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Bryant is facilitating more shots for himself

March 18, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

Las Vegas — I am so proud of Kobe Bryant.

Who said you can't teach an old superstar new tricks?

He kept his elbows in, is in no danger of being suspended, and upon further review, the only thing anyone wants to look at upon closer inspection is his final three-pointer Friday night.

The dirtiest player in the NBA, which is just a fact if you lead the league with a combination of suspensions and flagrant fouls after popping more opponents in their noses over the last month than Oscar De La Hoya the last year, is on course again to demonstrate he is also the best scorer in the game.

So much for the great facilitator, the ball hog is back, and this is the way the Lakers should be entertaining everyone. At the very least, "anything to keep the ball out of Smush Parker's hands" should be the motto of every Lakers fan these days.

Have you ever had as much fun watching a team riding a seven-game losing streak taking on one of the worst teams in the NBA -- than staying with the Lakers' game against Portland to the very end?

Stand back and get out of his way. Bryant scored 56 of the Lakers' final 98 points in regulation, and 24 in the fourth quarter.

And he might have finished the game with 67 points, the disgusted look on his face telling everyone how much he wanted to score even more after Lamar Odom opted to throw the ball in to Maurice Evans to get fouled down the stretch in overtime rather than giving it to Bryant.

That's right, the ball hog is back, and just in time to make it worth watching the Lakers again, unless you're really into the titanic struggle being waged between Denver and the Lakers to avoid being the No. 7-seeded team and getting spanked by Phoenix in the first round.

Bryant took 39 shots against Portland, the other four starters for the Lakers combining to take 36, and now that's more like it. Why let the guys who can't shoot, shoot?

A season ago, Bryant led the league in scoring and the Lakers were seeded No. 7. Phil Jackson asked Bryant to be a facilitator in the playoffs, proving the uncoachable really can be coached, and so much for believing anything else in Jackson's book, I guess.

Bryant listened so well, he stopped shooting by the time it came to the seventh game, but the Lakers were so thrilled to get to Game 7, they considered it a winning strategy and began this season by employing it again.

Then they dropped to seventh place again, and Bryant has the chance to lead the league in scoring again. How did that happen? He fooled you folks, didn't he? He got everyone believing he was finally a team player, and yet he's on the verge of winning the scoring title again.

Most of this, of course, is confusing to Jackson. He thought it was just great that Bryant was playing the role of facilitator early on, then he went to Bryant and told him to start scoring earlier in games, only to criticize him later for trying to do too much. Could Jackson be unclear? If Bryant ever writes a book....

It's good, though, to see we're back to normal, Jackson just sitting there, while Bryant takes on the challenge of beating the other team all by himself. Gosh, it's fun to watch.

A couple of weeks back, there was a lot of hullabaloo about Jackson's bringing the team together during timeouts and then sitting them down so he could look into their eyes. I wonder if he sees anything when he looks into Kwame Brown's eyes.

Seven straight losses, and so much for trying to coach the Lakers -- it's time again to just let Bryant shoot.

Works for me. The Lakers might not win it all, as if anyone thought they really had a chance, but at least we'll be entertained.

MISS RADIO Personality and I make this an annual excursion to Las Vegas for the start of March Madness because there are so many men in attendance and the daughter remains on the prowl for a husband. But as part of the trip, I also wager $11 on every game played over the first four days of the tournament -- with all the winnings going to Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA.

So far I've bet $462, going 13-29, which means a net loss of $189. I hope the opening of the new hospital wasn't contingent on how well this trip went.

THE FOLKS at Mandalay Bay allowed us to use a private booth in the back of the Race & Sports Book because of Miss Radio Personality's popularity.

There was talk of letting the San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson and Lorenzo Neal use the booth instead, but then they have a habit of losing out, don't they?

SOME GUY put $20 down on a 10-team parlay card at Mandalay Bay, won all 10 games and walked or ran away with $12,000. I know this, the daughter was still trying to catch him as of late last night.

THE BIGGEST losing game of the 42 played so for the Race & Sports Book has been the Arkansas-USC contest, with the public backing the Trojans in a big way.

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