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Kobe Bryant Lauds Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose

By Cody Westerlund-

(CBS) Lakers star Kobe Bryant won't be playing in the Christmas night contest against the Bulls as he rests because of "old age" and "soreness" in his body, but he was in fine form while holding court with the media prior to the contest at the United Center.

Notably, Bryant had high praise for Bulls wing Jimmy Butler and point guard Derrick Rose.

A fourth-year pro, Butler is averaging a career-high 21.7 points on 48 percent shooting while leading the NBA in minutes at 40.0 per game. Bryant recalled one of his first memories of Butler, who is usually one of the first Bulls on the court shooting before a game and who can often be seen hoisting extra shots after practices end.

"It's funny," Bryant said. "When he first came into the league and we played in Chicago, I went out early to shoot and he was out there working out. At the time, he wasn't a very consistent shooter. But he was out there working hard early, before anybody else got here. Looking at his game and the way he's playing now, it's clear he's been doing that consistently over the years, because he's playing extremely well. It's not an accident. It's not a hot streak. These are shots that he's consistently making. He's expanded his game."

Bryant also had the utmost respect for how Rose has responded after suffering a right medial meniscus tear in November 2013 -- which was about 19 months after he tore his left ACL in April 2012.

"I'm just happy to see him out there playing, being aggressive," Bryant said. "It's hard when you have an injury like that because it's such a freak situation where drives to the basket scare you a little bit and making the same moves. But he looks like he's put that in the back of his mind, coming out and playing aggressive."

Bryant also added that he talked with Bulls legend Michael Jordan after passing him recently for third on the all-time scoring list.

"It was more of a thankful feeling to Michael and to the players that came before," Bryant said. "Because I've learned so much from them, and I don't say that lightly. Like I've literally just stole sh** from them. You know what I mean? Like spins moves and pull-ups and stuff like that. It's not me passing these players. It's us. I've literally taken things from their game and just made them my own.

"If you had one guess of what he said, it was, 'Go get, Karl (Malone, second on all-time scoring list).' Right. The competitor never stops. Always thinking the next challenger."

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