Kobe Bryant has been perceived as selfish throughout his career, but his leadership was very prevalent in his latest quotes.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost their ninth game of the season on Sunday and are once again under .500. Pau Gasol did not play for the final six minutes of the game and was noticeably upset about being on the bench.
As a response, Bryant sent a message to his teammate (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
Put your big-boy pants on. Just adjust. Just adjust. You can't whine about it. You can't complain about it.
Pau has got to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he likes, but he just has to adjust. You have to master what it is that we're trying to do here and Pau is talented enough and he's good enough to be able to do that.
Gasol has had a hard time making the change to Mike D'Antoni's offense in the past weeks.
The forward is used to playing in the post and scoring from his back to the basket, but the fast-paced scheme requires much more jump shooting.
This change has caused Gasol's points per game to drop to 12.6 points per game from 17.4 a year ago. He has never averaged fewer than 17 points per game in his career.
While the complaint is understandable at first, the continued issues are starting to hurt the team. The veteran is too talented to be left behind on this team.
Players usually cannot control their coach's system, but the best ones know how to adjust to whatever is thrown their way.
Bryant himself discussed how his has worked to make himself fit in the new system (via McMenamin):
The reality is, I've adjusted, I've never run this many screen-rolls in my entire career. But I've worked on it. I've worked on handling the ball. I've worked on coming off of screens and making plays. I'm used to being in the post much, much more but you have to adjust.
The guard shows that he can show others the way, not only with words, but with actions.
In fact, Bryant's efficiency is better than ever. So far, he is taking more than four less shots per game but is scoring at close to the same amount as last year. His 48.9 shooting percentage would be the best of his career if he keeps it up all year.
Even when the Lakers were losing earlier in the year and people were calling for Mike Brown to be fired, the former MVP backed up his coach by telling critics to "shut up," according to Adi Joseph of USA Today.
Although Brown was eventually let go, there is honor in supporting the person in charge.
Kobe has always been a leader, but in the past it was only by his actions. He has always had a reputation as one of the hardest workers in the NBA and his mindset led to others following in his path.
Now at 34 years old, Bryant feels confident being vocal when necessary. It is not mindless chatter about a player behind his back, but instead it is a motivational tactic needed to make his team better.
Only time will tell whether Gasol makes the adjustment to be part of the team. However, what this does show is the maturation of a player that used to be the person struggling to play well with others.
The five-time NBA champion is obviously doing everything he can both on and off the court to win a sixth trophy.
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