Kobe Ignoring Distractions, Focused on Winning
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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As the losses continue to pile up for the Los Angeles Lakers and the likelihood of making the playoffs becomes slimmer and slimmer, distractions are starting to mount in abundance. Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni is heavily under the microscope right now after getting the job over the beloved Phil Jackson. Pau Gasol has not been playing his best basketball and was recently moved to the bench. Oh yeah, and there’s the questions about Dwight Howard’s future that derailed the Orlando Magic’s season last year that are starting to resurface as well. But, Lakers leader Kobe Bryant isn’t paying them any mind.
“I don’t have any [thoughts on them],” Bryant said to HOOPSWORLD. “I’m just thinking about what we’re going to do to win this game. That’s the most important thing, not all the fodder that goes on. They’ve dealt with trade rumors for two years. It’s nothing that’s unfamiliar to them. I think for us as a group we have a lot of things to focus on and a lot of moving targets, and to add another one to that pile compounds things. So it’s important for us to focus on what we need to do to beat the Grizzlies to night and that’s it.”
The talk about Gasol and Howard is really starting to heat up right now with the Feb. 21 trade deadline fast approaching and both of them having their differences with their roles in D’Antoni’s system.
“There’s nothing we can do about that right now,” Bryant said. “The most important thing is winning. If we continue to lose everyone is going to look like [expletive], it’s not going to be about how many touches [Howard] had or how many shots I had or how many turnovers Steve [Nash] had, it’s not going to be about that. It’s going to be about we lost. So we have to figure out collectively what we need to do to win this thing.
“You just play. [Gasol] was honest about it, but you don’t see him moping about it. He played his [butt] off against Chicago. That’s the kind of spirit we need to have. The identity we need to have is guys playing for each other, doing whatever it takes. You might not be happy about the situation but you go out there and do the best job that you can, which Pau has done.”
Nash was supposed to be the guy who came in and made the whole thing work, but even his return hasn’t been enough to get the Lakers back on track. However, Bryant has still been pleased with what Nash has been able to provide.
“Well he’s done a a great job,” Bryant said. “But he’s just figuring it out. It’s a puzzle. You have to figure out what’s the best way for us to play. We’re trying to do that. The coaches to a man, players to a man. We’re trying to figure out a rhythm, an identity we can play with.
“The urgency is there, we just haven’t been winning. The urgency is there.”
Although it’s almost like an afterthought based on everything else going on with the team, the Lakers do indeed have a game tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. At 17-24 the Lakers are four games behind the Houston Rockets for eighth place in the Western Conference. If they are going to get back into the race, they have to start winning now, but Memphis is not going to make it easy for them.
“We have to take care for the ball against them,” Bryant said. “They’re really, really quick defensively. They have incredible hands and create a lot of opportunities off of those. We have to do a good job of attacking the defense, see if there’s something we can exploit and go after it.”