LAS VEGAS -- Famously, or infamously, back in the early days of his career, Kobe Bryant was an aspiring rapper, even releasing an album.
There will be no picking up a microphone again for him, however.
Bryant’s response to former teammate Shaquille O’Neal’s lambasting him in an obscenity-laced rap freestyle at a New York nightclub?
“I didn’t take it any kind of way whatsoever,” Bryant said Saturday, before declining to take any more questions on the topic.
Bryant, however, was more than willing to discuss several other subjects as the U.S. men’s basketball team held a one-day mini-camp in preparation for the Beijing Olympics.
He has had a bit more time to reflect on the NBA Finals, labeling Boston as “champions until somebody proves otherwise.”
“It was a good series for us,” he said. “I thought we learned a great deal. It’s great for us to learn that experience at such a young age with the guys that we have on the team, and we’ll be better next season because of it.”
Bryant is the only player on the U.S. team who reached the Finals, though he doubts fatigue will be a factor in the Olympics. He also is still dealing with a torn ligament in his right pinkie.
“It’s always an issue,” he said. “Handling the ball sometimes, shooting the ball sometimes. I’ve been playing with it for so long now, you just get used to it. You bobble the ball sometimes and kind of brush it off because it’s just what happens sometimes.”
But bringing back a gold medal may reduce some of that pain. As well as the pain of losing in the Finals.
“Any time you win, it’s like you have this big glass of water, your throat is parched and you’re ready to drink it and all of a sudden, it spills all over the place and you’re [upset],” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, your glass gets refilled and you drink it all. That’s the type of feeling I’m looking forward to.”
Dwight Howard, the team’s lone center, did not practice. He said he is still healing from a cracked sternum suffered in the playoffs but will be ready for the Olympics. . . . Dwyane Wade, who sat out the last 21 games of the regular season because of a knee injury, practiced and reported no pain.
The team will gather for a meeting this morning before flying to New York for a promotional campaign. Its next practice session is scheduled for late July in Las Vegas. During that time, they will scrimmage against a U.S. select team led by Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala.