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It's not easy to write, but Kobe did the right thing after benching

T.J. SIMERS

Bryant acted like a team leader in his comments after Lakers Coach Mike Brown took him out in the fourth quarter of a loss to Memphis. Kobe acted like a pro, but a lot of headline writers didn't.

March 26, 2012|T.J. Simers

I feel fine.

It might not read like it when I'm done here complimenting Kobe Bryant, but that's only because I'm kind of out of practice.

I didn't see the disaster Sunday night with Memphis, returning from Dodgers camp and in no rush to be further depressed.

But I picked up the morning newspaper and noticed the headline: "This loss doesn't sit well with Kobe."

So you know what I'm thinking right away: The Big Baby is crying again.

And you just know I'm going to pounce on that.

I read further, even though Mike Bresnahan wrote the story for The Times. He went to the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin made a whole bunch of my Las Vegas parlay tickets into nothing but scrap paper after winning its first two games in the NCAA tournament.

Shame on Brez.

As for Brez's story, he's telling me Kobe is sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter, so I can only imagine the explosion of ugly faces after the game in the locker room.

Been there, seen that.

But I'm also curious to learn why Coach Mike Brown would do such a thing. He's not going to bench Kobe for taking a bad shot, or he'd be benching the guy every game.

Brown lost his job in Cleveland because he didn't always hit it off with LeBron, so I can't see him going out of his way to irritate Kobe unless he's intent on making a career change.

I continue reading, knowing Wisconsin has been eliminated from the tournament, and Brez must be just miserable.

I'm a little surprised, though, to not find Kobe quoted early in the story. But then I figure Brez has nothing but obscenities to work with and those can't go in the paper.

There's also no Kobe moaning or groaning; instead I'm getting this guy who sounds like a pro while only stating the obvious.

"It's his decision to make," Bryant says of Brown. "If you guys are looking for a story, I'm not going to contribute to it. I can't sit here and criticize the decision. As leader of this ball club, it's something I can't afford to do. I've got to have his back."

I keep waiting for Brez to tell me Kobe is reading from a statement prepared by Lakers PR whiz John Black.

I go online to see video of the interview. But I notice the headline writers really have it in for Bryant, ESPN's reading: "Kobe upset at being benched."

Maybe he is, but who made the headline writers mind readers?

You watch video of the Kobe interview and he's as classy as any competitor can be after losing a game and failing to get a chance down the stretch to change the outcome.

He's saying all the right things and without a wink or raised eyebrow to suggest he's saying one thing and meaning another.

And yet Yahoo.com's headline atop its NBA video reads: "Move triggers angry response from Kobe."

Maybe everyone expected such a thing to trigger an earthquake, but it isn't happening.

Foxsports.com's headline reads: "Kobe beefing with Brown after benching in loss to Grizzlies."

While way too wordy, the story written below it suggests nothing of the kind. It includes the same benign quotes in Brez's story.

As quick as I am to criticize Kobe, I find myself now defending him. Just please don't tell him.

Sure, he's unhappy and he probably will be until the day he takes off his uniform. Too often that seems to be who he is.

But when he goes Tebow on everyone and manages his unhappiness like a team leader, where are the kudos for a job well done?

As for Brown's sub-sanity, I don't know. But then I don't know why Steve Blake continues to be such a disappointment.

There are 5 minutes 45 seconds remaining and the Lakers are down by 14 points when Kobe goes to the bench. He's back at the scorer's table with about three minutes to go, returning to the bench when he realizes there will be an automatic timeout after the three-minute mark.

It doesn't come until there is 1:51 remaining; the Lakers are down to their last timeout, so they can't very well use it to get Kobe back in the game.

The situation, just as the timeouts, probably got away from Brown. Sometimes a coach ought to be benched.

As for Brown's postgame remarks, it sounded as if he went macho-coach on reporters, saying he doesn't have to explain to players why he puts them in or takes them out.

Ordinarily, that would make reporters very happy. They could then take remarks like that to Kobe, tell him what the coach had to say, and at the very least get a good roll of his eyes in return.

But by all accounts, if you don't just read the headlines, the Kobester remained the consummate team player.

Funny thing; it wasn't as hard to write that as I thought it would be.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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