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Kobe Says He's Sorry

Lakers: Oh, Bryant doesn't feel bad about punching Miller, but he apologizes to teammates for suspension.

March 05, 2002|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On Day 3 of his latest controversy, Kobe Bryant played "Meet the Press."

"What do y'all want?" he said, grinning, as a band of people bearing tape recorders and TV cameras encircled him Monday.

"I might sucker-punch all of y'all."

Sporting a one-inch scratch on his left cheek--"It's like a little baby scratch"--he refused to say what he and Indiana's Reggie Miller had argued about after Friday's game, prompting Bryant to throw a punch and leading to a two-game suspension for both.

He dismissed Miller, likening him to a fool, at one point. But to everyone else, Bryant apologized.

"I deserved [the two-game suspension]," he said. "I deserved it. Probably deserved even a little more....

"I'm going to apologize to my teammates because I can't join them. They're out there battling and fighting on the court....

"I don't believe fighting is the answer. At all. I don't. But sometimes, as a man, you have to do what you have to do....

"We can sit up here and talk about this until we're all blue in the face. The fact of the matter is, I made a mistake. It wasn't the best decision in the world. At the time, I felt like it was the right decision. I have to deal with the consequences. I have to deal with the criticism. I just move on and continue to grow and mature as a man. That's the bottom line."

Bryant suggested that he'd thought Miller had extended their night-long trash-talking duel too far, to non-basketball subject matter.

"Trash-talking is something, it's part of the game. There's a thin line between taking things from the basketball court and taking things off the court," he said.

Miller also hinted pointedly at non-basketball matters, declaring--two days later, in a prepared release--that, "Kobe has other issues he has to deal with. They had nothing to do with me or the basketball game played Friday evening."

Not surprisingly, Bryant didn't see it that way.

"Reggie doesn't know me," he said. "He doesn't know me at all. And I'll never argue with fools. That's just a waste of time."

Prohibited from being in the arena Sunday, as well as tonight, Bryant says he watched the Lakers' victory over Houston on television and was moved at the sight of Shaquille O'Neal wearing his No. 8 in pregame warmups.

As for the possibility that O'Neal stretched the jersey into a tent, Bryant is OK with that.

"I was kind of happy, man," he said, "because you know how the NBA rules make you wear those tight, little John Stockton uniforms? I was kind of happy. He stretched it out for me. I was hoping maybe he could wear my shorts."

Coach Phil Jackson, grinding his teeth at the thought of losing ground to Sacramento, even as his players sent Bryant expressions of love and support, actually saw them cut the Kings' two-game lead to one Sunday night.

So compared to what the Lakers have been through recently....

"This is nothing at all," Bryant said. "It's better to fight against the opposition than it is to fight amongst ourselves. Last year, we were fighting amongst ourselves and we pulled through just fine."

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