Kobe Bryant: Derek Fisher's exit hard

Updated: March 17, 2012, 3:28 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant spoke to reporters on Friday for the first time since the team traded his longtime backcourt running mate, Derek Fisher, following the Lakers' 97-92 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

His words were measured. While some expected Bryant to unleash a tirade after management parted ways with Fisher, considering the pair won five championships together and came into the league together as rookies in 1996, Bryant's message to the media was more somber than sharp.

"Very difficult," Bryant said. "I'm not used to it because I've been with him my entire career, aside from that little stint that he had away from us. So, it's very different for me. It's pretty weird."

Added Bryant in his ESPN 710 Radio postgame interview: "I think I was shocked just like everybody else ... We've always been close and we'll continue to be close."

When asked if he was angry about the trade that sent Fisher, along with a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for forward Jordan Hill, Bryant said, simply, "No."

"I've been here for awhile and I've had some of my closest friends go, starting with Caron [Butler], Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom and Derek," Bryant said. "So I've been through it so many times before."

However, Bryant did not hide his irritation when asked when he was informed the Fisher trade had occurred.

"Don't start no (expletive)," Bryant said. "I'm not even going to answer it. Everybody would be too shocked."

Bryant said he had been in contact with Fisher on several occasions since the trade occurred Thursday.

"I don't get that sentimental about it," Bryant said. "I texted him (Thursday) and we kind of had a laugh about it because he knows how I am. We just talked about the good times and what a fun time it was to go to battle together and things like that, but that's about as sentimental as I'm going to get."

When asked to describe Fisher's mood following the trade, Bryant said, "You guys got to ask Derek. He's much more politically correct than I am ... Talk to Derek about it. I'm sure he'll answer it the way he best sees fit."

Bryant said the hardest thing to replace about Fisher will be his championship experience.

"That doesn't happen by accident," said Bryant. "There's a reason why players that have multiple championships have multiple championships. There's a certain characteristic and an understanding and knowledge and that's not something that's easily taught. You kind of have to go through it and it kind of has to be part of your DNA from the beginning. So, that's something that's obviously tough to replace but we believe that (Ramon) Sessions has that DNA."

That wasn't the only bit of high praise Bryant had for Sessions, acquired in a separate trade deadline deal with Cleveland.

"Extremely fast, extremely crafty and just in the conversations that I had with him out on the floor about execution and things like that, he seems to have a really high basketball IQ," Bryant said.

Sessions had seven points, five assists and four rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench against Minnesota.

"He can score," Bryant said. "He can obviously get into the paint as you saw tonight and so he's going to be a feature for our team that opponents are going to have to prepare for. They're going to have to talk about it and they're going to have to try to do something to slow him down."

While Fisher's departure was clearly still weighing on Bryant's mind, he seemed somewhat relieved that the trade deadline had finally passed.

"It obviously helps when guys aren't thinking about whether they're going to be here tomorrow," Bryant said. "It's obviously a load off of their shoulders."

He wasn't the only one to think so. Pau Gasol, who had been the subject of trade rumors ever since the Chris Paul trade fell apart on the eve of training camp, was happy to remain in L.A.

"It was good to know that all the talks and everything else was over and behind me and that I could move on and just focus on playing basketball," said Gasol after finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Wolves. "So, that was a big relief ... It's been pretty exhausting to deal with it pretty much on a daily basis for the last 2½ to three months. But now, it's time to play. I'm happy to be here, be a part of the team and just focus on playing and trying to help the team as much as possible without worrying about anything else."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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