Grieving Lakers return to training after Kobe Bryant’s death

Source:AFP Published: 2020/1/30 23:33:40

The site of a helicopter crash in Calabasas of southern California, the United States, Jan. 26, 2020. Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant was one of five people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas of southern California. (Photo: Xinhua)

The Los Angeles Lakers, reeling from the death of team icon Kobe Bryant, "want to represent what Kobe was about" as they press ahead with the NBA season, coach Frank Vogel said Wednesday.

"We want to represent what Kobe was about more than anything," Vogel said. 

"We've always wanted to make him proud, and that's not going to be any different here."

Vogel, 46, spoke to reporters at the team's practice facility, where star players including LeBron James and Anthony Davis turned out but did not meet with the media.

Vogel said the club had a simple directive for players still coming to terms with Bryant's death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, "You guys can speak when you're ready, and not before."

But the timetable for returning to NBA action is set, with the Lakers to host the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center arena on Friday.

That is less than a week since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in thick fog in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles.

The chopper was headed to Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where his daughter was set to play a basketball game.

When the team convened on Tuesday, Vogel said, they "did some things that we thought would be therapeutically beneficial.

"We got in the gym for some team shooting work, no real practice working on anything in particular. I wanted our guys to come in mentally free but to get a sweat, touch the ball and be around each other.

"Then we had a lunch where we all just spent time together and grieved together."

That lunch reportedly included sharing tales of Bryant, but Vogel found himself unable to offer any such reminiscences on Wednesday.

"There's some questions I'm just not ready to answer," said the coach, who had to ensure that every team member had been informed of Bryant's death.

"It's just strengthened what we've felt all year about our current group, which is we've become a family in a very short time.

"It's something that you talk about in the NBA with your teams, but this group in particular has really grown to love each other very rapidly and we understand the importance and the opportunity we have this year," Vogel said of a squad that takes a Western Conference-leading record of 36-10 into the game against Portland.

"This has just brought us closer together."

Ticket prices for Friday's game, where the Lakers are expected to honor Bryant's memory, have skyrocketed on re-sale site, with seats priced hundreds - and in some cases thousands - of ­dollars above their face value.


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