From Kobe Bryant:
“When I turn on the TV and I watch players play, the player that plays with the same kind of emotion and grit and competitive intensity is Russell [Westbrook].”
“When I was young and playing, that wasn’t the perception. The perception was that I was headstrong, obsessive about the game of basketball, but as time has gone on and people have been able to see how obsessive I’ve been about winning, then that’s kind of become, they’ve kind of come to know me as that, right. So there are certain young players out there, I’m sure, that have that mentality, but over time we will be able to see who is who.”
“Russell is going hard. Doesn’t matter who he is playing against, doesn’t matter what the odds are, he’s going, that’s a guy, he is going 110 percent every single time.”
On playing with Kobe Bryant:
When Ariza was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers in November of 2007:
“It was the best thing for my career. Because I got to learn how to work really hard. I got to learn how to do things the right way. I got to learn the type of mentality that you need to play at a high level in this league for a long time so playing with him has definitely helped my career.”
What did Ariza most take away from his couple years of playing alongside Bryant?
“His will and competitiveness. He wants to win at everything, doesn’t matter what it is. I think that I kind of have that same kind of mentality. When you’re competing against somebody like that all the time, you can’t do anything but get better. And that’s one thing that he wanted for me and for himself was to find ways to get better and that was one of the things we were able to help each other with.”
“When we play in the Olympics, the physicality in the Olympics is actually — they’re more physical than the NBA is. It’s the silliest thing in the world. The NBA used to be the toughest, strongest league in the world, and now it’s not that.
“I just think European players are just way more skillful. They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. It’s something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way.”
“AAU basketball, horrible, terrible. It’s stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. It’s stupid.”
“When you have limitations and you understand your limitations and you stay within yourself, you can be great. You know what you can do and what you can’t do. In America, it’s a big problem for us because we’re not teaching players how to play all-around basketball. That’s why you have Pau and Marc [Gasol], and that’s the reason why 90 percent of the Spurs’ roster is European players, because they have more skill.”
“I probably wouldn’t be able to dribble with my left and shoot with my left and have good footwork. I was kind of fortunate because when I was growing up in Italy, the Red Auerbachs and the Tex Winters and all those great coaches were doing clinics and camps in Europe. They were teaching all the club coaches, and the club coaches were following their advice and their fundamentals like the bible, and they were teaching all of us kids that type of stuff. Me, Manu [Ginobili] and all these guys that grew up around that same time, we’re a product of that. It’s a big difference.”
“Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of. That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction.”
On Kobe Bryant:
It was his first day of training camp as a Los Angeles Laker.
“Practice was at 11, we had to be there at 10. Well, I wanted to get there at 10. He was already there fully dressed and sweating. I got to the locker room at 9:30, got on the court at 10, and he had been there an hour and a half working on stuff.
“I was like, ‘Man, it is true.’ This guy is working like this and at the time he was 34 years old. He felt like he still had a lot to prove, and he was still trying to prove people wrong. I was like, ‘Man, great player.’ ”
“No matter if he was sick or hurt or injured, he never made excuses. He just kept working hard. He got better, and you see where he’s at.”
From Chris Douglas-Roberts:
“He’s a lunatic out here on the court, but I am too. He’s one of the greatest to ever play this game … and I’ve seen a guy who comes in here every day and treats practice like a game. I’ve seen a guy that will do anything to win. I’ve seen a guy who’s extremely competitive in each part of his day.”
“I figured out that Kobe talks trash to keep you at a certain level. It’s about the alpha. This is what he does, and if you run with your tail between your legs, he sees this and he’s going to act on this. I have no problem with that. I like that. (Lakers head coach) Mike Brown assigned him as my 1-on-1 partner on my first day, and it got real. It got physical, some elbows were thrown, there was trash talking both ways, but it was all in the competitive nature. We were going at it. And I guess that’s why he respects me. He looks at me and he sees some characteristics in himself. I’m out there trying to kill you out there. Point blank, period. We can hang after practice, but I don’t see any faces while we’re on the court. I just see an opponent. If it’s Kobe that day, we gotta go at it, man! He’s extremely talented and skilled, so he’s going to win most of the time – but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to compete.”