Brian Shaw on the Fine Art of Playing with Kobe Bryant

Brian Kamenetzky of the L.A. Times has published a conversation with Laker assistant coach Brian Shaw.

Kobe Bryant's former teammate goes into candid detail about what it's like to play with this particular superstar. Shaw's clear that there is something of a push-and-pull between Bryant -- whom Shaw says prefers to get the basket, or the pass that leads directly to the basket -- and a coaching staff that would like Bryant to trust the offense to find open shots wherever they may be.

There is also some insight into why players like Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol don't get the ball as much as the coaching staff might like. It's well worth reading the whole thing, but here's a sampling:

As a coaching staff, do you guys have a process and is there a learning curve in teaching guys how to play with him?
(laughs) You know, we haven't figured that out yet. And I say that because you can tell guys, and we tell them, start the offense away from him. Use this side of the court, see your options over here, and if nothing is there now reverse it to him. The shot clock is coming down, now let him do his thing.

But when he's out there on the floor and he's doing his little signals asking for the ball, there's kind of a pecking order that happens out there on the court. They don't want to piss him off, and they want to please the coaching staff as well. But he's the closest one out there to them on the floor, so a lot of times they'll force the ball in with three people around (Kobe) instead of making the right play. Fish (Derek Fisher) will do the right thing, but Fish has played the same amount of years, has been through all the wars with him. Some of the younger guys, they just want to make (Kobe) happy.

When I played, we always had a second. There were two dominant players. So if we went away from Kobe and threw it into Shaq, what can he say? Now, who is that guy who is on the same level that Kobe's on, that if they make a play over here to Lamar (Odom) and Kobe gets mad then they're going to play more to that because nobody's on that same level.

Is Pau not on that same level?
Pau doesn't have the demeanor. He's a nice guy. Shaq might have been like, "Give me the ball!" And Kobe would (say), "Give me the ball!" If you give it to Shaq, it's okay. If you give it to Pau and it doesn't work out then Kobe might get on you. The players have to work that out."