The Los Angeles Lakers got their second consecutive victory against the Philadelphia 76ers, 111-98 on Sunday, and it offered an opportunity for injured Sixer Andrew Bynum to talk a little about playing with his former teammate, the cold-blooded Kobe Bryant. Bynum believes Kobe’s presence hindered his development after his game had matured to the point where he could accept more of a responsibility within the Lakers’ offense. Kobe responded, but not in the snarky/back-handed/prickly way we’ve come to expect from one of the best players of this generation. This was no MJ Hall of Fame speech. No, Kobe actually agreed with his former big man.
Bynum’s comments about playing with Kobe, which we told you about in Smack, iterated Kobe’s “stunting” of his growth. It’s strange, but when you’re reading Kobe’s retort after being told about Bynum’s earlier words, he almost appears contrite about limiting his former big man. Kobe acknowledged that Bynum’s assessment was probably the case, and diplomatically defended his former center:
“For sure, because when you’re playing with me you obviously have to sacrifice something. Same thing with me and Shaq. You kind of off-set each other to a certain extent. So, I mean, that’s true. When he gets back and he’s healthy, he’ll come out here and he’ll be the focal point of their attack and he’ll be getting the ball more and you’ll see big games from him more consistently.”
Kobe went on to make light of Bynum’s ‘fro, but that was as dyspeptic as he got – and that was all in good fun – about Bynum’s eight years in LA before being traded to Philadelphia this offseason in the deal that brought the Lakers Dwight Howard. It was a far cry from his evisceration of former teammates, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown before the season began. But maybe the relaxed and even jovial vibe from Bryant, at least in rhetoric, is a consequence of Los Angeles’ first two game win streak in more than four weeks after Bryant scored 34 points during the Lakers win.
Maybe Kobe didn’t want to kick a man when he was down since Bynum has yet to appear in a game for the Sixers after suffering setbacks in both knees this season. Or maybe Kobe genuinely empathizes with Bynum since he felt Shaquille O’Neal’s presence in Los Angeles held him back even as they were winning three straight titles together. Regardless of the why, it’s just another example Kobe Bryant is one of the biggest enigmas in the NBA today. You never know whether he’s gonna throw you under the Bus(s), or call you his brother for life.
Do you think it’s fair to say Bryant stunted Bynum’s growth?
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