Lakers guard Kobe Bryant pulls down a rebound in front of Timberwolves center… (Marlin Levison / McClatchy-Tribune…)
What started out as a video session soon veered into an air-it-out meeting between the Lakers coaches and players.
The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported one of the main items involved Coach Mike Brown apologizing to Kobe Bryant for publicly questioning his shot selection in the team's loss to Washington, where the Lakers' star went nine-of-31 from the field.
It's only the latest example where Brown's setting a horrible example on earning the players' respect. Bryant's comment about Brown's critique to reporters that "everyone makes mistakes" only provides further evidence that Brown backing down on a legitimate and overdue criticism will only embolden the Lakers star in continuing such bad habits. So too, will other players, who haven't felt shy about airing their grievances about Brown to the press when the Lakers' struggles emerge.
Granted, the players' gripes about Brown are legitimate. He's micromanaged the offense to a fault, adding new plays and shuffling in new rotations at random moments. Even in the Lakers' 105-102 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Brown benched rookie guard Andrew Goudelock in favor of Jason Kapono, even though Goudelock produced reliable shooting numbers, while Kapono has offered little to nothing this season.
But Brown deserves to have authority over his team, including how players should execute. By quickly backtracking on Bryant's shot selection, Brown continues an unsettling pattern where he's deferring to Bryant's thirst to score even if it comes at the expense of a balanced offense. Claiming the Lakers lost against Washington simply off 13 turnovers and poor execution misses the point. So too, does Brown's mention that he also apologized to Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes for suggesting they were at fault for their shot selection too.
Every game involves a multitude of factors. In this case, the frontline's poor rebounding effort (lost 52-41), Andrew Bynum's self-admitted lack of hustle and the bench's blown second-half lead contributed to the loss. But Bryant's poor shot selection also created a trickle-down effect where it created wasted possessions, more vulnerability on transition defense and a less-balanced offense, variables that determined the Lakers' loss more than the aforementioned factors.
It didn't have to be this way.
Brown called a timeout to chew out Bryant during a preseason game against the Clippers after the Lakers' star failed to close out on Chauncey Billups' successful three-point attempt midway through the third quarter. Brown unflinchingly called Bryant out in a post-game news conference when he said "defensively, Kobe was just as guilty as everybody else of not contesting shots."
Bryant and Brown then offered tactful responses that illustrated now why Brown's failing horribly at holding Bryant accountable.
Said Brown: "If I was afraid to coach this team, then I shouldn't be here."
Said Bryant: "I'd be upset if he was letting me skate through things. If you make mistakes, it's the coach's responsibility to point those out. If he can't point that out to me, he has no chance in pointing that out to anybody else."
Instead of applying those same principles toward Bryant's offense, Brown has made excuses for it. He's leaned on Bryant to bail the Lakers out of their poorly constructed offense at the beginning of the season. Bryant has felt more inclined to carry everything on his own. And regardless of Bynum and Gasol showing more aggression, the fluid ball movement rarely stays consistent.
Brown set himself up by needing Bryant's approval. But as the team's air-it-out meeting illustrated, no one is happy, including Bryant.
Mike Brown's criticism of Kobe Bryant's shot selection overdue