Dec 1, 2012, 11:30 AM EDT
The Lakers seemed to have an extra pep in their step during Friday’s blowout win over the Nuggets.
As it turns out, there may have been a specific reason behind L.A.’s increased motivation and sense of purpose in this one. It may have been provided by Bryant in a rant to his teammates during Thursday’s practice.
He was in an angry mood at Thursday’s practice, calling out his teammates for not being tough enough in games, The Times has learned.
It wasn’t a long rant, maybe half a minute, but he left practice in a hurry, stalking off the court toward the end of it, irritated that the first team had lost to the reserves several times. He knocked some items off a table at midcourt on his way to the locker room and did not talk to reporters who were let in after his outburst.
Bryant’s message wasn’t light. It contained expletives and hammered at the same theme. The Lakers should not be playing this poorly. Everyone needed to be stronger emotionally and physically.
Bryant is known for his competitive fire above all else, and while the details of who specifically drew his ire that day remain a mystery, it wouldn’t surprise any of us if it was Howard.
Dwight’s always-happy and silly demeanor, even immediately following losses, can’t possibly sit well with Bryant when the losses continue to pile up and the team is struggling just to get back over the .500 mark on the season.
Some may say it shouldn’t come to this, that these guys are professionals and they should be giving maximum effort every single night to earn every dollar of those huge, guaranteed contracts. But it’s not that simple in the NBA, and Bryant made sure to let everyone know that as long as he’s in Los Angeles, everyone else better bring the intensity to as close to his level as possible.