roster met with assembled media before heading out on summer vacation, with the exception of Kobe Bryant. Even Vander Blue, who had only been with the team for three days, spent time in front of the microphones and television cameras, but Bryant opted to skip the process all his teammates, coach and general manager went through.
For the second time in as many years, Bryant ended the season without going through the tradition of exit interviews. A year ago, Bryant went to Paris before the season ended. This time, he hung around for the season finale but did not appear interested in answering questions or meeting with reporters.
As such, Lakers coach Byron Scott and general manager Mitch Kupchak had to answer for Bryant.
"I don't know," Kupchak answered when asked what he expected from Bryant in the 2015/16 season, where the superstar will earn $25 million. "I do know that he's going to work as hard as anyone can work in the offseason to get his shoulder right."
Earlier in the same day, Scott had been asked about Bryant's rehabilitation and progress, as the player had not met with the media in over a month.
"From our conversation two days ago, (Bryant) is just starting his rehab," Scott said. "He's starting to lift weights. He's going back to more of an old-school approach."
"The first order of business is to get the base strong," Scott added. "I talked to him the other day, and he looked good and said he felt great."
The coach admitted fault on overplaying his aging star player during the 2014/15 season, but the shoulder injury that eventually ended Bryant's season did not seem to be related to the heavy minutes the 36-year-old logged early in the season. Still, Scott admitted he would change his approach by sticking to the maximum number of minutes Bryant tells him at the start of the season, rather than making his own judgement and increasing that number.
Asked about usage of his superstar at the small forward position, Scott said that Bryant would probably function best in that role in the future, but the Lakers' coach made a point to say that Bryant was a shooting guard and could also play point guard.
Beyond focusing on Bryant, Scott and Kupchak also talked about the future of the Lakers. Building a team via trades, free agency and the draft remained the three-pronged approach, and the general manager seemed content with where the team stood on all three fronts. For both Scott and Kupchak, the next date of note was May 19--the date of the NBA's draft lottery. Until that date, the Lakers appeared to be in a holding pattern, as LA still has a 17 percent chance of losing its top overall pick in the draft lottery. Conversely, the Lakers have an 11 percent chance of winning the lottery and picking first overall.
"This would be a good draft to participate in," Kupchak said on Thursday afternoon. "Being two months out, I'm pleased with the players."