Make no mistake about it, something is brewing within the Los Angeles Lakers organization. Kobe Bryant doesn’t need to say a word regarding Mike Brown’s hiring at this point.
His silence speaks volumes.
Fifteen long, eventful years in the NBA have honed Kobe’s understanding of the media. He knows how to shift and shape public perception like its Silly Putty. He knows what to say, what to do and how to behave to send whatever message he wants to send.
The image that Bryant has constructed for himself over the past few seasons -- that of a fierce leader who thrives on pressure and dines on weak-minded opponents -- was crafted entirely by Kobe himself, and peddled to the rest of the world by virtue of his sheer PR brilliance. Few in the NBA are as masterful at playing the public as the biggest star in L.A.
Kobe’s silence on Brown up to this point is a damning indictment on the new coach. For whatever reason, he doesn’t approve of the hiring and, without saying a word, he is letting the Buss family, Lakers fans and everyone in the NBA know about it.
Maybe he wanted to be consulted regarding the new coach. Perhaps Brown’s unimpressive reputation as a pushover who doesn’t command the respect of players rubs Bryant, a very dominant personality in his own right, the wrong way. Heck, even the seemingly ridiculous notion that he is getting LeBron James’ leftovers could send Kobe’s fragile ego over the edge.
Some suggest the Lakers circumventing Brian Shaw, Kobe’s long-time friend and heir apparent to the Phil Jackson triangle throne, may have ruffled the superstar’s feathers. The truth is, though, Bryant’s loyalty to his own legacy means far more to him than anything Shaw could have brought to the table. You don’t get to five championships by being a dummy, and Kobe understood full well that a first-time, inexperienced coach -- regardless of what offense he’s running -- is hardly the recipe for success. No, it’s not an undying love for Shaw that is causing this, it’s something more.
At a news conference for one of Kobe’s new community service ventures last week, a reporter asked him about his feelings on Brown.
The response, although short, came down like a hammer.
"Right now is not the time nor the place."
Obviously, it was both the time and the place. It was both the time and the place because Kobe, who had refused comment on Brown up to that point, left himself vulnerable to media speculation on his opinion of the move. But rather than clear the whole mess up with a simple, “I like it" Kobe opted to create even more questions.
Bryant is far too smart to not know what he is doing. His only public missteps over the past few years have been during post-game interviews when the emotions and anger that well within him during a game bubble out in the form of aloof, awkward commentary. When given the time to think about what he is going to say, the former league MVP is shrewd and savvy in his words to the press, designing tomorrow’s headline as if he was writing it himself.
Is it possible that whenever next season comes around, Kobe will bury his negative feelings towards Brown for the purposes of winning a title? Absolutely.
Could Bryant and Brown come together, much in the same way Bryant and Jackson eventually did, after some time together in their march to a championship? No doubt.
But is it an accident that Bryant has refused to comment on Brown’s new job, leading to rumors that something is amiss in their relationship?