Kobe Bryant has ended his time as an athlete, a transition that stands in stark contrast to the Los Angeles Lakers’ new franchise cornerstones. D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance, Jr. are in the nascent stages of what the Lakers hope will be long careers, and in an interview with Mike Bresnahan of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, Bryant joined the chorus of observers who think those players have a lot of high level basketball ahead of them.
“[The Lakers] have a really young core, and a really good core,” said Bryant. “Now it's just a matter of them growing together and having those pieces mesh which I think is a great opportunity because now at this age where their games are still developing, they can develop their games and their strengths around each other. And so, they have a lot of potential. Hopefully they can put it together sooner rather than later."
The Lakers’ last two lottery picks in particular have left Bryant impressed.
"I think he plays with great tempo, great pace,” Bryant said of Ingram, the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. “I like his length. His ball-handling ability is very good; he can get to his spots on the floor. I think defensively, he has the potential to be fantastic as well. He has long arms, long legs. So hopefully he starts paying attention to that just as much as the things he can do offensively."
If Bryant sounds as hopeful of what Ingram can eventually bring as most Lakers fans, he’s no less impressed with the second overall pick he actually played with. He told Bresnahan he thinks that Russell will be able to translate some of his Las Vegas Summer League domination into regular season success.
“There's certain things that he's picked up on body positioning: using his size to get to places, recognizing defensive packages and where to position guys on the floor. He's developed very nicely over the summer,” Bryant said.
Some of Bryant’s analysis is projection, and one of the hardest workers in NBA history certainly understands how much these young players will have to grind in order to reach their full potential. If they want help, he’ll be available.
“I'm certainly busy doing a bunch of other things but I would love to come by,” Bryant said. “I've spoken to Luke several times and [Brian] Shaw as well. I let the players know I'm always around, man. I'm always around. If you wanna come out and work out, get up early in the morning and work out, walk them through some things.”
That’s good news for the team and their fans, because the ability to pick the brain of one of, if not the, greatest players in franchise history could be an invaluable resource for these young Lakers.
Just because he’s retired, doesn’t mean Kobe is going anywhere.
“The Lakers are in my blood, man. It's family, man. So I'm always around."