For Kobe Bryant, Tuesday was a day of celebration and, from a myopic purple and gold viewpoint, uncertainty. He and Vanessa Bryant announced today their launching of The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that will concentrate on improving the lives of youth and families in need. The first initiative; tackling youth homelessness. It's a fantastic effort on the part of the superstar and his wife, and in a vacuum, the day would be impetus for nothing more than smiles.
Unfortunately, for those seeking optimism about the post-Phil Jackson transition after a Three-peat quest gone sour, the event came up short:
Bryant has remained publicly mum since Brown was hired last week over his choice of Brian Shaw, a longtime Lakers assistant under recently retired coach Phil Jackson.
In his first public appearance since then, Bryant refused to answer questions about Brown.
"Right now is not the time nor the place," he said in a stern tone. "We're here to focus on bigger issues, greater issues, and that's these kids that are here at the back. It's not fair to them. When the time comes, I will address that, but right now is not that time."
Asked when that time would be, Bryant cut off his questioner, saying, "Now is not the time."
In other words, a slightly more verbose way of the "no comment" offered earlier to the Los Angeles Times.
On one level, I understand why Kobe abstained from roundball comments. In the grand and even minor scheme of things, the work he's doing with this foundation is considerably more important than any opinion on his new coach. This is a noble gesture by the Bryant family, more than worthy of its own spotlight. Allowing the conversation to drift into basketball undercuts that shine. In a perfect world, staying on point is the appropriate move.
Of course, there's the perfect world and the real world, and the one we live in is decidedly the latter. It's the world where Bryant has already established radio silence on this matter. A world where he publicly endorsed longtime ally Shaw. A world where the Lakers admittedly erred by not keeping Bryant in the loop about their direction. There was already plenty of speculation Bryant wasn't pleased by Brown in the fold. Declining comment, even out of respect for the bigger picture, kicks the rumor mill further into overdrive.
This also isn't Kobe's first day at the office. He's well aware by inviting the media to this event, he's inviting questions about Brown, especially considering he's yet to make a public statements. (Brown's recounting of quality conversations with Bryant won't feed the beast.) That's not to say Kobe shouldn't have invited the media, because the cause needs -- and deserves -- attention. But an awareness of the variables in play dictates the practical need to offer some form of thought on Brown.
Even a perfunctory thumbs up for Brown, followed by a stated intention to answer questions purely related to the foundation, allows Kobe to address the matter while simultaneously tabling it. Assuming, of course, he'd like to alleviate the perception of being displeased. And assuming, of course, it's merely a perception.
Obviously, Bryant's silence doesn't automatically equal dissatisfaction with Brown. But it also does little to suggest otherwise. And therein lies the rub. For the time being, dots appear too easily connected for comfort. For what it's worth, ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne, who attended the event, felt Bryant planned to address the Lakers, but clammed up after growing annoyed by media pushiness. Hopefully, her read was correct, because by extension it means a (fingers crossed, positive) statement could be on deck. But until Bryant offers a message about being on board with the Brown era, the question will linger over the Laker Nation.