The Los Angeles Lakers lost just their fourth home game of the season on Sunday night at the Staples Center, but that wasn't the biggest problem that came out of their defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. In fact, it gets worse when looking at the controversy-in-waiting that all but began when head coach Mike Brown subbed Kobe Bryant out of a still-winnable game midway through the fourth quarter.
The Lakers had cut the Grizzlies' lead to three points in the third quarter on the back of a red-hot Kobe Bryant -- the proof is in this video -- but Memphis was able to regain momentum and eventually increased its lead to 14 points with 5:45 left in the game. At that point, instead of telling the Black Mamba to put his teammates on his back, Brown decided to put his team's best player on the bench.
Bryant was visibly upset as Brown decided to sub in Metta World Peace and, according to the ESPN broadcast, the Artist Formerly Known As Ron Artest was confused by the decision, too. It wasn't a mistake by Brown, though, according to his comments in the post-game press conference.
Mike Brown on Kobe being on the bench: "I just decided to make a sub. I wanted to make a sub at the time so I did."- Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 26, 2012
Mike Brown usually has a detailed explanation for every decision he makes. "I decided to make sub" likely means he's as angry as Kobe.- Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 26, 2012
Those quotes are interesting -- and quite possibly not worth reading into, if one decides to listen to Bryant's comments as well:
Kobe on sitting late in 4Q: "if you're looking for a story I'm not going to give it to you." Said leaders shouldn't question coach.- J.A. Adande (@jadande) March 26, 2012
That's a pretty diplomatic answer from a player who's been around the block, but is it the right answer? Considering Bryant was still on the bench when the Lakers cut the deficit to just eight points, isn't someone expected to question Brown's decision-making as he futzes with the Los Angeles rotation while working Ramon Sessions in to more minutes?
There's a good chance stories are going to emerge from "sources with knowledge of the situation" if both Bryant and Brown continue to stay mum on the matter, so in a way it doesn't really matter what Bryant or Brown had to say.
Once the powers that be read into the comments -- and possibly take the same stance Markazi did by tweeting both Brown and Bryant are angry -- it'll be interesting to see if a full-on controversy erupts in Laker Land.
Or, thanks to the post-game comments, has it already happened?