Kobe Bryant had essentially boycotted the media all week heading into the Christmas Day loss to the Miami Heat. No thoughts were offered after a bad home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, low-lighted by his late-fourth quarter ejection. Thursday and Friday practices wrapped up without a peep from The Mamba, who declined to make himself available.
Well, today he offered an explanation as to why he remained mum: Concern his opinion of the Lakers' current state would be NSFW.
"I didn't want to say anything to get me fined."
This not being the first time Kobe has shined the media (nor certainly the last, I'm comfortable wagering), it's hard to take that explanation purely at face value. Particularly given the other topics -- getting tossed against the Bucks, his fender bender, LeBron and/or D.Wade -- I imagine he'd have just as soon avoided as well. But either way, with the self-imposed gag order lifted, Bryant proceeded to rip into his squad. He's unhappy with the way the two-time defending champions have been playing, but even more scorn was reserved for how the opening 30 games have been treated. Here is but a sample of his thoughts:
"These games mean more to our opponents than to us. I think we need to get that straight. We need to play with more focus and put more importance on these games. I don't like it."
"We know what we're capable of doing, that's the problem."
"This is serious stuff. You don't just have two rings and say okay, we're satisfied with what we've got. I'm not rolling with that. I'm not gonna let that slide. We need to get into gear."
Like I said, The Mamba is not a happy camper.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall on during Monday's session in El Segundo!!! Kobe often sits out practices, but I have a feeling his sneakers will be among those laced for battle. And, for that matter, there will be a serious battle waged in an effort to right the ship.
"I'm gonna kick some ass during practice... I'm gonna beat it into their head until (the message) gets through."
I keep picturing something like this scene from Miracle, only with more puking, and Kobe barking at Phil to do the whistle with his fingers.
Lamar Odom seconded his longtime teammate's take on what ails the Lakers right now. "Overconfidence," as he put it. The team feels like they can't and shouldn't lose, which can result in, well, losses. As he noted, these eggs recently laid can serve as a learning experience, should the defending champs choose to do so.
Will they, I asked?
"I think so," said Odom. "I hope so. We're stubborn, but we know what it takes, obviously."
With Pau Gasol noting the possible undue expectation of opponents cowering at the sight of their bling, I think we can all agree, overconfidence is an issue. Gasol also felt the team should be embarrassed by their performance.
Interestingly, Phil talked more about a lack of confidence than swelling chests and actually urged for patience from the media as the bumps are negotiated. Granted, this could be a matter of deflecting on behalf of his squad during a rough stretch, but it also could demonstrate just how much different a lack of execution can appear to a coach vs. those failing to execute. Either way, even while expressing little panic, Jackson agreed these performances don't cut the mustard.
He also offered some cryptically interesting observations about Gasol, who has struggled in consecutive games. Jackson described El Spaniard as "indecisive" and noted the correlation between his ineffective play and ineffective play from the Lakers. He acknowledged specific ideas as to why Gasol is suddenly floundering, but declined to elaborate.
More from Pau on the loss:
And finally, mild amusement may be found watching Ron Artest debate with ESPNLA.com's Arash Markazi about how one should properly refer to Sylvester Stallone. We could all use a chuckle, right?