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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21: Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers confer during the game with the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on October 21, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings won 99-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
For the second straight game, Kobe Bryant showed Los Angeles what he could do as a coach. He was demonstrative and instructive on the court.
And, for the second straight game, the Los Angeles Lakers won.
With DeMarcus Cousins suspended for a verbal confrontation with San Antonio announcer Sean Elliot, the Lakers had an even more pronounced size advantage than normal. The Sacramento Kings fell behind late in the second quarter, and the Lakers never looked back.
As the Lakers played the Kings off the court, Bryant held the baton and orchestrated the quintet. He shared the ball to take advantage of matchups and finished with six assists.
He may never assume the title of "player/coach," but Bryant’s actions on the court were those of a coach: Kobe visibly instructed Darius Morris and Steve Blake during free-throws; he held the ball and pointed at teammates to move to certain spots during the game; and, most importantly, Kobe led by example with 20 points, six assists, six rebounds, with the team plus-18 with Kobe on the floor.
Kobe’s love affair with coaching has been well documented over the last couple seasons. There are tales of Mike Brown and Kobe breaking down film on airplane rides after hard losses. When Bryant was injured last season, he would find a way to sit in one of the assistant coach seats, rather than at the end of the bench or behind it like most injured players.
Officially, the Lakers are under the control of Bernie Bickerstaff, a man who has not been shy about wanting to be relieved of his duties sooner rather than later. With Bernie clearly not interested in auditioning for the job, Bryant has assumed significant interim-coaching duties.
"We are going out there and really playing pickup style basketball to be honest with you and just running a couple things," Bryant said after the win against the Kings. "When you are really out there freelancing, it forces you to communicate with each other."
No disrespect to Bernie Bickerstaff or Mike Brown, but when five-time champion Bryant orders his teammates to a spot on the floor or demands the ball, he gets his wishes without hesitation. Getting the Kobe death stare cannot be a pleasant experience.