Mike D'Antoni, probably advising Kobe Bryant
on a matter of defense. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
By Rob Mahoney
When Kobe Bryant plays defense off the ball, he can't be bothered with foolish notions of diligence or discipline. He simply puts years of experience and reinforced bad habits into action and loses himself completely in the moment. He pursues the ball endlessly, like a house cat chasing after a laser pointer, and though he may wind up making ridiculous gambles with startling frequency, the turnovers he is able to create typically wind up generating uncontested scoring opportunities for the Lakers.
All of that considered, Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni was put in a tough spot when asked specifically about how Bryant defends off the ball -- a sore spot in any season, but one that's been particularly harmful to L.A.'s altogether disorganized defense this year. This was his response, in all of its bumbling glory, courtesy of ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin:
It's essentially the Lakers' company policy to avoid publicly criticizing Bryant at all costs -- even if the head coach winds up tripping over himself in an attempt to sidestep the question as a result. It's no matter, really; D'Antoni said more than enough with his pauses, as if an accurate description of Bryant's off-ball defense needed to be articulated at all at this point. It's simply a fact of life: the sun rises, the tides recede, and Bryant cheats over from the weak side.