Lakers star Kobe Bryant hugged Denver star Carmelo Anthony after Anthony's Nuggets beat the Lakers 118-112 Thursday for their first loss of the season after an 8-0 start. Then they both held court in their locker rooms to captivated audiences of reporters.
Anthony talked about how he was pleased with a front-office move made earlier this week by Denver. Bryant talked about Anthony and made cracks about Miami and Cleveland.
The Nuggets dropped Bret Bearup, who had carried considerable clout as a team adviser, leaving all front-office decisions to president Josh Kroenke and executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri. Anthony made it clear after the game he wasn't a Bearup fan.
"That's a step. Not just for Josh and Masai but just for the whole organization,'' Anthony said. "Just to let ... the league, to let everybody know that what they're doing here is they're making progress.
"Positive (for the organization). They made some changes obviously for the better of this organization. That's their decision.''
Also: Kobe Bryant's Advice to Carmelo Anthony | Carmelo One-on-One With FanHouse
With the move made to eliminate Bearup, who had wanted to trade Anthony, Denver's brass is more positive about the chances of re-signing Anthony, who has had a three-year, $64.47 million extension offer on the table since June. It remains a long shot, but the Bearup move certainly didn't hurt.
Meanwhile, in the Lakers locker room, Bryant didn't seem too torn up about his team's first loss of the season. He talked about his great respect for Anthony, who had 32 points and 13 rebounds. He said they are good friends and had told FanHouse earlier in the day Anthony had called to ask advice since Bryant three years ago had wanted to be traded.
"He's one of my closest friends,'' said Bryant, who said his relationship with Anthony really flourished when they were teammates on the 2008 Olympic team. "We're both brutally honest. I think that's the thing. We don't pull punches. We don't sugarcoat how we feel. That's what attracted him to me. We don't pull punches so we can hang out all the time. We can be harsh with one another.''
Yes, Bryant can be harsh with his buddy.
"I'm sure it fuels him a little bit,'' Bryant said when asked about Anthony not being regularly mentioned with the very top players in the NBA. "Like I tell him, he's got some catching up to do. It's a long rocky mountain climb.''
It then was suggested Anthony won an NCAA title at Syracuse as a freshman in 2003 before leaving for the NBA.
"That don't count,'' said Bryant, who scored a game-high 34 points but shot just 11 of 32. "Are you kidding me? I won a state championship in high school. That doesn't have (anything) to do with the NBA.''
But Bryant after Thursday's game was harsh to more than just Anthony. Bryant was asked about star-studded Miami dropping to 5-4 after Thursday's home loss to Boston.
"I need to cut me a check and I can give it my military folks and I can get on ESPN and banter all day,'' Bryant said.
Bryant then was told Cleveland, which lost LeBron James to the Heat, has a 4-4 mark, nearly the same as Miami's.
"That will make for a good story in Cleveland in November,'' Bryant said. "Come April, I don't think that will be much of a story. I hope they milk that stuff now.''
A reporter asked Bryant about rebuilding his image in light of Tiger Woods now needing to do that. Bryant was acquitted of sexual assault in 2004 and Woods is overcoming a sex scandal.
"You're about three years late with that question,'' Bryant told the reporter.
Anthony also had some quips. Asked by TNT's David Aldridge, whose network had shown the game, about the drama being created by the uncertainty regarding his future, Anthony said, "TNT loves drama, don't they?''
Well, Anthony did a pretty good imitation of "The Closer'' on Thursday. In the game's final six minutes, he shot 3 of 3 for eight points as the Nuggets pulled off the upset. Denver, playing without injured big men Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, had gotten back in the game in the fourth quarter with a very short lineup after trailing by 14 points in the third quarter.
"it was a big win regardless of it's early or late in the season,'' said Anthony, who on Wednesday had spoken extensively to FanHouse about his uncertain future.
When the final buzzer sounded, Anthony got his hug from Bryant. And Bryant didn't rib him.
"Just a good win, that's it. Just a good win. Keep it up,'' is what Anthony said Bryant told him after the game.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson