Whether watching the games as purely entertainment, or eagerly dissecting the action for an upcoming article, I tend to keep a running tab of game notes, thoughts, and commentary. Coming off the now-infamous “Kobe Bryant benching”, I wanted to pay strict attention to team chemistry, body language, and communication. Quite frankly, like everyone else, I wanted to know how Bryant would react to the incident.
Although Bryant offered ‘relative’ indifference towards Coach Mike Brown’s decision, the mere fact that it happened made it evident there may have been a not-so-silent issue ‘brewing’ beneath the surface. Even though Bynum’s four total rebounds went mostly unacknowledged (with everyone’s attention going towards Brown vs. Bryant), his apparent frustration boiled to the surface during the second quarter of last night’s action vs. the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers went into halftime up seven points (55-48), but towards the end of the half, they relied upon too much ‘isolation basketball’ (on offense) which led to missed jumpers and easy opportunities on fast breaks for Golden State. The quotes are directly from my in-game notes:
The Lakers need to re-establish the post-play. Bynum only has two rebounds, and doesn’t look very “inspired” on the defensive end. Maybe, if they feed him in the post, that will get him going.
The second half started as I imagined. Although they intended to ‘feed the post’, the first three possessions resulted in two turnovers on attempted passes to a teammate (MWP, Bynum) and a pair of free throws for Bryant. This is the point in the action where things got interesting:
Bynum attempts a THREE-pointer from the top of the key with 16 seconds left on the shot clock?! Brown immediately calls for McRoberts to sub for Bynum. What’s going on there? This could be an interesting situation…
As McRoberts sat at the scorer’s table, the action continued with Gasol/MWP fighting for a loose ball beneath their offensive rim, while Bynum hovered and watched at the free throw line. Not only did the Lakers not get the rebound, but Bynum didn’t even bother to contest on another Golden State fast break. Timeout, Coach Brown.
Does Brown have any control of this team? Earlier today, I heard someone utter the name ‘Rudy T.’, and I shuddered. Bynum is now laughing on the bench beside Devin Ebanks (also laughing) and Andrew Goudelock (covering face to conceal an apparent smile). NOT a good look. Denotes immaturity and unprofessionalism.
As much as I’ve been a supporter of Coach Brown due to the laundry-list of issues/hurdles he’s had endure over just 50 (or so) games as the head coach, but it is now time to judge him as it suits. Regardless of whether he is to blame for the childish antics of highly paid superstar ‘talent’, the proverbial ‘buck’ stops with Brown. As head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the added responsibility of being asked to perform beneath the pressure and scrutiny of the brightest lights and (at times) the drama of in-game spats with star ‘talent’.
This ‘tiff’ may be a blessing in disguise, as McRoberts is getting the minutes many have been asking for. Metta is playing like a wildman tonight, and reminding folks of why Mitch signed him in the first place. I will say this, now that he’s played his way into shape, Metta is regularly a contributing factor to most Laker success. Should also be noted that Coach Brown decided to stick with MWP, even through that bit of turmoil.
In chronicling this game, it is brought to my attention just how many ’bouts’ Coach Brown has already had to face. The rest of the game’s action would feature several runs from Golden State, and a situation where the Warriors actually took the lead (97-95) on a David Lee jumper over (fallen) Pau Gasol, which prompted Bynum to smugly point towards the the scoreboard while looking into the camera with a blank stare. Even when apparently warned by neighboring teammates, Bynum defiantly continued pointing at the scoreboard. It should also not go unmentioned that Bynum, like Bryant did several times the game before, decided against joining his team during the huddle for a majority of the second half. The rest of the game played as many Laker fans have witnessed before:
Bryant with the drive towards the left-hand baseline, bucket. HUGE block by MWP, and the ball actually rolls down Klay Thompson’s leg! Bryant with the ball on the wing, bucket. Kobe being Kobe. Lakers up two, timeout Golden state. Bynum remains on the bench during the huddle, yet again.
A few scrappy/swarming defensive stops, along with four clutch free throws by Bryant and Gasol, and the Lakers ‘improved’ to 11-15 away from Staples Center. While Bryant paced the action with 30 points, five rebounds, and 5 assists, the Lakers’ Forwards were definitely the story of the game, in Bynum’s ‘absence’. Gasol and World Peace combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds, while Barnes/McRoberts chipped in with 24 points, 13 rebounds as well. Drama aside, this was a good team win for a Lakers squad that is not only still in the hunt for the two-seed (San Antonio), but also narrowly holding teams like Clippers ‘at bay’ beneath them. If you were looking for any signs of ‘contrition’ from Bynum following the game, then you’re as sorely mistaken as I was. Here is just a small sample of Bynum’s post-game candor:
I guess, ‘Don’t take threes’ is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result…Hopefully I make it.
Again, regardless of whether Coach Brown should be to blame, he is going to have to work ‘overtime’ at getting through to his young center. In fact, this may be a situation where members from higher within the ranks of the organization (Jerry, Mitch, Jim) need to have a serious discussion with Bynum. While Bynum has been justifiably lauded for his definite improvements, if Bynum is to be considered the future ‘face of the franchise’ he is going to need to develop the maturity it takes to lead. ‘Heavy is the head’, and if Bynum ever wants to wear the ‘crown’, he could certainly go a long way towards solidifying his worthiness by being a leader over the last 16 games. Thursday night, at Staples vs. OKC would be a nice time to start.