PHOENIX -- Kobe Bryant snarled, swore and stalked the court. His Los Angeles Lakers were buried in a double-digit hole that only deepened no matter what he did, and everything seemed to be going wrong.
He tried to carry the load, scoring 31, his first 30-plus-point night since rupturing his Achilles in 2013. But calls weren't going his way, his teammates fumbled his passes and failed to convert them into easy layups and, more often than not, well, they just stood there, watching the 36-year-old go solo, trying to make something out of nothing.
All that time spent rehabilitating, working out, preparing for a return to the court, to a return to his former self (or as close as he could get) and this is what awaited the Lakers icon -- an 18-point blowout to start the season at home, then a 20-point whooping here Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns. It marked the first time since 1960, when the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to L.A., that they lost each of their first two games of the season by double digits.
"We're not as bad as these two games," Bryant said later with his feet dunked in an ice bucket in the locker room. "We're not."
Bryant's frustration boiled over on the court, and Lakers coach Byron Scott said it was because Bryant didn't like the officiating. Bryant disagreed.
"The frustration comes from getting blown out twice," Bryant said after an 11-for-25 shooting performance from the field. "The clutching and grabbing and stuff, I think Byron is trying to lobby to get me some more calls. That stuff never bothered me. I do quite a bit of it myself."
But for as furious as Bryant had been during the game, he was just as calm after. He talked only about the process.
"I've been trained really well by the Yodas of the world," he said. "The thing they've always talked about, just looking at the game, looking at the things you can correct."
Correct an issue, then move on to the next issue. And so on. While the Lakers have plenty in need of repair -- such as 3-point shooting -- Bryant didn't seem overwhelmed and denied flashbacks to other lost seasons when he was on his own.
He instead focused on his teammates and their adjustment to playing with him, specifically point guard Jeremy Lin, who had six points and one assist against the Suns.
"I talked to him a on the bench a little bit [Wednesday night]," Bryant said. "I said, 'You've got to run the offense. Like, I'm telling you to run the offense. You've got to do it.'"
Bryant then invoked one of his former teammates, point guard Derek Fisher.
"Me and D-Fish used to bicker and snipe at each other all the time, and I couldn't love a teammate more," Bryant said. "These guys are young, man. It takes a little time to understand that -- that teams become really great by challenging each other.
"I want it to be [Lin's] role to orchestrate the offense, call the right things, get guys in the right spots. It's going to take a little getting used to for him, because it's different in the past. But that's what I want from him."
"I'm different," Bryant interjected. "I'm a different breed. I score differently than they do." Anthony and Harden control the ball, Bryant said, while he doesn't -- or doesn't prefer to.
"I told [Lin] that's a big urban legend with me," Bryant said. "I want to score. That means coming off picks, catching and shooting, right? So you handle the ball, you run the show."
For his part, Lin agreed that Bryant's attention to detail is more precise than the aforementioned counterparts, a description that Lin has recited ad nauseam. Beyond that, Lin just said that all three are capable scorers, that he needs to find a way to facilitate and complement Bryant.
But Lin said the priority is defense -- the Lakers are allowing 113.5 points a game. "That's first and foremost," Lin said. "Everything else will kind of shake itself out."
And as for him and Bryant, Lin simply called it a "growing process."
Said Bryant: "Hopefully, [that process] is done tonight."
Bryant returned to the notion that teammates don't have to be pals on the court -- a theme Bryant holds dear, one that is also cited as a key reason why many players don't enjoy playing alongside him.
"A lot of young players think that teams are supposed to get along," Bryant said. "That's no championship team that I've been on."
He added later, "Fish and I didn't come in here having that understanding overnight. We played with some teams that were -- interesting. We had to learn by trial and error. Fish wasn't Fish when he came in. I wasn't me when I came in."
How can Bryant stay patient, though, waiting on Lin or anyone else -- or on the myriad issues before them -- especially now that Bryant is in the twilight of his career, the clock ticking closer toward the end?
"You don't stay patient," Bryant said. "You stay persistently patient. You want those results today, but you understand that it's a process to get there.
"So you demand things turn around now," Bryant said, snapping his fingers three times loud and clear for emphasis, "understanding that it won't be the case, but in order for things to turn around, you have to want them to turn them around today."
It will take time, though it's unclear if that process will ever reach a resolution that makes any sort of difference in a season in which the Lakers seemed destined for the lottery.
Just consider the scene with about four minutes left in the third quarter: Bryant slashing to the rim, the Suns collapsing and Bryant, hanging in the air, with several defenders in his face and with his team trailing by 24, looping a pass around a defender to the left wing, hoping a teammate would be ready to fire a wide-open 3-pointer.
But no one was there. The ball sailed into the third row. Bryant was on his own, and with this patchwork squad -- and with teammates that Bryant says don't know how to play with him yet -- Bryant might face that scenario a lot this season.
"We've talked about, when he does have the ball, [that] we can't just stand there and watch," Scott said. "We've still got to have good spacing. We've still got to cut to the basket to give him other opportunities to look for guys. He's more than a willing passer. It's just, guys have to get open and quit watching."
Though it has been only two games, Scott's message to the team after the Phoenix loss was telling: "I told them, 'We've got to hang in there.'" For how long is the greater question, especially to someone like Bryant.
The Lakers icon said he feels fine -- great, even. Then, when asked if this was still fun -- just being back on the court, playing again, considering what it took for him to even return -- Bryant said, simply, "No."
"I enjoy playing," he said. "But the fun is when you win."