Lakers guard Kobe Bryant shares a laugh with former teammate and Mavericks… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Here's what I saw the other night in the second half against the Clippers: The Ball Hog came to the conclusion he had to win the game if the Lakers were going to prevail.
It was as if he didn't notice the Lakers' 7-footers were on the court; everyone else was invisible as well.
The offense began and ended with Kobe Bryant scoring or not. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who stand closest to the basket, combined for 10 shots in the second half; Bryant had 17.
Someone might say Bryant was just trying to keep his record intact of scoring 40 points or more, but not this time.
It just seemed as if beating the Clippers had become very important, which goes to show you how far the Clippers have come.
Bryant made some incredible shots, his brilliance undisputed, but doing things his way rather than exploiting the size advantage inside, the Lakers lost.
He can score 40 points any night he tries, and there are enough terrible teams where the Lakers will win no matter how they play.
But can they win against the better teams with the Ball Hog playing his own game? We'll see this week against Dallas, Miami and Orlando.
More important, has Coach Mike Brown lost control of Bryant?
"I hope not; I don't think so," Brown says. "There was a stretch [against the Clippers] where we were struggling offensively and he got hot. If he's efficient with his shooting and scoring, I'm going to let him go."
But that runs contrary to Brown's stated strategy of getting the ball inside.
"Yes, it does," Brown says, "but until we can do a better job of it, sometimes I've got to let some things go. Right now we're still trying to find ourselves."
Brown starts talking about the need for more guys than just Bryant to score, and team PR assistant Josh Rupprecht cuts the interview short. Maybe the Lakers don't want the coach saying something to irritate Bryant.
Whatever, Bryant opens against Dallas passing the ball inside; Phil Jackson said he never knew which Bryant he'd get to start a game.
Bryant helps get both Gasol and Bynum going, but he struggles, going 0 for 4 in the first quarter. By halftime he's four for nine, but his teammates are more involved and the Lakers are winning by four points. Too bad his teammates aren't as entertaining or capable of making trick shots. But what do you want?
Bryant goes 0 for 6 in the third quarter, seven for 22 for the game. With the score tied, the Ball Hog passes. Dallas is left frozen in shock, the ball goes to Derek Fisher, who hits the winning three.
A team victory.
WHY IS the best basketball team in town playing the Martin Luther King Jr. matinee?
The Clippers won, though the Lakers drew the prime-time assignment.
As mismatches go, hard to say who had their way with Kris Humphries more: Kim Kardashian or Blake Griffin.
Griffin treated the Nets forward as if he weren't there, although I'm sure that's not the first time Humphries has been treated so.
I'M TOLD Charles Barkley was on TNT arguing Kevin Love is better than Griffin. If so, Charles is not only losing weight but his mind.
JAMES LONEY was here with a hood pulled tight over his face. Would you want to go out in public if you're all the Dodgers have at first base? I just hope somebody was driving the guy home.
I'LL TELL you how good a reporter TNT's Craig Sager is: The daughter wanted to know what kind of purse Khloe Kardashian had at the game. "Birkin," he reports.
I'M NOT sure if you are familiar with the House of Batiatus, you know, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," Showtime, lots of violence and sex.
I have no idea why I know so much about it, but one of Donald Sterling's advertisements got me to thinking about some of the wild parties thrown in the House of Batiatus and the future of Griffin and Chris Paul.
Batiatus is a social climber, using his parties/orgies to draw more attention to his ludus, which is a center for the training of gladiators. He likes to put his gladiators on display for all his guests to ogle.
Sterling is having a luncheon for sponsors, advertisers and partners Thursday. Invitation only, and yet he's been advertising the party in the paper, noting that Griffin, Paul, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and DeAndre Jordan will be available to be ogled.
OK, so the Clippers' sponsors, advertisers and partners help pay the players' salaries. But Sterling is asking his performers to be there after three games in three days, with a game to follow their appearance the next night.
I'm not sure even Spartacus could survive such a grind.
At the very least it's probably a distraction; most teams in most sports do whatever they can to avoid distracting their players during the season.
Some folks say only Sterling can ruin the good thing the Clippers have going. I have no idea where they would get such a thought. But he certainly has to keep Paul and Griffin happy as Clippers, as both Paul and Griffin become free agents after next season, and how would it look if they tried to leave?
I'm guessing schmoozing with fat cats is not high on the players' priority list as they look ahead to seven games in 10 days.
As hard as Griffin plays, giving it his all against the Nets, why ask for more? Sterling might want to reconsider and tell his stars to take Thursday off.
As if Sterling needs any more encouragement to reconsider, he probably should know the gladiators finally just had enough and killed Batiatus and all his friends.