HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kobe Bryant is just full of surprises these days.
Then Andrew Bynum tests Brown again last night by launching a 3-pointer and the All-Star big man gets benched, only to have Bryant ride to his defense and point out that he and the big fella are kindred spirits, of a sort. This is the same Bynum that Bryant ranted about (infamously) in a parking lot once, seemingly a lifetime ago, when Bynum wasn’t the low-post load that he is now.
With Bryant you never know what you might get in the form of his actions or reactions. But we must admit this has been one of his most entertaining stretches, if only for the slight shock value. His reaction to Bynum’s benching, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, was priceless:
“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,” Bryant, 33, said about Bynum, 24. “So, it’s easy for me to see where he’s coming from.
“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.”
Bryant’s support for Bynum in this situation is proof of the evolution of a relationship that at one time seemed destined for a nasty breakup (long before last month’s trade deadline, there were rumors of Bynum being replaced by the likes of Dwight Howard.)
It’s seems clear now, especially to Bryant, that he’s going to need Bynum with him if he’s going to chase down that sixth ring.
Why Brown has decided to become the dean of discipline now remains a bit fuzzy. If this was going on in December, it wouldn’t seem so calculated now.
If his aim is to unite his locker room against a common cause, he’s doing the job. But this will ring hollow come playoff time, when he won’t be able to exercise the same sort of options with Bryant or Bynum without causing a major mess.
Bynum’s rebellion — he made it clear after the game that he plans on taking more 3-pointers — is likely what resonated with Bryant, whose rebellious streak has been the bedrock of his game since he entered the league. It’s part of what has always made Bryant great (while also infuriating some) — his refusal to adhere to anyone else’s script but his own.
And that’s why Brown and his staff would be wise to tread carefully from this point on, especially with Bryant pointing out things like this:
“They have a lot of youth,” Bryant said about the Lakers’ coaches, whose experience with a too-passive LeBron James apparently is easy compared handling a headstrong Kobe and a self-absorbed Shaq. “They’re not used to dealing with players of Drew’s ambition, I’m sure, at this stage of his career. I was in that position, and obviously I have a lot of experience in dealing with myself – and playing with Shaquille when Shaquille was young and being mentored by Phil (Jackson) and things like that. So nothing really rattles me.”
Bryant and Bynum coming together, even if it’s engineered accidentally, can only mean good things for the Lakers and their immediate future.