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News » Bryant to the rescue

Bryant to the rescue

Bryant to the rescue
Kobe Bryant started politicking early in the fourth quarter Tuesday night at the Ford Center. For all we know, he was pleading in song to Laker coach Phil Jackson.

Put me in, coach, I'm ready to play, today.

Oh, Kobe had been playing Tuesday night at the Ford Center. But he also has to sit sometimes. Gotta rest that 30-year-old body that has posted so many NBA miles.

Two more minutes, Jackson said. Then one more minute.

Finally, the green light. The green light and the ball game.

Bryant re-entered the game and did what superstars are supposed to do but did what no one else on earth does with his frequency.

Took over the ball game. Kobe scored on four straight possessions, gave the Lakers a cushion and the Thunder went home a 107-93 loser.

"I had to check myself in," Kobe said with a grin.

But the truth is, few NBA relationships are on the level of Jackson and Kobe, legendary coach and epic player.

Jackson knows what Kobe needs. He also knows that Kobe knows what Kobe needs, which is occasional rest, but not too much, and an insatiable need to take over a game that hangs in the balance.

"Phil trusts my judgment," Kobe said. "I know how my body feels."

Hard to believe, but this is Kobe's 13th NBA season. He's still a relatively young player, but he's got 1,075 pro games, counting playoffs, on his tires. That's why Jackson has to be careful. Not only to not wear out Kobe, but also not to let him sit too long.

"With him, we have to feel it out," Jackson said. After four or five game minutes, "He starts stiffening up. Get him back in, he's still loose, greased up and ready to go."

Kobe certainly was greased. With dozens of fans in the sellout crowd of 19,136 sporting Laker jerseys, Kobe scored 15 fourth-quarter points as LA spurted away from a 79-77 lead with 9:33 left.

"It kept getting stickier as it went along," Jackson said.

But he's coaching a special team. How special? So special, the Lakers are 10-1 since losing center Andrew Bynum to a knee injury. So special, Jackson will pull not just Kobe, but three other starters at the same time.

The Lakers' second-quarter spurt came with Pau Gasol and four reserves on the court.

Imagine Thunder coach Scott Brooks pulling not just Kevin Durant, but any combination of three other starters, too.

Chaos would ensue, not that it doesn't anyway, a good part of the time. Yet the deep and talented and fundamental Lakers carry on just fine. And when things do get hairy - "They got close," Gasol said. "They get real close." - Jackson summons Kobe to the rescue.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 27, 2009


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