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Kobe Bryant on Adam Morrison and role players playing their role

December 2, 2009 |  2:30 pm

With 7:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of last night's 110-99 win over the New Orleans Hornets, contestAdam Morrison goes after a loose ball well in hand, Adam Morrison held the ball at the top of the circle, surveying the court to see what was developing. Nobody immediately open, shot clock ticking down and the Staples faithful egging him on to shoot, Ammo eventually drove the lane and made string music on an ugly-but-effective left-handed layup.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed Kobe Bryant leap up from the bench and bark words in Morrison's direction. When starters react in such fashion, it's usually because they're excited to see the third string make hay during their rare burn.  After all, guys like Ammo, DJ Mbenga, Sasha Vujacic and Josh Powell work very hard in practice without always reaping the rewards of in-game action.  But as I learned upon asking about his animated display, Kobe's wasn't responding to a feel-good moment. This was about reinforcing a game plan:

"It's me encouraging him and reminding him that I want him to do what he does best, which is score. Defensively, we'll provide help for him and in certain (other) areas. And he'll put forth the effort defensively. But on the offensive end, we try to put guys in situations that maximize their potential. We're not going to ask him to go out there and be Lamar Odom, be a facilitator. That's not what he does best."

I found the phrasing of Kobe's answer interesting on two levels. For starters, the way Kobe labeled placing players in situations that maximize potential a "we" thing. "We" as in, "the coaching staff." "We" as in, "the franchise." And "we" as in "Kobe Bryant, the most important member of the Lakers and, to a sizable degree, an extension of Phil Jackson." This is what "we" do. A unified front on a philosophy, enforced by the highest members of the food chain. In a recent 710 ESPN PodKast with Jalen Rose ,the player-turned-analyst noted how elite franchises have "systems." A plan that forges an identity easily recognized by players, coaches and front office. Not every team has a system. The Lakers do, and Kobe's answer was reflective of said system in place.  Never underestimate the value of everyone being "on message."

I also liked Kobe's comments because they express awareness of a teammate's weaknesses- in Morrison's case, defense- while acknowledging that AM's shortcomings aren't the result of poor effort, but rather unavoidable limitations. It's often difficult for elite players to wrap their heads around the notion that everyone can't be as good as them. Period. And not for a lack of trying. Kobe's candidness about Morrison's lock down abilities doesn't come off as critical. Frankly, it's nothing Ammo hasn't admitted on his own. That assessment is just a matter of fact observation, coupled with positive words about what Morrison can and should do, along with an appreciation of those potential contributions and a teammate's strident work.

Wise words from Kobe, who's continuing to mature as a leader.

AK


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