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Thursday, March 22, 2001
Bryant still not buying into triangle offense

Phil Jackson likes to hand out books to his players for inspiration. Apparently, he's still trying to find the right one for Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant
Phil Jackson's instructions don't always reach Kobe Bryant.

It has been well documented that the Lakers coach and his All-Star guard don't share the same philosophies of offense. Specifically, Bryant is unhappy with his role in Jackon's vaunted triangle offense.

Bryant's season-long feud with Shaquille O'Neal about who should be the focus of the Lakers' offense has been the biggest problem Jackson has had to deal with this season.

In an interview with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander published Wednesday, Jackson discussed Bryant's reluctance to accept the purpose of the triangle offense – which is to distribute the ball among teammates.

"The other day I said to Kobe, 'What's the problem?' " Jackson said. "He said, 'The game's too boring for me. The offense is so simple. It doesn't display my talent.' I said, 'I realize that. But we're trying to win games with the least amount of things going wrong, the fewest injuries, the least fatigue.' He said, 'But it doesn't give me what I have to have for my game.' "

Jackson had given Bryant a copy of Corelli's Mandolin, a 1994 novel by Louis De Bernieres. The book is the story of a tiny Greek island occupied by the Italian army during World War II. It touches on the adaptiveness of a tight-knit community.

"Kobe's a real Mediterranean kid," Jackson was quoted as saying. "I thought the book would be a good look at the culture he's attached to. It's a beautiful book. Tragic. But he didn't like it. Last year I gave him a book by Paul Beatty, White Boy Shuffle, about a black youth who grows up in a white community. But Kobe had no affinity for it. He's not willing to let someone else's ideas penetrate his mind.

"The point of the book was that you can't always dictate the terms of what your life is going to be," Jackson said. "Those Greeks are going to be overrun and organized by the Italians. So they learn how to win by losing, in a way. 'We are going to be occupied, now how do we get along?' "

The point apparently is lost on Bryant, Jackson said.

"Kobe's having a hard time with the triangle offense this year. Not last year. Last year he could hardly wait to get to the spot on the floor where Michael Jordan had been. He wanted to be Michael. But it's a different team this year. We don't have a Scottie Pippen for him, the guy who allowed Michael to be Michael. That's the cross Kobe has to bear."

Jackson then added: "Someone told me that in high school, Kobe used to sabotage his own games. So the game could be close. So he could dominate at the end. To sabotage the team process, to be so self-centered in your own process .. it's almost stupefying."

Jackson said that recent on-court disturbances with Bryant might not reflect their total relationship, however.

"It's not butting heads at all," Jackson said. "We had one interchange on Monday night. He was upset at his teammates. I told him he had no right to be upset with his teammates. He made the pass from up in the air. That wasn't even contentious."

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