MACAO -- Kobe Bryant, who lives for one-on-one challenges, went at it with former Trojan and soon-to-be Memphis Grizzlies rookie O.J. Mayo, a member of the U.S. Select team, last week in Las Vegas.
“Kobe completely shut him down in the beginning,” said U.S. managing director Jerry Colangelo. “But the longer they went, the better Mayo got.”
Bryant already knew Mayo, who attended his camp last summer, and already thought highly of him.
“I think the world of him,” Bryant said. “I think he’s extremely talented. I think he has a great overall game that a lot of young players don’t have in terms of skills. He can handle, he can shoot, he can pass, he’s fast, he’s quick, so that’s the whole package.”
If Bryant mourned the loss of Lakers teammate Rony Turiaf to the Golden State Warriors, he was happy to see Sasha Vujacic re-sign.
“I’m just happy the Machine is happy,” Bryant said.
Vujacic signed a three-year, $15-million deal with the Lakers on Monday. With no other NBA offers that big, negotiations had dragged on. However, when Atlanta’s Josh Childress shocked the league, turning down the Hawks to sign with a Greek team, the Lakers came up with the money.
“That’s changed the game up a lot as far as free agency is concerned,” said Bryant. “Teams are going to have to compete with teams on a global scale, not just in the NBA.”
Bryant, who has been playing with a torn ligament between the fourth and fifth fingers on his right hand since February, says he will have surgery soon after he returns from the Olympics in China.
“I’m definitely set on surgery,” he said. “As soon as I get back, we’ll talk about it, do it, get ready for the season.
“I’ve heard three weeks, four weeks, five weeks. I heal pretty easy. I’m taking care of it, doing therapy, I should be back in no time.”