For the 20th and possibly final time in his career, Kobe Bryant opened training camp with media day on Monday.
With the Lakers’ having a combination of young players such as D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, and veterans like Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, Bryant is curious about the season ahead.
“It’s a big question mark. We have a lot of young guys,” he said. “It’s a good mix, though. We have some veterans as well, but guys who have never played together before.
“We’ve done the work to get to this point. Now it’s trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, so I’m not sure.”
Bryant said he won’t know his role on this version of the Lakers until the team starts practicing and playing together. To a degree he’ll act as mentor to the team’s youth, but how that will translate to the floor remains to be seen.
“We’re all mentors, we’re all teachers in our own respects,” he said. “Whether that means scoring a lot more, assisting a lot more, whatever the case may be depends on the identity the team takes on,” Bryant said.
The Lakers have put Russell, the draft’s No. 2 overall pick, next to veteran Bryant in the team’s locker room.
“I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He has a lot of ambition. He wants to be great. It starts there,” said Bryant. “My responsibility is going to help him to not lose sight of what’s most important, which is the game.
“That’s the heart of it all, playing in this market with a lot of the distractions and the criticisms or critiques that may come his way over the course of the year, it doesn’t matter. You just focus on what you’re here to do, and that’s playing the game.”
The Lakers All-Star did say the team needs to have patience, but an “aggressive patience,” because its members are going to need to figure out how to play together quickly.
Bryant is joined once again by Metta World Peace, who helped the Lakers win a title in 2010. The veteran forward is on a non-guaranteed contract, but may make the team now in role as mentor to young players like Julius Randle.
“He’s extremely focused. He watches what he eats. He works very, very hard every single day in practice,” said Bryant of World Peace. “I think it’s good for the young guys to be around that. He’s one of the most intelligent defensive players I’ve played with or players against.”
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