From the “Any publicity is good publicity” files, Kobe Bryant‘s 2010 — marked by his fifth NBA championship and second Finals MVP — took a passenger’s seat to the year of LeBron James, who became the game’s primary headliner thanks to his combination of success (league MVP) and controversy (“The Decision”).
To kick off 2011, Kobe is back in the controversy business. In the L.A. Lakers’ first game of the new year, the two-time defending champs were routed at home by the Memphis Grizzlies. After the loss, in which Kobe (28 pts, 2 asts) took 22 field goals while no teammate took more than nine, coach Phil Jackson put his superstar on blast:
“We get behind early on in the third quarter on some stupid plays â€” poor passing, poor transition defense â€” and then Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one and that takes the rest of the guys out as a consequence,” Jackson told reporters. “That didn’t bring us back in, but it did give us a little run, we got the game back a little bit but we couldn’t sustain it and we just went right back and made the same mistakes again.”
Jackson also said some nameless Lakers were, “Trying to do too much with the basketball … Teams are double-teaming, coming to help, we have to move the ball.” Jackson added, “The game got to a point where we didn’t use our strength, which is our inside players.”
Or maybe Jackson wasn’t actually bashing Kobe.
It’s hard to tell when the coach is being serious or sarcastic in his interviews, whether he’s trying to bait the media or bait his players who read the newspapers.
In Kobe’s defense, the Lakers wouldn’t have been in the game at all without his 17 third-quarter points, and Jackson knows it. The Grizzlies simply outplayed the Lakers as a whole — you can’t blame Sunday’s loss on one or two players. Ron Artest played a role by being unable to stop Rudy Gay (27 pts), the Lakers were outrebounded 44-37 and gave up 12 offensive boards, and Kobe had only three of the team’s 20 turnovers.
There was plenty of blame to pass around.
What do you think? Will Phil Jackson’s comments cause problems for the Lakers down the road? Does Kobe need to change his style of play?