Kobe would welcome Melo, Scott
ISLA VISTA, Calif. -- It remains to be seen who the Los Angeles Lakers will land in free agency this summer. There's also that pesky question of who they'll hire to be their coach. Kobe Bryant provided a clear vision of how he would like to see the team filled out, however.
All that salary-cap space the Lakers lined up in anticipation of some of the league's brightest talents hitting the market? Start by bringing in Carmelo Anthony.
"I would love to play with him," Bryant said Wednesday at the start of his eighth annual youth basketball academy on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. "We've really clicked since 2008, and I would love to see him out here [in Los Angeles]."
As for who he would like to see roaming the sidelines next season? Look no further than Byron Scott.
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"He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league," Bryant said of Scott before endorsing the former Showtime-era Lakers great for the job. "So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We've had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I've always been a fan of his."
Bryant also is a fan of how the Lakers have approached free agency this offseason, no matter how it plays out from here. Even if Anthony chooses to stay in New York and even if LeBron James decides on Miami, Cleveland or someplace else other than L.A., Bryant said his team put its best foot forward.
"The organization, if God forbid we end up with absolutely nothing, it's not for a lack of effort," Bryant said. "So, that's something that I would be extremely proud of. You put forth the effort, you give it your best shot, but you can't [close the deal], what can you do? You just go from there, and then it's on me to go out there and do my best to try to help us win."
It was a change of tune for Bryant since his diatribe in March when he challenged management and said he had "not one lick" of patience for the Lakers to be built back into a championship contender.
"They're going for it," Bryant said of the Lakers' attempt to land both Anthony and James in free agency. "There's no ifs ands or buts about it; they're being extremely aggressive and they have solid concepts and plans to be able to get it done. They're pulling out all the stops to ensure that we put on a contender on the floor next year. That's all you can ask for. Same thing that they ask of me: When I step out on the court, they expect me to play my heart out. Right? To prepare and to give it my best shot. Sometimes it doesn't always work out the way you want it to, but at least the intention and the commitment was there."
Bryant has been part of the Lakers' recruitment process but has taken a more subtle approach.
"[Have] I read Og Mandino to get ready for this free-agency pitch?" Bryant joked, referring to the author of the best-selling book "The Greatest Salesman in the World." "Honestly, no. It's really just about what we have and the flexibility that we have and the market that we have. Because of rules and regulations, obviously the players would be leaving some financial stability on the table, but with that being said, you can only speak to the strengths that you have as an organization. And the strengths that we have are the flexibility, the market and the track record. A proven track record. So, that's what you stick to."
Bryant realizes the direction the Lakers chose to pursue -- waiting for the big fish to make up their minds -- came with the consequence of missing out on lower-profile free agents who reached agreements with competing teams in the past week and a half, but he said the approach was "worth the wait."
"We have several options," Bryant said. "Obviously depending on the timing of this process, it affects some of those. You have a plan that's flexible, but you have a Plan A and a Plan B. But some of the Plan B is affected by the timing of Plan A. So, you just kind of plan it out and wait and see what happens and respond from there."
If Plan A is Anthony or James or both, what is Plan B?
"Plan B is a solid plan," Bryant said. "You just have to play the waiting game a little bit and see how things shake out."
Bryant said landing Anthony certainly would improve the Lakers' chances of retaining Pau Gasol, who is a free agent for the first time in his 13-year career and is being courted by the Lakers (in both their Plan A and Plan B scenarios), Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago and others.
"I think it will help his decision a lot more," Bryant said. "It's tough for Pau. Pau is extremely loyal, and it's a very tough position for him to be in, to be a free agent. He had never been in this position before, and my biggest message to him was, 'Dude, make sure you enjoy the process. Man, like, don't stress yourself out. The ball's in your court. This is your decision to make. Don't feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.' But yes, I think if we were fortunate enough to get Carmelo, I'm sure that would help his decision."
Bryant proving he is back and fully healthy after playing in only six games last season because of an Achilles tear and a fractured knee in his left leg presumably would help both Anthony and Gasol with their decisions.
"Physically, I feel great," Bryant said, adding that he weighs 218 pounds, which is usually his in-season threshold. "I don't think about the knee at all when I train. I don't think about the Achilles at all when I train. So, I feel sharp, crisp, and now it's time to just add on from there."
While he feels good enough to play again, Bryant disputed the gossip that set the basketball rumor mill ablaze last weekend when someone tweeted he was playing pickup with Anthony and Kevin Love at UCLA.
"I wasn't even there," Bryant said. "I was in Orange County."
While Bryant seemed resigned to the fact that the Lakers would lose out on their Plan A free-agency hope of some combination of Anthony and James at times during his 15-minute media session Wednesday, he made one final public plea to Anthony nonetheless.
"You got to give guys space and just make the decision on their own," Bryant said. "I just share with them the experiences that I had playing here in Los Angeles, how I feel like it could be very beneficial to him and his family and his legacy going forward. I mean, this is a legacy-defining moment. This is the decision."