As usual, Kobe Bryant at the center of things
Kobe or not Kobe?
Not surprisingly, it was a question tossed around a lot after the Lakers practiced Monday, half a day after another embarrassing loss, this one at home to lightly regarded Memphis.
Kobe Bryant admitted he manipulated the offense, agreeing with Phil Jackson's charge the night before that Bryant's one-on-one mind-set took "the rest of the guys out" of the flow of the triangle.
But Bryant's teammates, specifically Pau Gasol, yearned for more balance in an offense that has steadily worsened since the Lakers' 8-0 start.
"We all are familiar with his game and his ability to score and his ability to take over games. It’s sometimes a double-edged sword because it can keep you in the games and even sometimes win you games but it can also lose you games," Gasol said. "I think we’re more effective and we’re more successful when our offense is balanced and everybody’s contributing. We all know that. We’re in good shape when everybody’s 10-plus points and just getting good looks because the offense will do that for you."
Gasol had six quick points against Memphis but finished with only 10 in a 104-85 loss that brought boos from a Staples Center crowd that was tired of so many one-sided losses in recent weeks.
“From my perspective, maybe because I’m one of the inside guys, we should be pounding guys every night no matter what and then play off that," Gasol said. "I don’t think me and Andrew [Bynum] are guys that will always have the need to shoot and get over 20 attempts a game but if we can set the tone early … it creates penetration, it keeps defenses having to adjust, and we put guys in foul trouble.”
Bryant said he had no problem with Jackson's postgame comments imploring the need for more team basketball.
"He was right," Bryant said. "I totally broke the offense, but I did it intentionally because I felt like we needed to get something started because what we were doing just wasn’t working. I tried to kick-start it, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. When it works out, great. When it doesn’t, I take the criticism for it but I have thick enough skin to be able to do it."
Gasol and Ron Artest often seem to chafe whenever Jackson zings them publicly. Bryant wouldn't include himself in that category.
“First of all, when you’ve been around Phil for as many years as I have, we all understand that he likes coaching publicly,” Bryant said. “I think it’s important for the new guys to understand that — Ron, Pau, guys that kind of have issues with that. That’s how he coaches. It’s fine. Just let him do his job and go about your business.”
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson during the Game 4 of the NBA Finals last spring. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times