Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers fielded questions from the media after practice yesterday morning.

Back to Work

Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant
begins training camp without
commenting on his legal situation

For Kobe Bryant, yesterday's meeting with the media might have been a little like ripping off a bandage. It's not something you look forward to, but the quicker it's over with the better.

Bryant, one of the most recognizable figures in the NBA, arrived in Honolulu on Friday night and worked out with the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time in training camp yesterday morning at the University of Hawaii's Gym II.

Bryant's first practice ended with him engulfed in a wave of cameras, boom mikes and microphones, answering questions for the first time since he appeared at a press conference beside his wife, Vanessa, in July after a charge of sexual assault was filed against him in Colorado.

"I have a job to do and this is my job; I'm coming back to work," he told the gathering. "My wife, my family and I have been dealing with this for a while now and we're going to continue to deal with it and we're going to continue to fight through it, and I'm just going to come back to work and do what I do."

Since the charge was filed in Eagle, Colo., the Bryant case has been the subject of intense media attention and daily news reports. He declined to comment specifically on the case yesterday.

Bryant is scheduled to appear in a Colorado courtroom Thursday for a preliminary hearing on the charge filed by a 19-year-old employee of the resort where he stayed this summer.

Despite the reporters and cameramen surrounding him, Bryant's teammates weren't worried about the possible strain on him.

"Kobe can handle all of this," Lakers guard Gary Payton said. "It's better for him to get it over with now. Get all this over with, now he's back playing basketball."

Bryant didn't fly to Hawaii with the rest of his teammates Thursday afternoon and missed the first day of practice for veterans on Friday. Team officials said he missed the flight because he was "under the weather," an assessment Bryant confirmed yesterday but didn't elaborate on.

Just when talk began of him possibly missing the rest of training camp, team officials announced that he would be arriving Friday night. Bryant said he's not sure if he'll play in the Lakers' exhibition games with the Golden State Warriors set for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Stan Sheriff Center.

"I'm just taking it a day at a time," he said.

Bryant said he considered not playing until the case was settled.

"I just wanted to spend as much time as I can with my family," he said. "Going through something like this you realize how important your family is, seeing my girl grow up and just being at home. Basketball to me is a distant second to them."

With the attention that followed him to Hawaii likely to continue throughout the season, Bryant acknowledged the impact the case might have on his focus as a player.

"I'm concerned about it, but this is what I do, this is my job," he said. "My family has been an excellent support system for me, they've been with me every step of the way and I have to come out here and put my best foot forward, do what I do and do it to the best of my ability. I'm going to focus on it, I'm going to go to work and punch the clock.

"Playing the game of basketball, to me, is just not difficult. Going through what we've gone through is difficult."

On the court, Bryant said he felt out of shape and had a lighter workout than the rest of his teammates as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on his shoulder and knee.

"Kobe practiced a few times out there on the court, exercises or skill drills that he could do that were appropriate for his conditioning," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He had a lot of fun on the court and he was jocular with his teammates."

After team drills, Bryant could be seen laughing and joking around with new teammates Payton and Karl Malone while shooting free throws.

"He did OK, he didn't do too much," Payton said. "We didn't want to bring him back too fast. We can work it until the time comes for him to start playing. We don't need him in the preseason, we just need him to get in shape and get his mind back to playing basketball. It was the first day he came out here and he was having fun and that's the good thing we need to see."

Although Bryant's arrival meant the Lakers finally had their entire squad in camp, the combination of Bryant, Payton, Malone and Shaquille O'Neal still hasn't worked together on the floor. O'Neal spent the session on the treadmill, resting an injured foot.


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