With today's Wolves-Lakers game all about Kobe Bryant, who better to talk to than Lakers coach Byron Scott?
Scott was part of the Showtime Lakers, playing with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and James Worthy. His last year in the league, with the Lakers, was Bryant’s first. And now Scott is Bryant’s coach.
“Every city it’s going to be like this,” Scott said at the Lakers shootaround today, talking about what has become essentially a Bryant goodbye tour since the star guard announced his retirement Nov. 29.
“He seems at peace, because he knows he’s done everything he could possibly do as a basketball player,” Scott said. “He’s laid it on the line every night for 20 years. That’s all you can ask…. I kind of enjoy that fans get to show their appreciation for one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Even though it’s early – he has a lot more cities to go to on this tour – I don’t think it will get old. He appreciates the fact the fans are showing him the respect he deserves.’’
Scott was asked how Bryant would have fit in with the Showtime Lakers. “I know one thing, I’d be the sixth man,” Scott joked. “I wouldn’t be starting on that team, I know that.’’
--One of the more interesting aspects of the game is that both Bryant and Kevin Garnett – who came into the league one year before Bryant – will be on the court together.
The two have taken different paths as they approached the end of their career. Garnett has embraced a mentor role with the Wolves, working with the young players while playing fewer minutes and taking fewer shots. Bryant is playing much like he always has, looking to get his shot and score.
“You have to understand, the mentality is different,” Garnett said earlier this week. “My choice in coming back here had a lot more of a plan, and the future involved in it. I don’t know what Kobe’s plan is. He doesn’t sound like he’s going to be in basketball after this. I’m hoping to obviously be a little more long-lasting in this organization. Not just as a player, but in other parts of it, hopefully. Kobe, it seems like it’s the last hurrah for him.’’
For Garnett, it’s more about developing players like Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng. “So I’m trying to teach them the things I know, and that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here.’’
--Said Scott, simply, on Garnett and Bryant: “Two different people. Both Hall of Famers, but totally different people.’’
--LaVine, who grew up in Seattle, remembers watching and Lakers-Sonics game and seeing Bryant put a ball off the backboard then slam it home and wondering how that was possible. Of course now LaVine can do just that and is the defending NBA slam-dunk champion. But, for LaVine, Bryant was always his favorite. “That was my guy growing up,” he said. “It’s kind of weird to think he’s not going to be in the league any more.’’