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Watch Kobe Bryant practice his handles [Video]

Kobe BryantMike D'AntoniNBALos Angeles LakersDwight HowardMike KrzyzewskiJames Harden

Never mind the hoopla surrounding the Mike D'Antoni hire.

At Thursday's practice, Kobe Bryant was focused on his dribbling.

He seamlessly floated up and down the court while doing various drills with an assistant coach, including fakes, slight stutter steps and through-the-leg moves.

 Kobe Bryant may be 34 years old and contemplating retirement in the near future, but while he's still in the NBA, he's going to remain as competitive as ever.

Bryant has been averaging 26.4 points a game at an effective 55.1% clip. He's tied with James Harden for leading the league in points per game. 

"He's playing as good as he's ever played," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. 

When D'Antoni addressed the media for the first time at the Lakers practice facility Thursday, he praised Bryant's approach to the game.

"That's the most competitive guy I've ever been around," he said. Whether it's an All-Star game or whether it's a pickup game, he's coming at you.

"That's why he has the rings that he has and has the career that he has had. That's not going to change. His intensity is something that, as a coach, man, I love it."

Bryant and D'Antoni have known each other since Bryant was a young child living with his family in Italy.

D'Antoni fondly recalled his first impression of Bryant.

 "He was a little kid about 12 years old that would come out on the court in Italy and hang out and play and we would have to beat him off the court to start the second half," he said. "Never envisioned that he would grow up to be Kobe Bryant but that's where the relationship started."

D'Antoni, who helped Bryant and Team USA to an Olympic gold medal in 2012, as an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski, thinks that they will get along well.

"He speaks Italian, it will be great," he said. "He can come over and cuss me out in Italian and you guys might not even know it."

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