The news that Kobe Bryant was not consulted on Mike Brown’s inevitable hiring is only mildly surprising at this point.
Once upon a time, when Bryant was a young and able star pining to emerge from behind Shaquille O’Neal’s massive shadow, his opinion mattered to Jerry Buss. Bryant was the future, after all, and if he wanted O’Neal gone and Mike Krzyzewski as his head coach, those would be avenues that the elder Buss would take under heavy consideration.
Then something interesting happened. Over the years, a combination of Bryant’s relationship with Jerry cooling and the latter’s son, Jim, getting more and more involved in team affairs began to lessen Bryant’s chokehold on all things Lakers-related. Suddenly, Bryant demanding that Andrew Bynum’s you-know-what be shipped out of Los Angeles didn’t carry as much weight. His desire that the center be moved for Carmelo Anthony was met with a similarly nonchalant reaction from ownership.
Now part of this, for what it’s worth, has to do with Jim’s undying loyalty to Bynum. It was Jim who constantly squashed any and all notions of moving the young center, and who continues to insist that Bynum can potentially dominate the league if he stays healthy. Some of it, however, has to do with a very clear and undeniable line in the sand that has been drawn in Los Angeles: Jim Buss is the new boss, and he ain’t respecting old arrangements. Not for Kobe, not for anyone.
Thus, when Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated relayed that according to his sources, Bryant was “surprised” by the talk of Brown stepping in for Phil Jackson, it was anything but breaking news. The former MVP’s influence on management decisions has been waning for a while now, and this just serves as the latest example.
What will be interesting to keep an eye on from this point forward is how the Lakers look with Jim truly running the show. Bynum is his player, Brown is his coach and Bryant is his inherited superstar. If that turns out to be the hierarchy in the heart and mind of the new Buss in charge when it comes to making decisions, things could get a bit dicey down the road.