As he stepped foot into the Lakers' practice facility, Kobe Bryant had every right to appear upset.
The Lakers suffered an embarrassing 113-96 Game 6 loss Thursday to the Denver Nuggets, setting up Game 7 Saturday at Staples Center. Bryant hardly liked the effort Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum provided; they combined for 14 points on five-of-21 shooting. And, despite nursing intestinal flu symptoms, Bryant suited up and scored 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting.
Yet, there Bryant stood outside the trainer's room greeting reporters with a smile. Part of it was attributed to his improved health.
"It's been a tough couple of days," Bryant said, "but I feel a lot better."
But some of it reflects other areas.
He's eagerly awaiting Metta World Peace's return in Game 7 after serving a seven-game suspension for throwing a viscous elbow April 22 at Oklahoma City guard James Harden. Bryant remained so impressed with World Peace's practice and weight-training during his suspension that he doesn't believe there will be any "rust" in his play.
Bryant is confident the message he plans to emphasize to Gasol and Bynum to provide more intensity will register.
Bryant is 4-1 in previous Game 7s, and helped secure Game 5 in a 2000 first-round matchup with the Sacramento Kings.
"They're fun," Bryant said. "There's a lot of energy in the building and the teams play with a sense of desperation on every possession. It's a fun thing to be a part of."
That's why once the interview wrapped up, Bryant approached the coach's table along the practice court, sat down and shot the breeze with assistant coaches and teammates. The season is hardly over. And Bryant will ensure he does everything he can to keep it from ending soon.