Archive for Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Bryant popular TV attraction

December 26, 2000


— Kobe Bryant has replaced Michael Jordan as the player NBC wants to showcase and whom fans want to watch on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day still means Phil Jackson has to work, which is what happens in the NBA when you're going for a championship and have the biggest star in the game on your team.

Jackson did in Chicago, and he does again in L.A. Kobe Bryant came into Monday's national TV game the biggest star in the league after scoring at least 40 points twice last week as the Lakers swept a four-game trip, all against teams with winning records.

"We double-teamed him, we triple-teamed him, we tried everything," Dallas coach Don Nelson said after Bryant carried the Lakers with 35 points against the hot Mavericks.

"We're seeing a very special player in Kobe Bryant. We've seen them all, and at this particular time he is the best player in the league.

"Without question there is nobody as good as he is right now. I know he has all those comparisons with Michael Jordan, but at this stage of his career, at his age (22) I've never seen a player any better."

There has been some concern in Los Angeles that Bryant is surpassing 2000 MVP Shaquille O'Neal, and O'Neal isn't happy about it.

"It hasn't been a passion of his like it was last yearhe hasn't been as passionate about the game," Jackson said of Shaq.

But Bryant has become the focus of the offense, the late-game go-to guy with O'Neal still unable to make free throws consistently.

Jackson criticized Bryant earlier this season for selfish play, but there was none of that on the trip after Bryant averaged 35.8 points and shot 56 percent.

"It's been fun," Bryant said.

Two for the books: They are two coaches who don't get much credit or notice, even if they and Chuck Daly were the only coaches other than Phil Jackson with NBA championship rings in the '90s.

But Houston's Rudy Tomjanovich and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich passed significant milestones last week.

Perhaps they don't get noticed because their teams just play consistently, their players don't complain and there's rarely controversy on their teams. They run professional organizations, somewhat rare in today's NBA.

"You change, you adjust, you find new ways," said Tomjanovich, who has made the transition from a center-oriented team built around Hakeem Olajuwon to a guard-oriented team built around Steve Francis.

Tomjanovich registered his 400th career win, becoming the ninth quickest to that total in NBA history.

Popovich became the winningest coach in Spurs history. Like Tomjanovich, he has a philosophy, and he has been able to relate with players without losing control.

"He's definitely taken the stance where he is really open to a lot of ideas," Spurs forward Sean Elliott said. "And he'll try them too."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.