The Lakers don't lose very often, so when they do there's usually very specific reason why. It could be a last-second shot by their opponent, a lack of energy at the start, or a defensive lapse by one of their players in a critical situation. Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, all three of those things happened to the Lakers, but the defensive breakdown by Lamar Odom was what had Kobe Bryant all fired up near the end of the first overtime.
With the Lakers leading by three -- and Bryant having just fouled out -- all L.A. wanted to do was not give up a three-point attempt that could tie the game. The play was run for Boris Diaw (Odom's man) to get him an open look, and began with Raymond Felton driving to the lane to try to draw the defense. It worked: Odom obliged by moving over to cut off the penetration, and in doing so left Diaw alone to receive the pass and hit the game-tying three-pointer.
Kevin Ding of the OC Registerexplains Kobe's somewhat demonstrative reaction:
Even before Felton’s kick-out pass reached the open Diaw’s hands, Bryant on the bench was contorting his face in confusion and raising his palms in disbelief at what Odom had done.
When Diaw’s 3-point shot dropped to tie the game, Bryant became so enraged that he threw an imaginary fastball at Odom’s head. It was astonishing that Bryant managed to hold on to the towel in his right hand given the ferocity with which he whipped his arm in Odom’s direction, but the message of the brush-back pitch was clearly sent.
The first chance he got at the next timeout, Bryant was out there near midcourt to get the first disparaging word into Odom’s ear.
It's always tough for the leader of the team to know when to admonish his teammates for a mistake, but Kobe likely couldn't contain his emotions at the time. And the words didn't exactly do anything to correct Odom's mindset, as he went against his coach's instructions on the offensive end late in the second overtime once the Lakers got down. He forced a tough shot -- which he missed -- and Bryant was seen shaking his head in disgust.
Kobe was very short with his answers to the media's questions after the game, but Lamar made a veiled reference to Kobe's criticism, and said that it wasn't something he necessarily needed to hear at the time.
“To me, toward the end of the game, we were overreacting a little bit as far as when they scored or we didn’t get a loose ball,” Odom said. “We could’ve kept each other up a little more. We tend to stay a little cooler, a little calm. I don’t think we did that tonight.”
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If Odom wants to see cheerleading, well, that's what the Laker Girls are for. When you botch a key defensive play that costs your team a chance at a victory -- especially after the team's star had done everything he could to give the Lakers a chance to win -- don't be surprised if he has some less than encouraging words for you.
Kobe wasn't alone in his displeasure with Odom. Phil Jackson, never afraid to poke or prod his players through the media, gave the press this parting shot as he ended his post-game remarks:
“Unfortunately, it fell right in Lamar’s lap tonight.”