No player in the NBA today is closer to or understands Kobe Bryant better than Pau Gasol. The two future Hall of Famers created a lasting bond during their seven seasons together with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that relationship continues to this day even after Gasol left the team for the Chicago Bulls last year.
With Bryant entering his 20th season and potentially facing a drastic change to his role on the team, Gasol was asked about how Kobe would handle it. The two-time NBA champion believes Bryant’s mature enough to accept the inevitable changes on the horizon as he told David Aldridge of NBA.com:
“I think he’s at a point in his career that he’s mature enough to accept certain things, and accept uncertainty,” said the Bulls’ Pau Gasol, one of Bryant’s closer friends and his Lakers teammate from 2008-14. “Probably earlier on in his career, he wouldn’t have dealt with it as well. But I think he understands they have a pretty young group — with some talent, for sure. But he also understands he’s in his 20th year in his career. He hasn’t had a full, healthy year for the last three years, pretty much. I think he’s just looking forward to having a healthy year and to compete and have fun and be the player he is, and we’ll see where the team goes.”
As of right now, it appears Bryant will be shifting to small forward to start the season with Jordan Clarkson taking over the role of starting shooting guard. Rookie D’Angelo Russell will seemingly be the team’s starter at point guard as well.
Although it is a rather drastic change for Bryant to play off the ball, the 19-year veteran appears up to the task. Kobe has said on more than one occasion recently that he’s happy playing the in the three spot and is embracing the change.
Kobe is expected to get his second start at small forward on Tuesday night with the Lakers facing the Utah Jazz in their second and final preseason game in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bryant finished with five points in 12 minutes on 1-of-5 shooting.