Based on his reputation, Mike Brown had some work to do earning the respect of Kobe Bryant. 24 admitted as much Tuesday following practice in El Segundo. Thus far, though, the guy described to Bryant isn't the guy he's experienced.
"What I’ve heard about him was he was a pushover, he doesn’t say what he’s thinking and all this other sorts of stuff," Bryant said. "I haven’t seen at all. He’s been the complete opposite. He’s been detail oriented, he’s been up front and open and honest. He praises guys when they do well, he jumps on them when they’re messing up right away."
No single relationship on the Lakers has or will continue to get more scrutiny than the one between Bryant and Brown. The concern is all a little (occasionally a lot) overwrought, but certainly not without cause given the relationship between Kobe's "buy in" and the franchise's present and future. For a variety of reasons, I'm not expecting problems, but the consequences should things go sour are so dire the attention is unavoidable. So when Brown mentioned Bryant by name as one of the team's many offenders on the defensive end following Monday's loss to the Clippers, every media ear in the room popped up like labradors hearing rustling in the bushes.
Bryant shrugged it off. "That’s his job. I’d be upset if he was just letting me skate through things. You make mistakes and the coach’s responsibility is to point those out. If he can’t point that out to me, he has no chance of pointing that out to anybody else," he said.
Absolutely true. At this point, Brown has made it abundantly clear he's willing to criticize Bryant. "I don't look at it as criticizing, I look at it as coaching," he said Tuesday. "If I didn't do it, I'd be stealing." I believe him, and have occasionally wondered if on one level or another he doth protest too much. Constantly reiterating a willingness to challenge Kobe tends to reinforce the stereotype of a guy who can't stand up to a star. But to hear him dish public criticism, as he did Monday, and for Kobe to respond as he did today, should put Lakers fans at ease for a while.
The relationship is new, and still developing. They haven't played a real game yet. Concerns about the team are completely legitimate, but as of today rumors of their demise are still only hypothetical. Other hurdles will still need to be jumped.
But for the time being, Bryant and Brown have done a great job diffusing one potential flash point for controversy. Which is good. As Forrest Gump once said, "One less thing."