If you saw this quote from Lakers coach Phil Jackson after Sunday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, you might have thought Jackson was placing blame for their defeat on Kobe Bryant. “We got behind in the third quarter on some stupid play, poor passing, poor transition defense, and Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one on one. It takes the rest of the guys out and as a consequence it didn’t get back. It got us back a little bit, it gave us a little bit of a run, but we couldn’t sustain it.”
What did Jackson mean by that? Well, maybe not what it seemed at first glance. Here’s what he said today after practice: “When the game starts getting out of hand, Kobe will crank it up, not screw it up — I used the term screw it up, not in terms of being in error or a mistake, but crank it up another notch to try and get us back in ballgames. That’s our fourth-quarter action. That’s how we win ballgames. When they have to crank it up in the third quarter, there’s not much left in the gas tank after that.”
“He was right,” he said of Jackson. “I totally blew up the offense, but I did it intentionally because I felt like we needed to get something started. What we were doing wasn’t working. I tried to get it kick-started. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s my responsibility. When it works out, great. When it doesn’t, I’ll take the criticism for it. But I have a thick enough skin to do that.”
Bryant also acknowledged the complaints of the fans.
“They have a right to boo,” he said. “We’ve also fed them a lot of tacos.”
Bryant referred to the team’s long-running promotion in which fans at Staples Center receive two coupons for free tacos at a fast-food outlet each time the Lakers win and hold the opposition to less than 100 points.