Kobe Bryant is the one guy who should've known better.
He should've been shouting reminders to Lakers management that winning NBA championships is more about leading than running, managing than scoring and rocking fragile egos than rolling to the hoop.
Bryant instead said on the Lakers' day of reckoning that he would be fine with Phil Jackson or Mike D'Antoni – Bryant subconsciously indulging his ego's belief, just like two out of three Busses did, that he was winner enough not to have to go running to Jackson again.
It's not Bryant's job to run the front office, but here the Lakers now sit in a stunningly sad post-Mike Brown era: It's not just their 9-13 record. It's utter confusion not just for D'Antoni, but for Bryant, who has done more winning by fivefold than D'Antoni in the NBA.
Now the Lakers are in New York, site of D'Antoni's failure on the grandest stage, to face the Knicks team he left but is now 16-5 and suddenly maximizing the headstrong superstar, Carmelo Anthony, the way Jackson has proved so many times he can.
The good news for the Lakers is that they bottomed out Tuesday night in Cleveland. They're finally feeling enough fire to get their rear in gear – to paraphrase George Mumford, one of Jackson's mental gurus – and will do something different. With heightened focus, they'll probably even beat the Knicks on Thursday night, but the desire to listen better and work harder has so far failed to accompany the freedom that D'Antoni has provided in place of Brown's rigidity.
D'Antoni's greatest mistake has been to allow that it's OK to wait for Steve Nash to come back and not immediately get down and dirty about playing ball – Nash's injury becoming an ever-ready excuse that has been the team's crutch far more than its hope.
Without Phil, Kobe seeks Lakers' Zen
Orange County Register | Dec 13