NBA Finals Media Availability

Report: Kobe Bryant wishes the Lakers could hire Tom Thibodeau


Mitch Kupchak said he wouldn’t consult Kobe Bryant on Mike D’Antoni, sending a clear message about Kobe’s status in the Lakers organization.

But you have to think Kobe’s reported lack of interest in playing for D’Antoni had something to do with with the coach wanting his 2015-16 team option picked up and resigning when it wasn’t. Handling a disgruntled star is never easy, and it’s much harder as a lame duck.

Kobe knows how to play this game. The Lakers won’t consult him? Fine. He’ll be heard other ways.

And here comes a report from a writer who has repeatedly broken Kobe stories and often features exclusive Kobe quotes in his articles.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bryant will wish for Tom Thibodeau to free himself from Chicago. He loves Jeff Van Gundy, and shares management’s affinity for Euro legend Ettore Messina, who spent a season on Mike Brown’s staff.

Bryant has long admired Byron Scott, but there’s a different ex-Lakers guard who could go much further to regenerate the franchise’s culture and hold the insight into getting the most out of Bryant’s final two seasons: Derek Fisher.

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If Bryant longs for Thibodeau – whose reported rift with Bulls management has his name popping up for openings even though he’s under contract – the most-similar clearly available coach is Lionel Hollins. The former Grizzlies coach would foster an environment that rewards toughness and defense, two traits that also define Thibodeau’s system.

But Wojnarowski’s article centers on Fisher, and while Kobe is not quoted, I don’t think the Fisher focus is coincidence. Of the coaches who would satisfy Kobe, Fisher might be the most attainable. (Scott also seems likely to take the job if offered, but it’s unclear whether Kobe’s admiration extends to wanting to play for someone whose Cleveland teams struggled so much.)

Of course, Fisher must first finish his playoff run as the Thunder’s backup point guard. At 39, Fisher is still playing.

I forget, where are we on players moving directly to coaching? Did Jason Kidd prove it can’t work, or has he proven it can? Maybe we shouldn’t make a rule on a single example, especially one with mixed results.

Fisher is bright. There’s a reason he’s lasted 18 years in the NBA despite never scoring better than 13.3 points per game (something only Rick Mahorn and Tree Rollins have also done), and many believe he has the disposition to coach.

But it was hard for Kidd to go from playing against Brooklyn’s current players to coaching them. I think it would be even harder for Fisher to go from playing with Kobe to coaching him. The relationship just changes too much – even if Kobe and Fisher go into it with the best of intentions

There’s a bigger issue, though: Why hire a coach to get the most out of Kobe? He’s 35 and missed 76 games this season with two devastating injuries. If the Lakers want to get the most out of him, hire a good doctor.

It’s more important the Lakers hire a coach who can develop their 2014 lottery pick and attract a big-name free agent in 2015. If that’s the same person who relates best to Kobe, great. But the Lakers shouldn’t elevate Kobe’s agenda over bigger priorities.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.