The accolades keep coming for Kobe Bryant, and it has nothing to do with stats.
Durant seemingly defended Bryant's leadership style that swings between aggressive and abrasive.
"I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I'd want to play with a guy like that every day," Durant told reporters in Sacramento, adding that Bryant's ways "may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff."
Durant is known as one of the nice guys in the NBA, a kinder, gentler superstar who wouldn't dream of screaming at teammates — and his team's general manager — the way Bryant did last week. But he continued to praise Bryant, almost in awe of the 19-year veteran.
"He comes to work, man. He's intense," Durant said. "He demands a lot out of everybody. He makes them better.
"As a player, I study guys like that. We might not have the same personality, but I think we approach the game the same way and I've learned a lot from just watching him."
Nowitzki, for his part, called Bryant "probably the greatest player in my generation that I played against."
"Obviously [Shaquille O'Neal] was very dominant, Tim Duncan was great, but I just loved watching Kobe," he told reporters in New York. "I don't think there will ever be another MJ, but he's definitely as close as it gets that we'll ever see.… I've had a blast from watching him during his career very closely."
Bryant and Durant got to know each other on the 2012 U.S. national team that won the London Olympics. They both become free agents in 2016, and the Lakers have pinned much of their future on hopes they can woo Durant to Los Angeles.
For now, Bryant acknowledged he heard Durant's supportive remarks.
"I greatly appreciate it," Bryant said Thursday. "As players, we play for each other. We play to have respect from one another. So to hear those comments coming from your peers, it means a lot."
Room for Madsen?
Jordan Hill was sent home with flu symptoms and the Lakers needed a big man at practice.
Assistant coach Mark Madsen stepped into Thursday's scrimmage and did fairly well, even diving for a loose ball. Not bad for a 38-year-old whose last NBA game was in 2009.
"He wasn't [just] surviving, he was kicking their butt," said Lakers Coach Byron Scott. "If everybody played as hard as he played, we would be a much better basketball team. He just lays it on the line."
Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan