UPDATE---Sunday April 15---It was announced that Kobe Bryant will miss his fifth consecutive game, to rest his bruised shin. The Lakers take on the NBA champs Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center this afternoon.
The Lakers won another game Friday night, this time against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center 103-97. Once again Kobe Bryant was not in his #24 uniform, but cut a fashion-forward figure in well-tailored and expensive street clothes while sitting on the bench.
The Lakers were also without head coach Mike Brown. It was announced a few minutes prior to the tip-off that Brown would be absent attending to a personal issue and the speculation ran rampant.
Coach Brown had been with the team, including pre-game interviews with media when he just disappeared. The Lakers media director John Black would go into no detail and neither would the assistant coaches.
Instead of Brown, former Detroit Pistons coach and current Mike Brown assistant, John Kuester was deputized to run the game plan on Friday.
Kuester had filled in once before during a one-game suspension served by Brown in January. That game was a loss for the Lakers but Friday night the team continued to find its way without Kobe Bryant winning their third straight without the Mamba.
Bryant has been of help to the players and coaches while he's healing, if in no other way than speaking to them on the bench, during huddles and flinging a few comments to them while they are executing plays on the court.
It is a side to him that fans have not seen much, if at all and it caught the attention of them as well as television and radio play-by-play announcers.
It's not an angry or judgmental Bryant that the cameras catch. He is guiding the young players through explanations given patiently while the game is being played.
He becomes another assistant-coach to the starters and veterans, sharing things that he has seen from the sidelines and offering suggestions about how to attack a defense or position them for an easier look at the basket.
When Mike Brown returned to practice on Saturday, he discussed the pleasure he gets from seeing his team of assistants, including the new one, take over and be successful. "Whether he's talking to me or talking to somebody else or one of our players, he helps out a lot. The stuff that he says, in my opinion, is highly valuable," Brown said.
Brown did not go into any explanation at all about his absence on Friday, saying, "It's a personal family matter and I'm going to leave it at that."
Is the coaching Kobe something we should look forward to when his playing days are over? Brown doesn't think so and the reason is related to Bryant's greatness as a player.
"At times, greatness can't understand why others don't get it as easily as he may," he said. "I think that would be his biggest hurdle. If he could deal with that, then he'd have a lot to offer to the coaching world."
It is the plight of another Lakers great, Magic Johnson. After he retired from the game, Johnson was given the opportunity to coach for a month at the end of the 1993-94 season, replacing the fired Randy Pfund. The team lost five of its first six under Johnson and would end up 5-11 during his short tenure.
Magic had seen enough for him to know that as a once in a generation player, he could not tolerate the lack of discipline and work ethic shown by some on the team, who would not or could not respond to his direction. It wouldn't be surprising if the same thing would doom Kobe Bryant as a coach.
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