Kobe Bryant: How Come the L.A. Lakers Star Hasn't Commented on Mike Brown Hire?

Howard RubenContributor IJune 9, 2011

EL SEGUNDO, CA - MAY 31:  Mike Brown, (L) the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, shares a laugh with owner Jerry Buss (C) and Buss' sons Jesse Buss after Brown's introductory news conference at the team's training facility on May 31, 2011 in El Segundo, California. Brown replaces Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who retired at the end of this season.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Is this all much ado about nothing?  Has Kobe Bryant circled the Mike Brown wagon with the intention of ambushing the new hire before he’s even had the chance to lace up his new sneakers and blow his first practice whistle?

Are you having a tough time falling asleep at night because Kobe Bryant has not commented on the hiring?  If you are, I suggest you rerun the TiVO showing a lethargic, distracted LeBron James virtually disappearing for great stretches of these NBA Finals.  That will take care of any anxiety or insomnia the Bryant affair is causing you.

Perhaps Kobe is merely playing mind games with the mainstream sports media who cover the Lakers and have sought his comments on the hiring of Mike Brown as the team’s new coach only to have their probes fall on deaf ears?

We’re all playing the speculation game right now.  No one knows for sure if Kobe is upset with the Buss family for not consulting him and for not hiring the guy he publicly endorsed, Brian Shaw. 

And, if he is?  So what?  How or why would that affect anything the Lakers do as a team when the regular season finally gets underway?

Honestly, I think Bryant was not pleased at all that Jim and Jerry Buss did an end-around and made a quick hire, a move that took Kobe and many others by surprise.  A phone call just to let him know what was about to happen would have been a good thing to do. 

J&J apparently felt otherwise.  They intend to take the Phil stamp off the team as fast as whiteout on your term paper—and do so without consulting anyone.

I also believe a lot of what’s happening (or not happening) is pure posturing.  The Los Angeles Lakers are, for all intents and purposes, Kobe Bryant’s team.  He would never publicly say that.

Although he did respond to comments Andrew Bynum recently made in the days following the Lakers embarrassing playoff sweep by the Dallas Mavericks.  After hearing Bynum say he expects to get more touches and points, Kobe said the big center would need to “fall in line," that the food chain starts with him and is followed by Pau Gasol.  In other words, "this is still my team."

So, how must Kobe feel after management decided to not ask for his opinion and, instead, go out and hire Brown to replace Phil Jackson next season?  If his feelings are hurt, is that why he’s so far refused to comment publicly on the hire?

The Lakers' offseason is just a month old and already there’s been enough turmoil and drama to last most franchises a couple of years.  It just wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t some drama enveloping this glorious franchise. 

Here’s what I think.  Kobe is on board with Mike Brown and has told the coach that privately.  But, he’s going to let the new chief assemble his troops, bring in new assistants and draw up some new schemes before making any public comments.  As the summer unfolds and he’s had time to digest what has just happened, Kobe will come around and be supportive of the new coach in town.

He really has no choice.  Kobe is being paid a king’s ransom—$83 million to be exact—to be a Laker for the next three seasons.  At that time he’ll be close to 36 and ready to either retire or continue for another few years because he discovered some sort of magic juice that gives his court-weary body some additional tread.  The guy works harder to stay fit than anyone in the league, so who knows?  

Respected beat writer Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com wrote in a recent column that Mike Brown has done his best to deflect any perceived controversy over Kobe’s reluctance to speak in public.  For Brown, it’s all about respect and trust and knowing the pecking order of an organization that has 16 world championships in its history, second only to the hated Boston Celtics.

“My relationships—Kobe on down—are extremely important," Brown told Shelburne.  "Part of my strengths are as a manager.  I feel like I have a great handle on dealing with and handling relationships with anybody.  A relationship starts, in my opinion, with the word respect. I'm going to give respect, and hopefully if I'm in front of a pretty good human being, initially they'll give me respect back. Then in time, that respect will go to trust, which will be the foundation for our relationship.”

So, now we know how Brown feels and that he apparently met with Kobe and Vanessa Bryant in private and that Kobe told him (in private) that he was “on board.”

I personally don’t think Bryant needs to say anything about this hire publicly.  But, then, it wouldn’t be the Lakers if there wasn’t something to complain about.  In many ways, this team defines the very essence of the schizophrenic personality that makes up the city of Los Angeles.

And Kobe Bryant’s blessing of the team’s new head coach will allow thousands of affected fans to sleep better at night.  At least until the first game of the new season.