Kobe Bryant on playing small forward next season: 'I can do that'
It's the dawn of a new era for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant will do his part to help the transition. He'll log time at small forward to make way for Lakers prospects, says trainer Gary Vitti, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
(Bryant) was asking about our young kids, and I said, "You cannot believe how quick and athletic Jordan Clarkson is. He looks fantastic." I said I personally thought D'Angelo Russell is going to be a star. He makes hard things look easy when he has the ball in his hands.
Then Kobe said to me, "Well, then who's going to play (small forward)?" I looked at him and I said, "You." And with absolute, 100 percent confidence, he said, "I can do that."
Bryant's move runs parallel to general manager Mitch Kupchak's starry expectations for the Clarkson-Russell pairing.
"Our vision would be that both of those players play together in the backcourt for 10-12 years," Kupchak told SiriusXM NBA Radio, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Bryant is undoubtedly capable of shifting spots on the wing. He has the size, skill, and smarts to stick at the position. But the significance behind his move - the willingness to vacate his longtime position - speaks to Bryant's commitment.
More lean years are ahead for the Lakers, who finished 2014-15 with their worst season in franchise history. With Bryant on the outs (along with Vitti), the Lakers badly need a new star to emerge. Russell and Clarkson - along with Julius Randle - represent the Lakers' best chances of rekindling their success.
Of course, Bryant can take things a step further by yielding more than minutes. The high-usage superstar could also dial back from last season's astronomical 34.9 usage percentage.
Playing Bryant at the three also gives the Lakers the option to play three ball handlers at once, which should boost the Lakers' 24th-ranked offense.
However, the Lakers curiously added another high-usage guard in Lou Williams this offseason, who joins notorious gunner Nick Young in the Lakers' crowded backcourt. Bryant side-stepping positions is a worthwhile sacrifice for developing prospects, but Williams and Young could undercut the effort.
Still, it's a nice gesture on Bryant's part.