HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s still not clear what is more surprising: Lakers coach Mike Brown benching Kobe Bryant late in Sunday night’s home loss to the Grizzlies or Bryant’s (non)reaction to being benched.
We have to admit, Brown did something we can’t remember any coach doing to Bryant since his earliest days in the league … and come to think of it, we’re not really sure he was ever “benched” back then. And in Brown’s mind, he had a perfectly reasonable explanation for benching Bryant in favor of Metta World Peace, telling The Los Angeles Times:
“There was not one particular thing. I just made the sub, went with Metta, sat [Bryant] for a couple of minutes and tried to go back to him. But it didn’t work.”
Bryant was clearly upset about being benched, and we’re certain it wouldn’t have mattered who he was benched for. He chose to try to take the high road, refusing to criticize Brown’s decision while clearly frustrated with the move:
“It’s his decision to make. He’s the coach. If you guys are looking for a story, I’m not going to contribute to it,” Bryant said. “I can’t sit here and criticize his decisions. Leading this ball club, that’s not something I can afford to do. I had his back the whole season. I can’t start doing something crazy now. It would make no sense.”
Of course, punching a chair on the bench in frustration during a timeout and then walking out of the huddle while the coaches were still drawing up a play could be seen as “insubordination” on many levels.
And even a player of Bryant’s ilk cannot be allowed to disrespect his coaches that way … can he?
This cannot help an already tenuous, at best, locker room dynamic between Brown and his staff and a core group of players who haven’t been on the same page for much of this season.
The only part of Brown’s logic that makes us nervous is this finishing bit on the situation:
“I treat him the same as everybody most of the time,” Brown said. “Obviously he’s a superstar and when you have a superstar, you try to give some leeway because they’ve been there and done that. If I make a sub for somebody, I don’t always feel like I have to explain to them why I made a sub.”
Treating Bryant the same as everybody else “most of the time” should preclude the fourth quarter of a game that Bryant and everyone else in the Staples Center believes is still in the balance (suspend reality for a minute and pretend like the Grizzlies didn’t own this one from the opening tip and weren’t up 14 at the time Bryant was benched).
Sometimes you have to indulge your star a little bit, even when you might not want to.
Wherever this season ends for the Lakers — and there is still not a clear indication of what these Lakers are truly capable of — we have a sneaky suspicion that last night’s benching will be more than just a footnote!