Lakers have grown closer together since Kobe Bryant's death, coach Frank Vogel says

Sporting News

Kobe Bryant's sudden death has only strengthened the Lakers' tight bond, according to head coach Frank Vogel.

Lakers legend Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday.

Vogel said it had been an "extremely emotional" and "deeply saddening" time for everyone involved with the storied franchise, with whom Bryant spent his entire 20-year career.

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After his team returned to practice Wednesday, Vogel vowed his team would grow more unified.

"I don't think it could break us apart in any way," Vogel said. "It's just a feel thing. You observe those around you, you observe your own feelings and emotions, and you proceed at the right pace at the right time."

"It's just strengthened what we've felt all year about our current group," he continued. "We've become a family in a very short time. It's something you talk about in the NBA with the teams, but this group in particular has grown to love each other very rapidly.

"We understand the importance and opportunity we have this year, and this has just brought us closer together."

The Lakers this season are competing for their first championship since 2010, and Vogel said the team intended to do its former superstar justice.

"We want to represent what Kobe was about more than anything," he said. "We've always wanted to make him proud and that's not going to be any different here. We want to represent what he stood for. That's the most important thing for us."

Los Angeles is due to return to the floor against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Friday. Its game Tuesday against the rival Clippers was postponed.

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