MANILA, Philippines – Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant insists that the Los Angeles Lakers remain his team, despite the off-season acquisitions of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard and former two-time MVP Steve Nash.
“I got a question earlier about whose time this is. I don’t want to get into the, ‘Well, we share...’ No. It’s my team,” Bryant said, as quoted by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
“But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away, this organization will ride on as if I never left,” Bryant added.
Howard, for his part, said he is willing to fall in line behind the “Black Mamba” and learn as much as he can from the Lakers superstar.
“Learning from Kobe, I think this is something that I need for myself so I can grow as a player and as a person,” said Howard. “He’s been through almost every single situation possible on the court and off the court.”
“I think he can really help me out a lot,” he added.
Howard was acquired by the Lakers via a massive four-team trade that sent All-Star Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Meanwhile, Nash, who was acquired from the Phoenix Suns, agrees that the Lakers are “undoubtedly Kobe’s team.”
“He’s been here his whole career. He’s won championships. And he’s the best player on the team,” Nash said.
The Lakers are one of the favorites to win the NBA championship thanks in part to the additions of Howard and Nash. Also back in the fold is power forward Pau Gasol, while off-season acquisitions Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks are expected to boost the Laker bench.
Bryant was coy when asked about the possibility of winning titles with his new, souped-up Lakers squad, however.
“Let’s start with winning the first game,” Bryant told ESPN. [http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8449414&categoryid=2459788]
But when asked how he would stop the Lakers if he were a coach for an opposing team, Bryant admitted that “it’s tough.”
“Like I said, you take individual players and put them in a system that’s gonna bring all of your strengths to another level,” he said.
“All the pieces fit. We all do different things. It’s not like guys have to come here and change what they do. They’ll come here and do what they’ve been doing their entire careers,” Bryant added.
The 34-year-old Bryant is entering his 17th season in the NBA – all of which were spent with the Los Angeles Lakers. He has only two years remaining in his contract. – With a report from ANC