- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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ISLA VISTA, Calif. -- Maybe Kobe Bryant was just having a particularly bad day and didn't really mean it. Maybe things have truly changed in the Los Angeles Lakers' organization in the past four months.
Whatever the case, Bryant sounded vastly different Wednesday when he talked about the relationship between Lakers president Jeanie Buss and her brother, Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, than he did when he referred to them during his news conference in March to announce he would be missing the final 18 games of the season because of his left knee injury.
First, a refresher of his previous comments, when he challenged the direction in which the franchise was heading:
"I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team," Bryant said. "What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there. And from there, you can start building out your team accordingly."
Bryant wasn't finished.
"You got to start with Jim," Bryant said. "You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out. It starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff and what Mike [D'Antoni] is going to do, what they're going to do with Mike, and it goes from there. It's got to start at the top."
Bryant's words were prophetic. Just about six weeks after that news conference, D'Antoni resigned, accepting a buyout worth approximately half of the $4 million he was owed for next season.
And as the calendar creeped into the second week of July, Bryant on Wednesday expressed a renewed faith in the Buss siblings who are running the only professional team he has ever known.
"I am," Bryant confirmed when asked if he was confident in the members of the Buss family leading the Lakers. "I know Jim and Jeanie are on the same page. They're ready to go. They both understand what they need to do individually and how that works together as a unit to turn this organization around. I think you'll see some changes that really fall in line with the history and the culture of the organization. You're seeing James [Worthy] at the draft, and so forth and so on. You start seeing some of the legends from Laker past being around a lot more to make sure that that culture continues to exist."
Yes, it was a downright sunny Bryant on Wednesday, speaking to a throng of reporters during a news conference at the start of his eighth annual youth basketball academy on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.
Then again, Bryant is the same guy who back in 2011 said he truly believed the Lakers would become the first team to come back from an 0-3 series deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. He considers himself the eternal optimist.
But he's also a cutthroat competitor.
It's easy for him to have confidence right now. There are still infinite possibilities of what the Lakers can do with their free-agency dollars.
But where will that confidence level check in if the Lakers don't look anywhere close to a championship contender next season?
That's when his faith in the Buss family will truly be shown.