Jul 21, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol seem, at least on the surface, to have a complicated relationship. Bryant knows that he would not have won the two championships in 2009 and 2010 without Gasol. But Gasol’s problems with toughness and consistency in the playoffs the past two seasons has created a level of frustration. Bryant has publicly and reportedly privately challenged Gasol to bring more and been disappointed with what has wound up on the floor.
But in a media appearance in Barcelona with Team USA, Bryant stuck up for Gasol, telling reporters:
Kobe, answering a question from a Spanish reporter about Pau’s status with the Lakers: “As long as I’m there, he’s going to be there.”
Funny thing… that’s not really Bryant’s call.
I know, I know, he’s Kobe Bryant, arguably the second-greatest-to-greatest Laker that ever lived which is a lot bigger of a deal than second-greatest-to-greatest Minnesota Timberwolf to ever live, but the thing with playing for a franchise that great? It knows it and puts itself above any player’s demands. If the Lakers decide to head in a different direction, that’s what they’ll do. Furthermore, if it means adding Dwight Howard or improving his chances for a sixth title which is constantly taunting him, Bryant won’t mind.
But it is good to see Bryant sticking up for a teammate, and supporting him like he needs to. Maybe Kobe just needed a few weeks to get over the loss to the Thunder and how Serge Ibaka outplayed Gasol.
Unless Gasol winds up crashing and burning in another playoff series. Then he should probably look into the witness protection program.