Yesterday after the Los Angeles Lakers finished practicing at the Pepsi Center for their game tonight against the Denver Nuggets. A group of reporters asked Kobe Bryant as to what his stance/opinion was on several topics (including the Carmelo situation) that are hot buttons in the NBA these days.
Now typically Kobe doesn’t voice a strong opinion publically on major issues or what’s going on with another player in the league. However when it came to discussing Melo and Denver fans turning on Melo, Kobe didn’t mince words.
He told it like it was how it was going to be and how it should be. He even took a slight jab at Smush Parker.
Reporter: Thoughts on some of the Nuggets fans booing Carmelo.
Kobe: It’s hard to trade him, so maybe he won’t be traded, who knows. But you’ve got to show support. He’s still playing hard. Put yourself in his shoes. If you’re teeter-tottering about going somewhere, you’d be more inclined to go somewhere where they’ll cheer you.
What about Denver-born, Denver-raised fans – if your favorite player doesn’t want to be on your team anymore …
Kobe: Oh please. Don’t give me that (expletive). My first game back when I demanded a trade, they booed the first game and didn’t boo the rest of the way.
Why did they stop?
Kobe: Fans understood that I was going to play hard and compete every single night. They expressed their feelings in the first game and didn’t hear it again.
When Melo makes shots, they don’t boo, but when he misses, they sometimes boo.
Kobe: That’s (expletive). Either you ride with him or you don’t.
And last night, he scored 35 points and they booed him in the postgame interview (on the court).
Kobe: That’s stupid.
Does part of you feel bad for Carmelo?
Kobe: No, because I know him. He’s strong. I don’t feel bad for him. he has thick skin, he’s competitive.
With LeBron and Carmelo, are we seeing the power of the NBA player – them being able to control their destiny?
Kobe: How is he controlling his destiny?
Reporter: Because he’s basically controlling where he’s going to play.
Kobe: No, you’re seeing the power of the league, controlling players who don’t have the freedom to move wherever they want – free agency isn’t free agency anymore. It’s just not. So it’s the reverse.
What do you mean it’s not the same?
Kobe: Players go other places to take significant paycuts to play someplace else and get less years (on their contracts). Shaquille was a free agent in 1996 or whenever that was. That was true free agency – going to the team of your choice, have a similar contracts, similar structure. The way it is now, it’s not the same.
Is that because you can now get more money if you stay with your existing team?
In 2004, did you feel it wasn’t all you expected free agency to be?
Kobe: Well I kind of had the upper hand because I had a no-trade clause, so my situation was different – now that’s player power (grinning).
Reporter: Is there fear about the impending CBA?
Kobe: There’s concern, in terms of the amount of liberties players have to make a living in whatever city they choose. At the end of the day, it’s just basketball, and I’m sure business folks will work out their end of the deal.
What makes Denver difficult to play against?
Kobe: We have a history with them. They play us extremely tough here. They know how we play and they give us a tough game every time.
I heard their inbound passing is much better.
Kobe: A couple years too late (with a smile).
When you look at Melo’s situation – he likes the city of Denver, but knows that going to a bigger market could benefit him …
Kobe: It has nothing to do with a bigger market. It’s about winning. If you want to keep a player here, make the right decisions. Make the right choices with personnel, get a team around a guy to help you win, and there would be no problems.
They have cap space this summer, so one could argue that if he wants to be in a situation to win, then Denver would be one of the best situations.
Kobe: Then Denver will make the right decisions, bring in the right personnel and he’ll stick around. It’s not rocket science. …. I know for me, it’s all about winning. In my situation, we weren’t spending the money to get players – they had me playing around with Smush Parker. Until they decided they wanted to make the necessary sacrifices financially to get a team that’s competitive, I didn’t want to be (with the Lakers). It’s as simple as that.
I have to co-sign with Kobe on this but I really don’t think Melo wants to be in Denver despite that he says he likes Denver.
Just because Melo says he “likes” Denver doesn’t mean that he wants to live here or play ball here.
Hell, I have been living in Denver for over a year now because of my job and other reasons. And although I do like Denver, I don’t want to live here any longer than I have to.
I would think if Melo really wanted to be in Denver he would just come out and say “Hey, I want to stay in Denver but as of now the Nuggets front office haven’t put a championship caliber team around me so I can’t commit three more years of my career by signing an extension with a franchise that seems to be okay with mediocrity.”
If Melo came out and said something like that then fans and other people who have turned against Melo would understand what the deal is. Instead he has chosen to do the opposite by only speaking in code or not saying much of anything at all, which kind of indicates that he wants out, but doesn’t want to do it in a “ski mask and gun” kind of way.
- David Johnson