Kobe reaches out to Magic Johnson

Updated: December 14, 2012, 3:04 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

NEW YORK -- Kobe Bryant had a couple of orders of business to take care of on his off day in New York City on Wednesday.

With the Los Angeles Lakers reeling from a 9-13 record, including losses in five of their last six games, Bryant got away from it all for a little bit by seeing the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall with his family.

But the Lakers never strayed too far from his mind as Bryant also found time to make a phone call to Magic Johnson to talk about the team.

"We just talked about some of the experiences he went through and some of the systematic changes that he had to go through after Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] retired, and how he kind of managed through that and how he dealt with that," Bryant said after the Lakers' shootaround in preparation for their game against the New York Knicks on Thursday. "It was very helpful."

Abdul-Jabbar retired after the 1988-89 season following the Lakers' loss to the Detroit Pistons via a 4-0 sweep in the NBA Finals. Johnson played just two more seasons before retiring for the first time after acquiring the HIV virus. The Lakers lost in the conference semifinals in 1990 and were bounced by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals in Mike Dunleavy's first season as the Lakers' coach. Dunleavy was hired after the departure of Pat Riley.

Bryant would not reveal the particulars of his conversation, but one can assume Johnson vented some of the frustrations that he spoke about at a Los Angeles Dodgers news conference earlier in the week when he said the hiring of coach Mike D'Antoni "doesn't make sense to me."

Johnson also said the Lakers aren't utilizing Pau Gasol correctly and need to put him back in the low block. Bryant wouldn't say if he spoke to Johnson about that, but it won't matter for another game. Gasol missed his sixth straight contest because of knee tendinitis.

Tweeted Gasol on Thursday: "It's been hard not being able to play these last games, but everyday I'm closer to be back on the court playing with my teammates!"

Steve Nash also missed another game as he recovers from a fractured fibula in his left leg.

"He's getting closer," D'Antoni said of Nash. "He worked out pretty well today. We see some flickers at the end of the tunnel."

Nash could be seen practicing shooting and ballhandling at the end of the shootaround with Lakers player development coach Phil Handy.

"He hasn't progressed that far," D'Antoni added. "But we're getting closer. I just don't want to build up expectations and he has a little setback and then everybody goes crazy. It's going to be awhile. But awhile, I don't know what that is."

After the Lakers' 100-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, Bryant said the great part about playing for the Lakers is that he can lean on all the former franchise greats for advice. But he wouldn't say what advice he got from Johnson.

"The advice I get from Magic, Michael and those guys, that's always sacred," Bryant said. "That's going to the mountaintop and talking to Buddha, know what I mean? That's privileged information."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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