While the rest of the world was busy feting Kobe Bryant for surpassing the great Jerry West on the all-time scoring list last night in Memphis, his teammate Pau Gasol stewed over the lack of touches he received in the loss (only ten shot attempts compared to KB’s 28), indicating a growing frustration with his role within the Laker offense.
So, is this Kobe vs. Shaq, the remix? Probably not — Gasol isn’t nearly as combative or willing to fight Bryant for top dog status as O’Neal was — but it’s certainly something worth keeping an eye on.
The OC Register tried to capture Pau’s sullen mood last night:
Gasol has on several occasions offered passive-aggressive comments about not getting the ball enough after Lakers losses in the past. This time, the comments leaned a little harder toward aggressive, particularly when it came to Bryant.
Gasol was asked about Bryant’s new record and offered politically correct – and believably authentic – commentary (“I’m proud of him; I congratulate him”) before adding the kicker: “Now we can focus on winning games again.” Bryant and Gasol have a good relationship, no doubt. There is a fundamental mutual respect, a shared obsession with the intricacies of the game and a necessary understanding that Bryant is the alpha male and Gasol is not.
Bear in mind that Phil Jackson was a little miffed at Bryant on his historic night, too. Jackson told the team at halftime, when Bryant had 23 of the Lakers’ 50 points, that Bryant was “forcing the action.” Jackson also said in the halftime locker room, alluding to the 29 points Bryant needed in the game to pass Jerry West: “Let’s get him over the hump, so we can play team ball again.”
Bryant, unlike of late, actually shot spectacularly well last night (57% from the field); it’s just that he took way too many shots. To date, Kobe is averaging more shot attempts than anyone else in the NBA.
When Shaq was traded to Miami following the calamitous 2004 season, Kobe demanded that Laker management get him the help he needed to win titles. They eventually came through for him, and then some.
It’s important for Bryant to remember that his teammates — especially the big fellas — can play a little, and that he doesn’t have to try and do everything himself each night.