Kobe Bryant faces a wall of media, second only in size this season to the contingency that covered the Knicks game, and answers a barrage of questions about his play down the stretch. Kobe’s knees are heavily iced while his feet are dipped into a large bucket of ice water. He sits with a dark towel draped around his shoulders, clearly spent after playing 40 minutes in which he took it upon himself to take over for his team in crunch time. Sometimes it works out for him.
Except this time he went 2-11 from the field in the second half. He forced the issue too much and allowed Dwyane Wade to get the better of him on both ends of the floor. He made a costly turnover when he lost the ball to Wade at the top of the key that yielded a back-breaking dunk for LeBron James.
His shots were ill-timed, none more so than the head-scratching play where he launched a shot immediately after the ball was inbounded with about a minute left in the game. About the only logical explanation for it is that he was unaware the shot clock was reset. Kobe insisted after the game it was simply a good look at the basket.
Why the mentality to do it at that point?
"Because I was going to make it."
But you were off-balance.
"I don’t care, I was going to make it anyway."
That’s your story, you’re going to stick to it?
"I don’t really care. It was. But I got fouled though, they missed it. It’s as simple as that."
After a few moments he gets asked again about that play. He’s getting annoyed at the line of questioning, stopping to ask someone holding a Flip video camera if he’s close enough for a good shot.
"Why are we making a big deal out of the time-out? I wasn’t that off-balance. That was a good shot. I had a good look. I should have been shooting three free throws. Period."
So the timing doesn’t matter?
"No. That’s a good look for me."
He argues about the non-calls that Wade got away with.
"Wade fouled the shit out of me. I couldn’t make that, he hit my whole arm. That’s why I went so short. They didn’t call it, it’s great defense. If you get away with it, it’s great defense. I should have been shooting three free throws.
"He was surprised that they didn’t call a foul. He came out and said, ‘I fouled the shit out of you.’"
Finally, a reporter asks if he was tired at the end of the game, searching for an explanation to Kobe’s poor play.
"No. Take a look at the replay before you ask these questions."
Almost as if to prove his point about an hour after the game has ended, Kobe does the unthinkable and goes out to shoot for another hour as three Heat ballboys fed him the ball over and over.
As if his past doesn’t prove already he’s not a champion, suddenly the narrative shifts away from the Heat’s victory to Kobe’s work ethic. Mission accomplished and well played.
Plenty of great players have played in this arena yet nobody, including Hall of Famers and perennial All-Stars, has done this stunt for a reason.
Kobe doesn’t suddenly decide to work on his shot in Milwaukee or in Sacramento. He has to do it in Miami with the national media coincidentally in town to cover the game. He claims to do this occasionally, yet we learn long into this season he hasn't been able to practice with his teammates either.
"I want what all men want. I just want it more." He dramatically texts Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski afterwards. Make no mistake, Kobe graciously allowed the media to interview him after the shootaround as well.
Here’s a better idea, why not ask Bynum and Gasol to stay with you and run some drills together?
It looked like that was the main problem down the stretch, and not just in this game. When your bigs pull a disappearing act, it should be Kobe’s duty to get them involved. Precisely because the defense has keyed on you as the main offensive threat should leave the big men (your most crucial advantage over the Heat) open as ever for more efficient shot attempts than 30-foot 3-point attempts.
This doesn’t mean Kobe has to stop being aggressive and look for his shots. But they need to be good looks at the basket and for that you need to be in rhythm with the rest of your team. As great as Kobe is, eventually confidence in yourself gives away to arrogance as his mind still thinks the body is as capable as ever to perform like it’s always been able to do.
It sure looks like a show pony move. Anyone who defends it apparently is unaware there is a private practice court in the arena if he desperately just had to work on his shot.
His jumper won’t improve in Dallas two days later because he hoisted them at midnight in Miami. His arms should have been tired enough after hogging the ball as much as he did in 48 minutes of actual gameplay. Now comes news that Kobe was unable to practice with his teammates the next day. No matter, his game was worked on after the Miami game without the need for the rest of his team to be present because everyone else was done with basketball for the night. What losers.
Asked by a reporter before the impromptu shootaround about the Laker’s play down the stretch, Kobe softly responds.
"I think we did a lot of good things but we just can’t give points in the paint at the end of the game."
Silence follows as most of us actually think he said that the Lakers couldn’t "get" points in the paint. It would have been the most honest response to a question so far in this interview in which he won’t budge from his stubborn point of view on the game.
Kobe shakes his head, he confirms he said "give" points in the paint. Too bad, because the Lakers defense wasn’t horrible like their offensive execution was. As the player with the ball in his hands, that’s on Kobe.
Shooting more jumpers after the game wasn’t going to address his poor shot selection and decision making in this game. Lord knows this very arena has seen plenty of that from the home team in crunch time and it’s mostly as a result of one player trying to do everything himself.
Kobe’s solitary act for the cameras and the media confirmed that attitude won’t stop after the game either.