Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Coach Mike Brown confer during a game earlier… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Mike Brown walked up to Andrew Bynum at the Lakers' training facility Saturday, laughing and making the usual post-practice small talk with the 7-footer.
The mood around the team was significantly lighter one day after the Lakers coach departed Staples Center before a game against the Denver Nuggets to attend to an undisclosed family matter.
Brown declined to discuss the reason that prompted him to leave his team, calling it a personal issue.
"It was one of those instances where it was time to be with the family," Brown said, "and I felt it was the right thing for me to leave."
Brown will be back when the Lakers play host to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center, but Kobe Bryant probably won't. The coach said his All-Star guard probably would miss a fifth consecutive game because of a sore left shin.
The Lakers have won three of four games to clinch a playoff berth without Bryant, easing the need for a speedy return. Brown said his top priority with the NBA's leading scorer was to have him healthy for the postseason.
"Even if we took it on the chin a couple of times," Brown said, "we'd still sit him out because I think that's a lot more important to have accomplished for us than to have him going into the playoffs a little beat up."
Assistant John Kuester, who coached the Lakers in Brown's absence Friday during the Lakers' 103-97 victory over the Nuggets, joked afterward that the team had help from a fifth assistant on the bench in Bryant.
"He did a great job of talking to our players and a great job of giving us input throughout the game," Kuester said. "I'm very impressed with him."
Bryant's opinion is so widely respected that Brown recently asked him to observe the team during a shoot-around just so he could pass along his thoughts.
"The stuff that he says is, in my opinion, highly valuable," Brown said.
Not that anyone associated with the team expects Bryant to coach once his playing days end.
"I don't see that out of him," forward Pau Gasol said. "I mean, he could do well, he would be a good coach based on his knowledge and experience, but I don't see him coaching. It's very hard for a player of that caliber to go and sit on the sideline and coach a team [when] he's not directly involved on the court. It's a big jump for players like that."
Brown said it would be difficult for a player of Bryant's stature to stomach his players' mistakes.
"At times greatness can't understand why others don't get it as easily as he may, and so I think that would be his biggest hurdle," Brown said. "If he could deal with that, then he'd have a lot to offer to the coaching world."
A crowd pleaser?
There has been speculation about the surreal scene that could unfold if Lamar Odom appeared at Staples Center on Sunday to watch a game between the team that traded him in December and the one that placed him on the inactive list earlier this week after a locker room clash with Mark Cuban.
Bynum smiled at the possibilities.
"I don't know," Bynum said when asked if he expected Odom to attend the game. "It would be funny though."
Metta World Peace, who recently suggested that Odom could spend the rest of the season as a Lakers' ball boy or as a Boy Scout, said he expected Odom to stay away even though he had reportedly returned to Los Angeles.
"It's too much controversy and everything," World Peace said. "It's probably best that he stay out of the public."