Lakers' Kobe Bryant sounds off on 'finesse' play and NBA draft rules

CHICAGO — Kobe Bryant was on a roll Monday, chiding the NBA for evolving into a soft game and also for banning high-school players from entering the draft.

He didn't enter the NBA until 1996, but you could sense Bryant yearning for a return to the physical style of play that defined the league in the 1980s and into the '90s.

"It's more of a finesse game [now], it's more small ball, which personally I don't really care much for," Bryant said Monday before the Lakers played the Chicago Bulls. "I like kind of smash-mouth, old-school basketball because that's what I grew up watching.

"Some of the flagrant fouls that I see called nowadays just makes me nauseous. You can't touch a guy without it being a flagrant foul."

The physical nature of the game made players more well-rounded when Bryant joined the league, he declared.

"Nowadays, literally anybody can get out there and get to the basket because you can't touch anybody," he said. "Back then, guys put their hands on you, you had to have the skill to be able to go both ways, change directions and post up. You had to have midrange game because you didn't want to go all the way to the basket because you'd get knocked [flat]. Playing the game back then required much more skill."

Any way for the league to go back to those physical days?

"Kids might be a little too sensitive for that nowadays," Bryant said.

He briefly acknowledged that the philosophy of Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni played a part in the NBA's modern-day finesse style.

"It's probably had an impact," he said neutrally.

Bryant definitely didn't favor the NBA's decision to ban high school players from entering the draft. Andrew Bynum was one of the last players to go from high school to the NBA, drafted by the Lakers in 2005 before the league closed the window.

"If you do the numbers and look at the count, you'll probably see players that come out of high school that were much more successful on average than players who went to college for a year or two years and left early," Bryant said. "It seems like the system really isn't teaching players anything when you go to college. You go to college, you play, you showcase and you come to the pros."

Bryant pointed to Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and himself as reasons for the NBA to change its policy.

"We kind of got sold on that [college] dream a little bit. Fortunately I didn't really listen much to it," Bryant said. "Neither did KG. Neither did LeBron. I think that worked out pretty well for all three of us.

"I'm always a firm believer in us being able to make our own decisions, especially as it pertains to going out and working and having a job."

Bryant, 35, is expected to return from a fractured knee in early February, though an exact date is undetermined. He said there was "zero" doubt he would return to the player he used to be.

"There was [doubt] before I came back the first time because I didn't know how my Achilles' was going to respond to playing and change of directions," he said. "The [last] game in Memphis, I had a pretty good feel for it. I was getting back to being able to do what I normally could do.

"So I feel pretty confident about it. I did play that second half on a fractured leg and a torn Achilles'."

His recent two-year extension keeps him under contract through June 2016, but Bryant wants to stay involved in basketball if he retires in two years.

"It's in my blood so I'll be involved in some capacity. It's just who I am," he said.

Bryant reiterated he would not play in the 2016 Olympics, but he sarcastically added he might go to Brazil to "watch Pau [Gasol] win another silver."

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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