Kobe: No surprise with Phil to Knicks

Updated: March 19, 2014, 8:28 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

By the time Phil Jackson met with Kobe Bryant to discuss the possibility of Jackson joining the New York Knicks' front office, there wasn't much left for Bryant to do other than tell his old coach good luck.

"I wasn't surprised by it," Bryant said on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday. "He mentioned that that was likely to happen and I just wished him all the best.

"Like I said, there's only but so much meditation a person can do all day. You know what I mean? At some point you got to get up and do something."

Bryant had breakfast with Jackson a week and a half ago, before the 13-time NBA champion (11 as a coach, two as a player) finalized a five-year contract with the Knicks that is expected to pay him $12 million annually.

While Bryant told reporters last week it was "hard for [him] to understand" how the Lakers could not create a position for Jackson, he did not bother trying to persuade Jackson to turn down the Knicks and wait for a spot to open in L.A.

"From my understanding, they never had that dialogue since last season," Bryant said, referring to when the Lakers passed on Jackson to hire Mike D'Antoni as coach last November. "So if there was some interest there, I'm sure our organization would have reached out and had those conversations with him."

Bryant, 35, endorsed what the 68-year-old Jackson can bring to New York as he will try to help break the Knicks' 41-year championship drought.

"I just think his mentorship shifts," Bryant said. "I think it goes from having a direct influence on the players themselves to having a direct influence on the coaching staff, which he's accustomed to doing because that's how he coached as well.

"He really had a great rapport with his coaching staff and he was really a great mentor for them, and I'm sure he'll do the same thing and it will just kind of trickle down from there. It's really no different from what Pat [Riley] has been able to do in Miami with [Erik] Spoelstra."

Bryant also said that Jackson should be able to help Carmelo Anthony, a player Bryant counts among his closest friends in the league.

"Phil will be able to provide that knowledge and he'll learn more about the game and open up dimensions of the game that he never saw before," Bryant said. "So, he'll just continue to improve."

He also took exception with Anthony's reputation as more of a scorer than a winner.

"I mean, he won a championship at Syracuse, so he's won a championship before," said Bryant, who also teamed with Anthony to win two Olympic gold medals. "He's been a part of a championship roster. So he has that championship DNA inside of him."

Bryant, of course, is more interested with figuring out a way to capture the sixth championship of his career than how Jackson and Anthony work out. The 18-year veteran softened his public comments from a week ago that questioned the direction the Lakers' management was heading.

"I think what we can do as players is just trust the organization," Bryant said. "I've had conversations with [executive vice president of player personnel] Jimmy [Buss] and Jimmy is really adamant about the direction that he wants to go with this organization, and he feels really confident in the fact that he can be able to turn it around. Him and [president] Jeanie [Buss] seem to be really focused on being on the same page, getting on the same page and pushing this organization to have the same legacy that their father was able to maintain for so many years."

Bryant also empathized with D'Antoni after suggesting last week that the Lakers' front office would have to make a decision on his future.

"It's really been tough on him," Bryant said. "The two years that he's been here, he's been dealing with so many injuries left and right that he hasn't really gotten a fair deal, a fair shake at it since he's been here."

Lakers players have missed a league-high 241 games this season because of injuries.

Bryant contributed to that tally, missing the Lakers' first 19 games while recovering from a torn Achilles in his left leg and their last 41 with a fracture in his left knee. Bryant was already ruled out for the rest of the season, but he told the Patrick show he could "probably" play right now if the Lakers were in the playoff hunt.

"Even when I was injured [against Memphis in December], I finished out the game," Bryant said. "Even though it was sore, I still finished playing the game. So if this was like a playoff situation, I'd play through it. I'd have to deal with it heavily in the offseason, but I'd be able to manage it."

With the Lakers (22-44) already eliminated from the postseason, D'Antoni said Bryant was not close to even practicing with the team, let alone playing in a game.

"I don't think so," D'Antoni said after shootaround Wednesday in preparation for the game against the San Antonio Spurs. "That wouldn't be productive, I don't think, at this point."


Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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