The Lakers stormed back from a 16-point halftime deficit to beat the Utah Jazz at home last night, 98-91. Kobe Bryant‘s 26 points and Ronnie Price‘s defense were the biggest reasons why. Rookie Julius Randle had a decent game, too, with eight points, five rebounds and two blocks. When asked about mentoring Randle after the game, Kobe made it clear it was on the rookie to soak up as much as he could from Mamba and coach Byron Scott.
Here’s Kobe’s comment, by way of ESPN’s Arash Markazi, about mentoring Randle along with coach Scott:
No pressure, Julius.
It’s what you’d expect from the 36-year-old Bryant, who has never been a comforting leader. Randle is young — having come out of Kentucky after a lone freshman season — and he’ll have to handle the strong personality of Kobe and Byron Scott even as he navigates the treacherous waters of his first NBA campaign.
To say that Randle is lucky might be over-stating it as well. Kobe is one of the greatest players ever, and Scott played on some terrific Lakers teams — including the 1987 and 1988 back-to-back champs, the first team to do so since Bill Russell‘s Celtics. But Kobe is a maniac, as everyone knows, and Scott played and learned under a coach, Pat Riley, who drove his players so hard, there was a mini-mutiny when the 1990 season ended with Conference Semifinals loss; Mike Dunleavy, Sr. came in to replace him as coach after the players got sick of his overbearing and egomaniacal demeanor.
Kobe, meanwhile, played almost 32 minutes last night, scored 26 points on 22 shots (7/22, 9/11 from the stripe) and generally calmed the Lakers down after they stormed back with a big third quarter.
Except leading isn’t just what you do on the court. It means offering up some positive encouragement along with the barked orders we’re sure Kobe will be issuing. If Bryant thinks he can just tear Randle down psychologically to mold him in his image, it might force the 19-year-old to retreat inside himself. That’s not a good catalyst for mentorship unless you’re someone who rises to that challenge. We’ll see if Randle is that player, but Kobe and Scott should be leery of pushing him too hard, too soon. The teenage Randle won’t be able to legally buy a beer until November of his second season in 2015, and plenty of players who were older and more established in the Association have crumbled under the withering glance of Bryant.
Will Kobe and Byron Scott do a good job mentoring Randle?
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