Coach Bryant? - As unbelievable as that sounds, there are those who say they believe that Bryant is already a great coach. They are conveniently forgetting that for about 16 years, he was one of the most selfish athletes to ever play in the NBA. He took most of the shots, and the ball was nearly always in his hands. He reserved the right to take the last shot, if the outcome of the game was on the line. When he was successful, the fans gave him most of the credit for winning close games. Bryant is also known as a ball hog. This is a person who keeps the ball most of the time, and shoots more shots than anyone else. I won't say that Bryant felt selfish, but I do believe that he felt entitled. This sense of entitlement allowed him to do anything that he wanted to do, and then to justify it in his own mind.
Bryant has always considered himself to be indispensable in terms of the success of the Lakers. He would often ignore the advice of his coaches, and then pursue another path that might give him the victory. He decided when he was going to play, and how long he would stay in the game. Most of the players and coaches on the team are intimidated by Bryant, and he thoroughly enjoys his role as the unquestioned star of the team, and as the Lord Emperor of Los Angeles.
In the past, he has attempted to play in all of the games. It appears that he felt that the team would not win many games if he was not playing. So, he continued to play after his nose was broken, and also when his left wrist was fractured. In his own mind, he was the difference between victory and defeat.
However, his latest injury has caused him to miss five games. It was generally assumed that, without Bryant, the team would lose all five games. But, to the amazement of many, they have won four out of five. Since an extra loss or two would not keep the Lakers out of the Playoffs, I think that Bryant would have been satisfied to suffer the losses, if they validated his greatness as a player. After all, they can't win without him, right?
To the amazement of many, the team continued to win, even though Bryant did not participate in the games. Everyone on the team was playing better, and the victories were piling up. This hardly seemed to be possible. A major part of the spotlight was now focused on rising star, Andrew Bynum. So, Bryant quickly reinvented himself as the wise, patient, and kindly coach. During the timeouts, he could be seen chatting with the players. Later, after their victories, they gave him much thanks for his exemplary coaching skills. Their statements may have been truthful, but what else could they have said? He is still Kobe, and they are still afraid of him.
Is it possible that Bryant is now feeling the cold breath of Father Time on the back of his neck? Is he disappointed that the team is playing as well as it has? If he has indeed decided to be a fan friendly superstar, then it was wise of him to not wait any longer.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are just across the hall.