May 12, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant has just about had it with his teammates not showing up, and that’s pretty evident. When he refused to quit and played well with gastroenteritis in Game 6 and his teammates no-showed, you knew there would be consequences. Bryant has come too far and done too much to get that kind of performance from the supporting cast.
And talking to the L.A. Times about Metta World Peace, Bryant let it be known his feelings right now for the rest of the team.
“I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he’s known for,” Bryant told reporters after Game 6, a troubling 113-96 loss. “He’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with that sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I’m looking forward to having that by my side again.”
For his part, Pau Gasol did not take on the responsibility or accept fault. He pretty much just said “Whatever.”
“It’s a comment. It’s an opinion,” Gasol said. “A lot of times opinions are determined by the timing of things. Obviously we’re all happy to get Metta back tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll be a big contrbibutor. I’m glad Kobe relies on him that much.”
That’s just awkward.
Look, Gasol’s going to have to live with this. He sulked in Memphis when he wasn’t winning, got gifted to L.A. in a lopsided trade (it working out for Memphis is inconsequential in relation to where the trade stood at the time) and won two titles. He won two titles because of Bryant’s fire and indomitable will, so he’s going to have to live with some vitriol when he fails as spectacularly as he has in this series. It’s a veteran team, you’re supposed to be able to rely on Gasol’s experience in a series like this, and instead, for a second straight year, he’s no-showed.
But what’s maybe most interesting from Bryant is the following quote:
“My type of competitiveness and energy level is not something I expect every guy to have,” Bryant said. “That’s not to say that they don’t have it; it’s just that Metta’s intensity is similar to my own. It’s a simple as that.”
This is pretty amazing revisionist history from Bryant, who has questioned MWP’s performance and commitment throughout his time in L.A. as well, but more important is the first part. The question of whether Bryant really expects everyone to be at his level. For his part, I think he’s being honest. I think if players were to match his intensity, he’d simply become more intense. For Bryant it’s never been about being the best, it’s about beating other people. And there’s a difference there. He’s not just competing against every other team in the league, against his critics, against Michael Jordan, he’s competing against his teammates for who is the most driven on his own team. He wants them to be committed, just maybe not equally so.
But what he doesn’t want is for them to be lazy.
And yeah, Gasol is a target here, but a question has to be asked. Why is Bryant not dragging Andrew Bynum by his earlobe into huddles? Why is he not screaming and glaring at Bynum like he did for so many years to Lamar Odom? Why is he not demanding the same of Bynum he demands of so many? He doesn’t take shots at Bynum, he just says he plans on talking to him. I understand that not every player responds the same way, but Bryant’s never cared about that before. Why is Andrew Bynum different? It’s bizarre to see Bryant giving Bynum the same kid gloves treatment the Lakers organization does. And if he wants to channel his anger somewhere, that’s the first place it needs to go.