Although the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2005-06 season ended with a tragic first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns, it was filled with a prime Kobe Bryant, putting on scoring expeditions each and every game. A starting lineup featuring Smush Parker, Lamar Odom, Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown showed a lot of poise and grit, finishing with a 45-37 record and third in the Pacific division.
There were many intriguing stories regarding Bryant that season, which he has discussed on several occasions. During an interview with a class at University of California-Santa Barbara, he talked about a game against the Detroit Pistons. Bryant and the Lakers kept up against the Chauncey Billups led Pistons, with a key turnover occurring when Brown couldn’t catch an open pass under the basket.
According to Bryant, Brown literally told him to not pass him the ball, even if he was open out of fear of missing his free throws. Now four years into retirement, Brown was asked to reflect upon Bryant’s story in an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.com. Brown stated that the story is in fact true, adding a humorous touch to it:
“Even if I did want the ball, it’s not like he would’ve given it to me! (laughs) He’s absolutely right about the free throw part, though. So what? My thing is, was I even playing basketball when he said that? I definitely wasn’t a Laker and I don’t know if I was even playing in the league. When I heard about that – and really anytime someone brings my name up out of the blue like that – I just wonder, “Why? What did you gain from that?” Why is the best player in the game at the time mentioning little old me? It was flattering. (laughs) But he was absolutely right.”
On many occasions, the 18-time All-Star was visibly upset with his teammates, said to be steaming after the game. The game actually turned out to be the final game before the Lakers pulled the franchise-changing trade with the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.
However, there is more to be told about that story and the 2005-06 season from Brown. During that season he was apparently at a lot less than 100 percent:
I needed ankle surgery and shoulder surgery when I was playing for the Lakers. Mitch Kupchak asked me not to get the surgeries. He said, “With one ankle and one shoulder, you’re still the best defender we’ve got. All we need you to do is defend.” I literally had trouble raising my arms. That’s why I don’t care when a fan hears this and laughs or whatever because they don’t know the full story. I know what was really going on and so do my peers.
That season involved a lot of ups and downs, with Bryant towards the beginnings of his frustration with management. Bryant found himself in his second season after the departure of Shaquille O’Neal, with a rather lackluster team compared to some of the championship contenders around the NBA.
Brown averaged 7.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27.5 minutes per game during that season.