Kobe Bryant says he feels better than ever. Just what the rest of the NBA wanted to hear.
Coming off his first NBA Finals MVP performance, the Lakers' 11-time All-Star did something different this off-season: nothing.
No Olympic obligations. No international basketball duties. Just a lot of downtime.
He went with his family to France and also did promotional appearances for Nike throughout Asia. He picked up a basketball a little before his 31st birthday in August. It seemed as if an eternity had passed.
"The season ends so abruptly. You're used to going every day, and then it stops," Bryant said. "So you're kind of looking around for stuff to do."
If boredom was the punishment for not playing ball, Bryant's now feeling the reward.
"I feel fresher, healthier, as healthy as I've felt in a long time," he said. "I haven't had a chance to take a month and a half off in quite some time."
A year ago, Bryant and Pau Gasol were given several days off in training camp to help them ease into practice after long runs with their respective Olympic teams. (Bryant helped Team USA win gold over Gasol's Spanish national team.)
Bryant didn't need to ease into anything this October.
"He's looked very good and carried the energy of the corps down the floor, up and down," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
What's new, 'Drew?
Even though Kurt Rambis is gone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will have a lesser role in the development of Andrew Bynum, Jackson isn't worried.
"Just about everybody on my staff wants to have a piece of Andrew, so I think everybody will have something to say," Jackson said. "Particularly, my own focus is going to be in that direction because Kurt was really the guy that spent a lot of time with him, working on some of the details of this game."
Bynum, who turns 22 this month, has been bothered by Achilles' tendon soreness but is still running the court "pretty well," Jackson said.
"His conditioning looks good," Jackson said. "He's still getting acclimated to playing with other bodies around him in a crowd, which is always one of the things that happens to big guys over the course of the summer. They have all these moves they work on in the summer with nobody around and now there's a crowded lane, a crowded court. It makes it different."
Cuban vs. Artest
Someone definitely likes the Lakers' addition of Ron Artest . . . and not in a pro-Lakers way.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he "couldn't think of anything better" to test the Lakers' chemistry and possibly slow down their championship hopes.
"If you would have said, what one player -- and I'll get killed over this -- what one player would you like to see on the Lakers? Ron Artest," Cuban said in an ESPN radio interview in Dallas.
"Could you imagine? Ron Artest has got the ball, and Kobe's standing there, 'Throw me the ball.' Thank you, Ron Artest."
Training camp two-a-days end today, and the Lakers play their first exhibition game Wednesday against Golden State in Anaheim. . . . Jackson said he might not coach that game, though he appeared to be joking with reporters. Jackson sat out an exhibition game last season in Anaheim because of soreness in his legs. . . . Reserve center DJ Mbenga has been slowed by a hip flexor, limiting his practice time. "It happened this summer while he was training with the Belgian national team," Jackson said.