An 11 point fourth quarter lead slipped away. It had been whittled down to one when Kobe Bryant took an inbound pass too close to half court and was trapped. It was a beautiful trap. The half court line and out of bounds line became defenders that had Bryant surrounded by four walls. He was starting to feel off balance, so he jumped, and passed it.
Right to Luol Deng.
We know that what Kobe wanted to do was find Pau Gasol. Maybe if Metta World Peace’s pass didn’t lead Kobe too far into that corner, or maybe if Derek Fisher was a little quicker to come to Kobe’s aid, Deng wouldn’t have stolen the ball. Then Derrick Rose wouldn’t have launched that silky, across-the-lane floater. Then Kobe wouldn’t have been blocked after being quadruple teamed at the buzzer. And Mike Brown wouldn’t have said this:
Bryant said he had a “miscommunication” with Gasol and tried to pass because he “realized they weren’t going to foul. They were just trapping.”
Brown wasn’t so certain.
“The ball went to the right player’s hands,” the coach said. “I’m not sure. I have not asked him why he jumped to make the pass. But, yeah, we would have liked for him to hold on to it, and then for them to foul him.”
On the surface, when you read that quote out loud, it seems innocuous. It’s just a coach answering a question. When you add the context of this being the Lakers, after a crushing defeat, Kobe Bryant being the recipient of that questioning, and Mike Brown having been Kobe’s coach for less than a month… now we have a potential problem.
The big problem here is that this has the potential to fester. Right now it’s just a paper cut. It’ll sting, but it can heal in no time. But if it’s not handled properly, then it can become the beginning of an infection. It can become bigger and more dangerous than it ever should have gotten, especially if Brown continues to jab at Kobe.
Maybe Brown saw how Phil Jackson jabbed Kobe and thinks he can do the same. But he can’t. Kobe won’t receive it the same way. I can’t speak to what will happen behind the scenes, but Brown’s got to fix this tonight or else he runs some serious risks with a volatile superstar who has already been aggravated this season.