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Phillip Barnett —  January 4, 2011

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: After the Lakers’ 19-point loss to Memphis on Sunday, Coach Phil Jackson said Kobe Bryant “had to screw up the game” in the third quarter to get the rest of the team moving. It sounded like the coach was criticizing his star player. Confronted with his words Monday, Jackson said he meant that Bryant “cranked up” his game by going one-on-five in order to energize the offense, a move that ultimately didn’t help in the end. The Lakers were embarrassed by another sub .500 team, 104-85. the first time. “I totally broke the offense,” Bryant said, “but I did it intentionally because I felt like we needed to get something started because what we were doing just wasn’t working. I tried to kick-start it, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: This issue will never reach universal agreement. This issue will always spark heated reactions from both sides of the argument. And the validity of those arguments will be based on the details surrounding each game. We’re talking of course about Kobe Bryant and his scoring mentality, an issue that has remained prevalent throughout his 15-year career, but one that has softened the last three seasons because of his supporting cast. Still, the never-resolved debate on when Bryant’s ability to score at will becomes a team necessity, or something that just hurts the team in the long run, typically reaches conflicting viewpoints. The issue has popped up recently with the Lakers (23-11) entering Tuesday’s game at Staples Center against the Detroit Pistons losing four of their last six games, a stretch where the Lakers have mostly lacked an offensive identity and a stretch where Bryant has taken 103 of the team’s 384 shots and made only 45 of them.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Good news! While the Lakers have seen their fair share of issues during the last few weeks, any similarities between this swoon and those plaguing Lakers teams of the early and mid-2000’s (at least some of those worth worrying about) are purely coincidental. “We had some deep-seeded issues on that team,” Kobe Bryant said after practice Monday afternoon in El Segundo. “That was a very dysfunctional group. This is not that.” A disappointment for those devoted to high drama, clashing egos, and postseason literature, but happy news for everyone else.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: The magic words, tailor-made to prick up the ears of sports media and fans like a snapping twig in the forest does deer, were “Kobe has to screw up the game.” Via the Internet Telephone Game, without context the quote quickly morphed into “Kobe screwed up the game,” meaning Jackson pinned the loss on Bryant, specifically. By the time I got down to processing and posting video after the game, maybe two-plus hours after the buzzer, a “Kobe screwed up the game” Google search produced pages of chatter. Today, I found about 230,000 matches. Like a lot of people in the room, I took P.J.’s comments to mean Bryant was forced to exit the game plan- “screw up,” scramble, jettison, whatever- in order to give his teammates a jolt and try to get L.A. back in the game. There were consequences, as usually is the case when Kobe goes into Hero Mode, and this time they weren’t uniformly positive. What he didn’t do was blame Kobe for the loss.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: A home loss like the Los Angeles Lakers experienced Sunday, a 19-point drubbing to a sub-.500 Memphis Grizzlies team, reverberates a little longer than a typical one-of-82 regular season loss. So, after a long practice Monday, the team was still talking about what was said after Sunday’s game along with looking ahead to the upcoming schedule. Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 28 points against the Grizzlies but 17 of those points came in the third quarter when he took 12 of the Lakers’ 22 shot attempts as a team. With Bryant controlling the offense, Memphis’ lead ballooned from nine at halftime to 17 headed into the fourth.

From Beckley Mason, HoopsSpeak: The only thing more frustrating than watching the Los Angeles Lakers these days is trying to write anything definitive about them. Every assertion seems to boomerang back and to crack the profaner square in the sternum. “The Lakers are, literally speaking, one of the weakest teams still in the Western playoff picture” is immediately countered by “but they’ll probably end up as one of the top two teams in the world.” This method of observation is self-negating and seems to render conclusive statements meaningless. But we don’t really have any choice. Blame the Lakers’ greatest rival, the Boston Celtics, for this situation. The way the Boston played possum for two-thirds of the season then roared to life like some pissed off phoenix, dousing the Eastern conference and prognosticators alike in vengeful flames for our insolence. Now everyone’s afraid that the Lakers, with their tremendous size and clutch reputation, will do the same.

From Tom Ziller, SBNation: Kobe Bryant is taking all the blame as the L.A. Lakers return from their brief dabbling in “not sucking” to again suck. This is all relative, of course, as the Lakers are still tied for third in the West and might have already clinched the otherwise dreadful Pacific Division. L.A. still has the NBA’s No. 4 offense. This “sucking” is relative to what the Lakers are capable of and what the team’s above them in the standings — the Spurs, Celtics, Heat and Mavericks — have done so far. Kobe is taking the blame, from a lot of writers and now explicitly from his coach Phil Jackson. The two spat after Sunday’s embarrassing home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, which follows embarrassing home losses in the past couple weeks to the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. When proud men get embarrassed, they lash out. These proud men are lashing out at each other. They should be lashing out at Pau Gasol.


Phillip Barnett

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