- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- Kobe Bryant considers Carmelo Anthony one of his closest friends in the NBA, but he will not be actively recruiting the Knicks forward to join the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent this summer.
"Well, everybody wants to play in Los Angeles," Bryant said before the Lakers' 110-103 loss to the Knicks on Sunday when asked about Anthony's potential interest in joining him in purple and gold. "I mean New York is a beautiful place, don't get me wrong, but it is colder than s--- out here. You know, palm trees and beaches obviously are a little more appealing.
"All jokes aside, I think that players, when that time comes, will have to make the best decision for them and their families. I try not to think about it too much. If he wants to call me for advice later as a friend, I will be more than happy to give it to him."
Part of that advice will surely be how the 11-year veteran Anthony can shake his reputation as simply a scorer who hasn't come close to a championship since his days playing for Syracuse University. That reputation was only exacerbated by Anthony breaking Bryant's Madison Square Garden scoring record of 61 points with 62 of his own Friday, but doing it on a Knicks team with a dismal 16-27 record.
Bryant, who won championships in three of his first six seasons in the league, went through a seven-year drought before winning another one, something that took its toll the same way Anthony's ringless career has.
"It is hard, from a psychological perspective as a player, you don't want to get too frustrated about things that you can't control," Bryant said. "You have to find that balance. At the same time, it is important for the organization to understand the level of competitiveness that you have, that you won't tolerate having a team that is not in contention for an NBA championship, which is what I did. It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way but sometimes you got to kick down a few doors and piss some people off and trust that it will pay off in the long run. If you are willing to do that, more times than not, you will be OK."
Bryant tried to force a trade from the Lakers in the summer of 2007 when he felt like the organization was content on him selling tickets with his scoring ways, rather than spending money to surround him with talent for another title run. The Lakers responded with trading for Pau Gasol the next season, a move that ushered in championships Nos. 4 and 5 of Bryant's career.
"It can contribute to a lot of frustration," Bryant said. "That is why I was so frustrated with this organization back in 2006 and 2007 because I didn't want to be known as a scorer. I wanted to make sure I had a team around me that could contend for a championship. So this is a team sport. A lot of times you have to work with what you have around you. You have to be lucky in the sense of having an organization that can put a great team around you and be successful."
Anthony can opt out of the final year of his contract with the Knicks to become a free agent come July 1. If he chooses to re-up with the Knicks, he could ink a five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, like the Lakers, the maximum he can earn is $95,897,372 over four years, according to calculations by ESPN salary-cap expert Larry Coon.
Bryant says that Anthony, whom he paired with to win two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 for Team USA, is one of the best talents the league has to offer.
"He is a great player just like the rest of them," Bryant said. "He is on a, obviously, the upper tier of players. It is tough for players because a lot of times you are really subject to the culture around you in terms of the players and talent that is around you. You've seen it with players from the past whether it is Dominique Wilkins or Bernard King."
As great as Wilkins and King were, they never scored 62 points at the Garden. Bryant said he called Anthony to congratulate him after the game and had something to say about losing his arena scoring record.
"If I was a competitor, I would say that Melo has more opportunities to set a Garden record than I did," Bryant said. "But I'm not a competitor, so I won't say that."
Bryant said that for Anthony, who is second in the league with a 27.1 points per game average, to be viewed as more than a scorer he has to do it with postseason success.
"The only way to do that is win," Bryant said. "That's it. I won five championships and there's some of you guys still say that. You just got to take it and roll with it. The important thing is winning a championship. That's the only way to shake it. That's the only way Michael [Jordan] shook it. That's the only way any top scorer will be able to shake it."
Currently, Bryant is trying to shake a left knee injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 17. He plans to be re-evaluated by a doctor in L.A. next week and begin ramping up his workouts if he's cleared.
"I will finally do more things that just riding a bike," Bryant said. "That's killing me. Absolutely killing me."
Meanwhile, all of the Lakers' losses, 16 in the last 19 games, have been killing Gasol, who unleashed an expletive-laden tirade on his teammates in the locker room following a 114-105 loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
"That's the most irritated I've seen Pau in a long long time," said Bryant. "I haven't really seen him come in and have a tantrum in the locker room which is good, good, something that needs to be done. Can't be something where losing becomes accepted or the whole 'we gave it a good effort' sort of thing. We don't do that around here. That is not what it's about. It is not about giving good effort. It is about winning a championship."
ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.
9dEthan Sherwood Strauss