NEVER enter a March Madness pool with Kobe (practice video)

Because, quite frankly, dude's willing to cheat.

Amidst news of Pau Gasol's swollen tonsils, Derek Fisher's sore hip (the former a game-time decision and the latter expecting to suit up) and Phil Jackson's call for elevated bench play, Thursday's practice also touched upon the NCAA tourney. In particular, Kobe Bryant was asked about his picks. He's predicting Kansas to win it all, but hasn't gotten a chance to formally fill out a bracket yet.


Uh, this conversation took place early Thursday afternoon after a series of games were already in the books. I asked Kobe if he planned to check out these particular scores before turning in his tournament choices.

"I make my own rules," said Kobe with a grin.

Look, it's one thing when folks claim somebody of Kobe's stature has earned the right to shoot his way through a bad game or call his own number outside the offense. We are in fact talking about one of roundball's all-time greats and leeway is oft rightly afforded to such luminaries. But to paraphrase Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, "This is not 'Nam. This is March Madness. There are rules."

Sorry, I'm calling shenanigans. Kobe's toe was over the line.

At any rate, if your pool contains an entry marked "Mamba," don't be surprised -or frankly, impressed- at this cat's foresight to select Saint Mary's, Old Dominion, Ohio AND Murray State. However, Kobe did admit rooting interest towards teams wearing his shoes. So assuming he doesn't wait until the Elite Eight to turn in his choices, there's always a chance you can make up ground due to votes cast by Nike loyalty over RPI.


Kobe expresses sympathy for Kurt Rambis, now coaching Friday's visiting Minnesota Timberwolves. "It's been a tough year for him," nodded Kobe of his former long-time assistant coach. Having said that, Bryant sees Minny's upside and isn't particularly worried about Clark Kent losing hope. "It's always a work in progress," said Kobe of taking over a rebuilding team. "He knew what he was getting into."

When I recently posted Mike Trudell's interview with D.J. Mbenga, I kept the mood light, but there were in fact some serious issues broached, including Mbenga's plans to build a basketball court in the Congo in Kobe's name. As one would expect, the gesture touched Kobe quite a bit, especially knowing the tribulations Mbenga endured in his homeland before reaching his current status as NBA champion.

"You can't find a better script in Hollywood," nodded Bryant.

Andrew Bynum, knock on wood, will enter the 2010 playoffs healthy and finally able to make an impact. This represents a serious upgrade over last season, much less 2008, when people used to wonder what the heck he was doing in New York during the playoffs.

Phil talks about the bench's need to step up and his plans to find minutes, if possible, for all the reserves.