Hard not to notice if you are paying any attention.
First step was Mike Brown’s Pseudo-benching of Kobe last week, the highlight of which was Kobe’s awesome, insincere “endorsement” of his coach. It was something, alright:
“It’s his decision to make. If you guys are looking for a story, I’m not going to contribute to it. I can’t sit here and criticize the decision. As leader of this ball club, it’s something I can’t afford to do. I’ve got to have his back. I had his back the whole season. I can’t start doing something crazy now. It would make no sense.”
Now, does that read like a guy who believes in the Mike Brown, or a wise veteran who is acutely aware of what the public reaction would be if he simply kept it real and called Brown a clueless idiot who is in over his head in LA?
The answer seems pretty clear to me.
Just a few days later, Brown yanked Andrew Bynum for shooting an ill-advised three, to which Bynum responded by refusing to stand for team huddles and yukking it up for the rest of the game on the bench.
You know who takes shots like that in the middle of close games? Guys who don’t respect their coach.
You know who what kind of person would actually have the balls to say they plan on doing the same thing again when they feel like it? A dude who thinks he can do whatever the fuck he wants to.
You know who would be brazen enough to offer such post-game insights as “I don’t know what was bench-worthy about the shot, to be honest with you,”, or explain his refusal to join the team huddles late in the game by saying “He took me out of the game, so I just sat where he put me”?
And just to assure you that I’m not paranoid, we got the most damning quote of all from Kobe, who had this to say when pressed for a reaction to the Bynum situation:
“It’s somewhat amusing to me, because in some ways the edginess and the chippiness of him make it easy for me to relate to him – because I had some of that when I was young…I understand where he’s coming from. And the first thing you want to do if you want to get the best out of somebody or the best out of your players is you have to understand what they’re feeling; you have to understand where they’re coming from and what they want to accomplish. That’s why it’s not that big a deal to me. You don’t see me sitting here trippin’ or sweatin’ or anything like that. I’ve been there.”
Now, at first glance I took this as Kobe being diplomatic, but the more I look at it, the more I see it another way. Now, I see it as Kobe being aware that if he is to get ring #6 (or #7 or 8 for that matter), it will be on the back of a guy like Bynum and not coach Brown.
.For all that has been said about Kobe over the years, his ultimate master is winning. It’s the same reason he was so dead-set against Pau being shipped out this year. At this point, standing on the doorstep of immortality, Kobe is well aware that he’s going to need Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol with him, both mentally and spiritually, if he’s going to get to where he wants to go. If Kobe were to call Bynum out on this and support the coach, he runs the risk of offending ‘Drew, and that’s just not a good idea if you’re gonna be counting on the guy. The same would be said if Phil Jackson were still coaching this team. No way Kobe would have done anything to alienate or undermine PJ in the middle of a title run. Alas, that ship is sailed.
Not with this coach, though.
So that’s where the lakers are, less than a month before the playoffs. For the first time all season, I actually think this team has a decent shot at the title, at least as far as the talent is concerned. The addition of Ramon Sessions and the arrival of Bynum as a superstar has done wonders for their chances.
That said, it’s all gonna be for naught if the team has no faith in the guy holding the clipboard, and if this team fell so completely apart in last years’ playoffs with Phil at the helm, it ain’t a stretch to think the same thing can’t happen in a heartbeat.
Do I have faith that Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have what it takes to win the big one? Yeah, they’ve proven it twice.
Do I have the same faith in this coach?
Do you even have to ask?