Forgive Kobe Bryant for letting his thoughts drift overseas. While recovering from the Lakers' disappointing first-round exit from the 2006 playoffs and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Bryant recently turned his attention toward Japan and Italy for two very good reasons.
``I'm dying; I want to get out and compete," said Bryant. ``I want to hound the opposition with the fellas. It's definitely tough. I just want to go out there and help us win."
Looking to make contributions abroad in other ways, Bryant provided a unique opportunity to eight minority college students this summer by funding travel scholarships with his new VIVO Foundation. After spending eight days touring Italy -- with stops in Rome, Florence, and Venice -- the students returned to California last Wednesday.
``It just shows them that there's more out there than just your city or neighboring states," said Bryant. ``The possibilities are limitless. It's a global society that we live in and I just want to open them up to that. You get inspired. You come back with a new outlook on things. You just know that things are possible."
Inside the World Championships
Bryant has big plans for the VIVO Foundation and the travel program. He hopes to send students to other countries such as Spain and France, support program graduates if they want to study overseas, and arrange a trip to China in 2008 to coincide with the Beijing Olympics. That way, students can experience a different culture and watch their benefactor play international basketball.
Bryant has kept a close eye on Team USA in its training for the World Championships, calling Carmelo Anthony the other day to leave a voice mail with the message, ``Let's go." He will be watching the tournament intently as he continues rehab on his right knee.
``The knee is coming along extremely well," said Bryant. ``We're doing a lot of strengthening exercises now. I'm not on my feet yet, as far as running and doing squats. But I'm strengthening the quad and things of that nature.
``I can actually stand up and bend my knee. I've got normal range. I can walk normally and go up steps, things of that nature."
The memory of the first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns drives Bryant in his rehab program and other offseason preparations. He said he harbors no ambition of defending the first scoring title of his career, which he earned with an average of 35.4 points per game. He maintains that he will provide whatever the Lakers need on the court
``I can [score] as needed," said Bryant. ``We've added some firepower to the team with Vladimir Radmanovic. It's about finding what the team needs. We're in communication with each other every week, just talking back and forth about the upcoming season, about how the summer is going, about how the team is shaping up. [My scoring] really depends on what we need and what we feel like would be best for us as a ball club from game to game. That's how we approach it.
``From a leadership perspective, it's about looking at the team and how guys are doing. I talk to Lamar [Odom] every chance I get to see how he's doing. I make sure Smush [Parker] is doing OK, guys are staying up with their training. I talk to Ronny Turiaf every now and then.
``I'm just making sure everybody is keeping the loss of last season fresh in their memories and is ready to go."
Bryant added that he talks weekly with coach Phil Jackson, that the two ``have a great relationship" now. But don't expect Bryant to join Jackson on any motorcycle tours through the wide-open West just yet
wow, im really excited for next season. right now, it looks like kb is got the perfect mentality for next season