HONOLULU (AP) — Kobe Bryant returned Tuesday morning to where it all began for him.
The 20th season for the Los Angeles Lakers’ star got under way with his team’s first training camp practice at the same place his illustrious career started.
Bryant and the Lakers held a three-hour workout at the Stan Sheriff Center — the site of a pair of exhibition games against the Utah Jazz Sunday and next Tuesday — on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
It’s the 12th time Los Angeles has opened its training camp in Honolulu, and first time since 2007. It’s Bryant’s fifth trip, including before his rookie season in 1996.
“It feels beautiful. It’s kind of the cyclical nature of sports and it feels good to be in this moment,” Bryant said. “It’s a little strange, because I remember like it was yesterday being here and all of my teammates that were here before that are all now either retired or coaching, or on TV, so it’s a little strange to look around and see so many young guys, but at the same time you feel a great sense of responsibility in trying to guide them as much as I can.”
One of Bryant’s teammates that rookie season was now-Lakers’ coach Byron Scott.
“It’s great to be back here in Hawaii,” said Scott, who spent 11 of his 14 NBA seasons as a player as a Laker. “Now I don’t know if it’s (Bryant’s) last training camp or not, but to be back here in the place that he started is probably special. My last time playing was here as well, so coming back here you’ve got some familiarity with the area, especially coming into the gym and I think it was fun for all of us when we walked in here, but then the ball gets thrown up and it’s back to work as usual.”
The Lakers went 21-61 last season — Scott’s first at the helm — and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
“For me, it was always great to come here to just kind of get away from Los Angeles for a little while and just kind of focus on the things you have to do in training camp,” Scott said, “because now you can’t go home to your wife or girlfriend or your kids. You’ve got to stay around your teammates to get that camaraderie and that togetherness that you want, so I think it’s special in that instance as well. For our players, they’re probably not going to realize that as well because they’re so young that this is good for us to be away so we can focus on some of the things that we need to do.”
Among the youngsters in training camp is rookie D’Angelo Russell, who the Lakers selected second overall in June’s NBA draft.
Russell had to take a moment to himself at Tuesday’s practice to get over the star power of Bryant, who ranks third all-time in scoring in NBA history.
“You try to keep it off your mind like, `This guy is not right beside you running a three-man drill,’ but it’s something you’ve got to get past,” Russell said of Bryant. “If we’re going to be the best we can be, you’ve got to look at him as a mentor, not look at him like a fan.”
Scott is hoping Bryant can pass along some of his knowledge to the rookie.
“(Russell) is going to get some wisdom from one of the greatest players to ever play the game and during the drills Kobe has taken him to the side and talked to him,” Scott said. “I saw that this morning and D’Angelo is one of those guys that is a sponge. He wants to learn, so that’s a great relationship to have, to be able to talk to someone who’s done it so many times and been so successful.”
That’s not lost on Bryant, who played just 35 games last year before a rotator cuff injury ended his season.
“(Russell) loves the game, and when you have a player that loves the game, it’s really just my responsibility to make sure he never loses sight of it,” Bryant said. “In the difficult moments, in the great moments, always just focus on the love of playing ball and once you have that, you’ll problem-solve everything no matter what.”