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Time for Kobe to earn his MVP

GAME 2: CELTICS 108, LAKERS 102 / T.J. SIMERS

June 09, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

BOSTON -- Kobe Bryant was all smiles the other day and talking to a tall bearded guy, who wasn't making grotesque, contorted faces at him in return, so that ruled out Pau Gasol.

Upon closer examination it was USA Today's John Saraceno, which explains why Bryant was all smiles, Saraceno working for a newspaper that wasn't going to publish the next day.

KCBS's Jim Hill and I were standing off to the side, and Hill, of course, was waiting to hug Bryant.

When they broke the clinch, I said, "I was just going to say," but found myself talking to Bryant's back as he kept on walking, and so I said, "never mind."

The more I thought about it, though, I didn't want it to become a distraction -- Bryant wondering what I was going to say the rest of his life when he should be totally dedicated to beating the Celtics.

Maybe he thought I was going to ask if his wife has cussed out any more bloggers, or, if he has a son, would he be more inclined to name him after Jim Gray, Ric Bucher or Stephen A. Smith? Tough question.

He had been so charming when they turned on the TV cameras earlier, saying something funny about Bora Bora, and maybe he thought I was going to mention what he had said earlier about Pluto.

He couldn't have been upset about anything I've written, the big baby all grown up since his summer tantrum, so no reason to spank him any longer. I hadn't even mentioned a word about his horrendous shooting performance in the opener.

The fact is, I had already put away my notebook, and I was just going to congratulate him on being the league's MVP -- and then tell him to start playing like one.

You see, this is no time for a thinking man's Kobe Bryant, noted basketball expert and Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman telling The Times after watching Kobe play, "It seemed like whenever he wanted to flip the switch, he could. Game over. Series over."

Amen, and enough with this business of feeling out a game or pacing himself as facilitator. Flip that switch from the start, play as if nobody can stop him, and they can't.

He's one of the best talents the game has ever seen, so why not just let that talent dictate the Celtics' terms of surrender?

If he's considered the game's best closer, how about throwing in a quality start? How much of a difference would that have made in this one?

He's the one who wanted this championship opportunity so badly, and as unstoppable as everyone knows he is, why stop himself with fall-away jumpers?

He talks about getting his teammates going. How about getting himself on track when the game begins?

If Bryant goes to the basket, Gasol stands there taking short pass after short pass for easy baskets, or rams home the occasional miss. Bryant on the attack turns this series in the Lakers' favor, and that's what I wanted to say to him.

So what did Kobe do to start Game 2? He got a breakaway, but instead of going to the rim and drawing a foul, he pulled up for a jumper and missed. He opened one for four and went to the bench with 1:59 to play in the first quarter and two fouls.

The second quarter began and some guy named Leon Powe was outplaying the MVP. If Bryant won't listen to Page 2, maybe Bucher could get to him.

Bryant became more aggressive as the game went on, as he usually does, but unlike his even demeanor throughout these playoffs, he lost his cool. He picked up a third foul, finished the half on the bench with nine points, and while he would score 30 in the game, his overall play from start to finish would be inconsistent.

Lakers fans will be unhappy with the refs -- tell it to Utah fans, but then San Antonio kept him out of the lane, and now so have the Celtics. Bryant, grinning when the free-throw disparity was mentioned, too often was settling for the off-balance jumper, which lets the refs off the hook.

When he did attack, making a spinning move inside that maybe no other human could make, he scored and yelled at the referee -- drawing a technical foul. I wonder who gets more upset in the Bryant household when they don't get their way.

By the way, I don't know if there is a rule prohibiting it, but the Lakers ought to trade Vladimir Radmanovic right now. Who cares what they get in return. Someone should say it before Kobe goes on the radio and says it.

The Lakers' bench, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher have been inconsistent. Now they must win four of the next five games.

The one thing that can turn it all around, though, is MVP play from the MVP, putting the pressure on the refs and Celtics, and thereby lifting his teammates in the process.

It'd be nice if someone passed that along to him.

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POINT OF INFORMATION: Friday's 8 p.m. FSN Prime Ticket live presentation of "Scully & Wooden for the Kids" will be a one-time event with no reruns.

In addition, there will be no DVD of the show, so it really is something you might not want to miss.

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JERRY BUSS entered the World Championship Seven Card Stud tournament with a $10,000 buy-in Saturday in Las Vegas rather than join the Lakers here. The top players advance to the finals table Monday, the winner receiving a gold bracelet.

Buss, though, was knocked out Saturday, a Lakers spokesman saying the owner still had no plans to be here. You don't think he knew the Lakers were going to play a losing hand, do you?

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from m786kahn:

"You are an idiot! But you finally did something good by writing the article on the great Chick Hearn. It is very obvious that you don't like the Lakers and Kobe. Too bad your stupid Clippers will always be losers like you, so you have no choice but to show your obvious bias and one-sided hatred for the Lakers. If things are so bad in LA or in your life, move to Kansas. You jerk!"

Thanks for the compliment.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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