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Miami signings put the heat on Kobe Bryant to get healthy

The Lakers guard was impressed by Pat Riley's ability to bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. He also knew it meant he had to rehabilitate his injured knee.

October 14, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Kobe Bryant hates the question, hasn't really answered it at all other than a few platitudes here and there.

But on Thursday, he gave a little insight into his thoughts on LeBron James and Chris Bosh taking their talents to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat.

He said his first reaction was, "Wow. How did Pat Riley pull that … off? Impressive."

Then he had another thought.

"I said I've got to get my knee healthy, that's what I said."

Bryant has shot poorly in the Lakers' exhibitions, making only four of 28 attempts (14.3%) during a slow, methodical return from off-season surgery on his right knee. He practiced Thursday and planned to play Saturday and Sunday in the Lakers' first back-to-back exhibitions this season.

He said the Heat had the potential to be "great," but he wasn't entirely motivated by Miami's new look, even though Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Heat, not the Lakers, as the favorite to win the NBA championship.

"I don't need it," Bryant said of the added incentive.

What he needs is to rediscover his shot and strength in the knee, something that will presumably happen a few weeks into the season. The Lakers begin the regular season Oct. 26 against Houston.

Bryant made only two of 10 attempts Wednesday against Sacramento and stuck around to shoot after Thursday's practice with assistant coach Chuck Person.

"I don't think it's ever been frustrating. It's just understanding that it's a process. I've been through it before," Bryant said.

Bryant was slow to come back from off-season surgery on the same knee in 2006. He sat out the first two regular-season games and scored fewer than 20 points in four of his first eight games.

Things turned out all right for him that season. He ended up making a historic run in March 2007, becoming the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1962 to accrue four consecutive games of at least 50 points.

For now, however, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson couldn't remember a player of Bryant's stature (think Michael Jordan, or, to a lesser degree, Scottie Pippen) struggling so badly with accuracy in exhibition play.

"I don't think so," Jackson said. "He's playing without being quite ready. He's trying to get some of it in game situations rather than having the ability to practice and do all the things that build up to that where he's going to be in rhythm and shooting the ball right. We're taking a little bit of a shortcut."

Artest at his best

Forward Ron Artest, by the way, had no reaction when James and Bosh joined Miami. He was too busy continuing his off-season of partying.

"I was running for council. I was running for mayor. I didn't really have time," Artest said. "I didn't know what was going on."

He did, however, think that the NBA's top two players do not call Miami home.

Artest said Bryant is the league's top talent, followed by Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant. But where would James be on his list?

"I only count to two," Artest said. "I've been out of school for 10 years. I only count to two."

Artest spoke about many topics in a lengthy interview session after Thursday's practice, including his absence during the team's visit with President Obama at the White House last season.

Artest claimed he was sick that day, though many team sources thought he avoided going because he wasn't part of the Lakers' 2008-09 championship team. He didn't think he belonged.

He vowed to meet the president this season, assuming the Lakers were again invited.

"I deserve to meet the president this time," he said. "Even if I am sick, I'm going."

Vujacic sidelined

Sasha Vujacic will be out indefinitely after sustaining a concussion at Thursday's practice. He was accidentally struck below the left eye by Lamar Odom.

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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