Bearded Kobe Bryant says Lakers will be fine, Team USA will be fine, he’s not coming back

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Kobe Bryant has a beard.

That shouldn’t be the main takeaway from his swinging by Time Warner Sportsnet (the Lakers cable station in Los Angeles) where the Mamba spoke with reporter Mike Bresnahan, but it’s the first thing you notice. Kobe gave his opinion on everything.

• No, he’s not coming back. He didn’t leave the door open. I get it, from a distance Kobe is the most competitive guy of his generation, and those kinds of people have a hard time walking away, but if you were around Kobe the past season (remember I’m in Los Angeles) it was clear he meant it. He is done. He doesn’t want to go through everything it takes to get his body ready to compete at a high level again. He’s not changing his mind. He said that again.

• He says the young Lakers will be fine. He said the Lakers just need time playing together, that Luke Walton will teach them to “play the right way” and avoid isolation ball. Yes, that does seem ironic, but Kobe always knew isolation ball was not the path to a ring. It’s just, when he looked at his choices between shooting over a triple team or passing to Smush Parker, he fired away.

Kobe had particular praise for Brandon Ingram.

“He has great tempo, great pace. I like his length, his ball handling ability is very good… I think defensively he has the potential to be fantastic as well.”

• Kobe says Team USA will be fine. In one breath he says basketball is a global game now and it will not be easy, in the next the two-time gold medalist says that the Americans will be fine. Maybe, but they need less of the isolation ball Kobe talked about above.