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Bryant scales back on conditioning, talks about tension with Howard

October 24, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Kobe Bryant chews on his jersey during a game against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 21, 2012.
Kobe Bryant chews on his jersey during a game against the Sacramento Kings… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Kobe Bryant talks to reporters only once a week while injured, leading to a lot of questions covering a lot of ground. Thursday was no different.

He revealed that he reduced his workload after dialing it up last week in China and was no longer jogging in 20-minute bursts, which was hailed as progress a week ago.

"I was cranking it up the entire time I was in China. I've scaled back since just to let it heal up a little bit more and get a little more flexibility to it," he said.

The Lakers said it was normal, the equivalent of pushing hard and then tapering off a bit. They say it's also a reason they haven't released an updated estimate for his return since his mid-April surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon. That timetable said he would be out until at least mid-October and possibly as late as mid-January.

Meanwhile, Bryant also acknowledged tension with Dwight Howard, his teammate for one shaky season until Howard bolted for Houston via free agency in July.

They had an awkward co-existence, never as acrimonious as the one Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal endured in the end, but never comfortable either.

"We saw different ways of going about leading this team," Bryant said. "Dwight wanted to do it one way and he felt like it was effective. I wanted to do it another way. It was constant tension the second half of the season."

That the Lakers finished seventh in the Western Conference might have been an accomplishment, as silly as it sounded for a team that had championship aspirations several months earlier. Bryant notably credited Pau Gasol, not Howard.

"We wanted to make a pretty good run at it and I think Pau stepping in and taking a significant load of the offensive responsibilities and playing defense as well...It gave Dwight a lot of easy lay-ups," Bryant said. "Pau got a lot of easy baskets for everybody else. Things just kind of fell in place and we were able to get into the playoffs."

Bryant also shot back at some recent public disses, including ESPN.com saying the Lakers would finish 12th in the West while also calling Bryant the NBA's 25th-best player.

In fact, Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to "1225" for that reason.

"No," he said sarcastically Thursday. "It's my pet's birthday.

Then he added, "The way I look at it, 25 is pretty silly. Still and all, it's a challenge that I willingly accept."

Bryant, 35, also didn't like being voted the second-best shooting guard by NBA general managers. It was the first time he wasn't called the top shooting guard in the 12-year history of the annual poll. Houston's James Harden got the No. 1 spot.

"I think they counted on me being on one leg," Bryant said.

Ever the optimist, even when the Lakers have trailed by three games in a best-of-seven series, Bryant acknowledged that the public doubt occasionally sinks into his psyche.

"I try not to pay attention to it too much. It can get to you a little bit," he said. "It'll make you a little impatient especially when you hear the doubt. It's not like, 'Will I be able to play well?' It's more like, 'I won't be able to come back...'

"When you hear those things, you want to push and come back and play right away to shut a lot of people up. You have to be patient, you have to rest and relax and come back when you’re ready. You have to really restrain yourself to not get out there."

The Lakers' season opener is Tuesday against the Clippers. They play at Portland the following night.

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