Los Angeles legend Kobe Bryant left loyalists at the annual Lakers All-Access event on Monday night by promising the team’s 17th NBA championship “before you know it,” before trashing fans of the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors — half-jokingly, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“They will figure it out,” Bryant said. “They have talented pieces and (Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka) has put them in position with incredible flexibility. They will figure it out. So, enjoy the journey because we’ll be champions before you know it, and then we’ll just be laughing at all the Warrior fans who all of the sudden came out of nowhere.”
It’s not dissimilar to some Lakers fans either hopping back on board or acting as if they were jumping ship when James arrived in free agency this summer. But, hey, that is a solid Warriors jab by Bryant — one that also ignores the voracity of the Golden State faithful during the “We Believe” era last decade.
More important is Bryant’s belief that the Lakers can vie for a title sooner rather than later. He described the difficulty of blending together youngsters like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart — who he called “unbelievable talents” — when they may not know who they are as individuals yet. “You can’t have one before the other,” said Bryant, via the L.A. Times’ Broderick Turner.
As a result, James has been forced into “doing everything” — from puppeteering as a point guard to assuming full control of the reins late in close games. “That’s not the recipe to win a championship, by no means,” added Bryant, according to Turner, “but it is a recipe to keep your head above water.”
The Lakers have righted the ship after a 2-5 start that led president of basketball operations Magic Johnson to admonish coach Luke Walton for failing to meet the team’s lofty standards. The Lakers have since sailed to a 14-9 record and the fifth-place spot in the Western Conference. The turnaround coincided with a report that James has been ignoring Walton’s play calls and the arrival of veteran center Tyson Chandler, who has anchored the league’s second-best defense since his debut on Nov. 7.
Still, Bryant acknowledged that James cannot carry the Lakers to contention on his own and preached patience with his still-developing teammates — two topics with which Bryant has intimate experience to varying degrees of success. Turner has the goods from Bryant again in The Los Angeles Times:
“It’s a test of Bron’s patience, and also doing what he needs to do to keep the team’s head above water,” said Bryant. “So it’s a balancing act.”
“The patience is on all of us. We have to be patient. But as players, you’re never patient with yourself. You’re patient with each other, but not with yourself. You want to be there now and you work to be there now with the understanding that it is going to take time. But you want to be there now. That’s the way that you accelerate growth. They have a lot of potential, man. They’ll figure it out.”
So, on the one hand, Lakers fans should be patient while the team’s young players try to figure out how to reach their potential. On the other, LeBron, while keeping their head above water, will deliver a title before you know it. Whether or not he will do so with those young players or a combination of stars the Lakers acquire via trades and free agency this coming summer, Bryant did not specify.
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