Lakers don't mind sharing spotlight with Clippers
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant believes his town has always been big enough for two star-studded NBA teams.
And with Chris Paul moving into the locker room down the hall at Staples Center, Bryant realizes the Lakers finally might get a real rivalry going with the Clippers.
"It's about damn time," Bryant said Thursday.
The Lakers went back to work Thursday after the Clippers swung a blockbuster trade to acquire Paul, New Orleans' four-time All-Star point guard. At least publicly, the Lakers are still checking their anger about the NBA's decision to block their own trade for Paul a week ago.
But Bryant doesn't deny the 16-time NBA champions lost a bit of their pre-eminence in Hollywood with Paul's tantalizing new partnership with Blake Griffin. As he heads into his 16th NBA season, Kobe doesn't even disagree with the notion that the Clippers are the more exciting team in town these days.
"I'd definitely go watch them," Bryant said. "Blake Griffin has, like, a 60-inch vertical. Chris is vastly entertaining. For sure, I'd go check them out. They're a team with a high motor. They're young, and they run up and down the floor."
While Bryant praised the Clippers' aggressive move to get Paul, he offered little criticism of the Lakers' front office for failing to get the same deal done. Bryant blames the NBA and Commissioner David Stern, who squashed a trade that would have moved Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in a three-team deal for Paul.
"I think people, other owners, did not want to see the Lakers make significant improvements again," Bryant said. "We always contended as players that the lockout was really more so about the owners fighting amongst themselves, which is what you just saw. You had Chris Paul coming here. The other owners weren't with that, because you don't want another great player coming to (the Lakers), and all of a sudden Los Angeles has another player that can carry them on well after I retire. It's more about the owners bickering amongst themselves."
Bryant also believes the Lakers are "getting hammered" by the NBA's new financial structure, calling it a punishment for the franchise's near-perennial success during Jerry Buss' ownership.
But Bryant still doesn't understand why the Lakers abruptly traded Odom to Dallas last weekend, weakening their roster with no apparent help on the way.
"I've never quite seen something like this unfold," Bryant said. "Phil (Jackson) called it years ago. It's kind of become somewhat of a mess, but I think everybody is glad that it's behind them and everybody can move and just talk about the teams and the season."
Bryant is standing behind general manager Mitch Kupchak, at least publicly. He says there's a big difference between 2007, when he requested a trade from the Lakers, and the current offseason for a club that still has Gasol, Andrew Bynum and a solid supporting cast - albeit less solid without Odom and Shannon Brown, Bryant's backup last season.
Most of Bryant's teammates agree, saying they can contend for a championship this season without adding another glamorous star.
"I'm happy we didn't do it," said center Bynum, whose name surfaces annually in trade rumors. "I don't think you trade two 7-footers for a point guard. I think things may still be going on, but wherever I am, I'll be happy."
While the Clippers welcomed Paul to their training complex in Playa Vista, the Lakers worked a few miles down the coast in El Segundo, figuring out new coach Mike Brown's system. Brown also revealed a few details about his lineup, saying forward Metta World Peace will come off the bench this season to provide a boost to the Lakers' second unit.
The former Ron Artest, who said he has been a starter "my whole life," doesn't mind moving to a reserve role, believing he can help the team in more ways. World Peace first played for Brown with the Indiana Pacers a decade ago, and he believes the Lakers already have a contending roster without making any moves to match the Clippers.
"I'm going into the season knowing that this is my team, and I'm happy about it," Brown said. "I'm going to coach this team right here, and I'll let the perceptions swell. At the end of the season, we'll see how it all shook out. Early in the year, everybody has excitement. I'm happy that there's a shakeup like this, and there's excitement, especially right in our main backyard. It makes the league that much more interesting."
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