With less than a minute to go in the Lakers' pivotal Game 4 against the Thunder, Pau Gasol rolled from a screen to an open space about 16 feet from the rim, and Kobe Bryant fed him a nice pass. But instead of popping the soft midrange jumper he used to help the Lakers to two titles, Gasol looked up and tried to throw a cross-court pass to Metta World Peace; Kevin Durant intercepted it, and the turnover would lead to his game-winning three.
For all of this, Gasol got to be the recipient of Bryant's latest blast of criticism:
"Just a bad read on Pau's part," Bryant said.
"Pau's got to be more assertive," Bryant said. "He's the guy they're leaving [open]. When he's catching the ball, he's looking to pass. He's got to be aggressive. He's got to shoot the ball or drive the ball to the basket. He will be next game."
Kobe taking his teammates to task is nothing new: he famously ripped Andrew Bynum, pressuring Lakers management to get him out of town or bring help to the Los Angeles roster while struggling in the hinterland in the post-Shaquille O'Neal era. He's also criticized Gasol before, and indirectly criticized all of his teammates midway through the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs while praising World Peace. And Gasol has struggled against the Thunder this series, never topping 14 points in a game and posting an anemic 10 points and five rebounds in Game 4.
But Kobe doing that on the brink of elimination — against a team that the Lakers have faltered against twice in the clutch, blowing late leads in Game 2 and Game 4 — while struggling from the field (a woeful 37-for-96 in this series) is also clever legerdemain on his part. Why blame Kobe, always candid with the media if not always precisely honest, when he's designing a convenient narrative that doesn't require blaming him?