Put Me in Coach
Kobe Bryant steps up on the sideline.
Coach Bryant. Has a nice ring to it.
The head honcho we’re referring to is Kobe Bryant, of course. Out with a shin injury for the last couple weeks, he’s made the most of his time on the sidelines as a sidekick, of sorts, to Mike Brown and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers coaching staff.
A fifth assistant coach, if you will.
A well-dressed fifth assistant.
Bryant found a way to make an impact in Sunday’s 112-108 overtime victory over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks without being in uniform or lacing them up. Instead, he was suited and booted in a fresh suit, charcoal in color. Black dress shoes, pressed white shirt, purple tie and matching pocket square completed the red carpet-worthy gear.
Ramon Sessions said: “That’s Coach Bryant now. He’s like a coach over there. He’s over there helping everybody out and drawing stuff up on the board. He’s pulling for us over on the side and he’s helping us out tremendously.”
Matt Barnes said: “He’s more talkative as a coach. He knows the game so well. For him to be able to sit back, he sees things during the game. But to sit back and see the whole game, the little parts that he adds to it, helps everybody.”
Andrew Bynum said: “He’s coming up with plays, watching things that are going on and just telling us where they’re coming from.”
A head coaching gig does not appear to be Bryant’s immediate future. Making a long-awaited return to the court is the first order of business.
Bryant has missed the past five games. He won’t rush him back before he’s ready. Nevertheless, the plan is for a return before postseason play.
“I played with it for like a week and a half and the problem wasn’t the first two quarters, it was the last two, the third and the fourth quarters,” Bryant said. “I literally had a hard time walking. It’s feeling a lot better. I’ll definitely be back well before the playoffs. It’s important to get a rhythm and try to get things in sync a little bit and find a little groove.”
Worth noting is that Bryant and the Lakers have five games remaining in the regular season, including Tuesday’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs.
Time is of the essence at this stage of the game.
And time is running out for the player-coach.
“Hopefully, it helps him going into the Playoffs a lot fresher, a lot more energized,” Brown said. “We played him a lot of minutes this year, and the season was shortened, and he played obviously a lot of games. So come playoff time, hopefully the rest right now will re-energize him and get his juices flowing for a long Playoff run.”
In the meantime, it’s reasonable to expect Bryant being back on the bench. Not at the end of the bench either, with the reserves. His spot is where the coaches post up, right next to assistants Quin Snyder, John Kuester, Chuck Person and Darvin Ham.
Rest assured, Bryant will stick out like a sore thumb. In a good way, mind you. He’ll likely be the one dressed to the nines. Whispers in the Lakers locker room about how Bryant is the best-dressed coach in the League have already started to circulate. With regards to style, Snyder, Kuester, Person and Ham might have to step up their respective games.
Bryant must work on his punctuality, though.
He showed up on the sidelines midway through the first quarter against the Mavericks on Sunday, a no-no in Brown’s book for any of his assistants.
“He’d get a fine for that,” Brown said to reporters asking about Bryant’s perceived coaching role during the news conference after the game.
“He’s so intelligent,” Brown said of Bryant’s bench demeanor. “He’s got such a great feel for the game, 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.
“When you have a great player like Kobe, where things mentally and physically although he works his tail, it comes easier to him than others,” Brown added. “At times, greatness can’t understand why others don’t get it as easily as he may. 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.”
Coach Bryant. The moniker could end up sticking.