When team USA scrimmaged this summer, Kobe Bryant often lined up opposite Russell Westbrook to guard him. To challenge him. And in vintage Kobe fashion, he talked a lot of smack.
Did you watch the first half of the Lakers loss to the Thunder Friday night? When Westbrook went off for 27 points and hit five three pointers in the first 24 minutes? Think he was a little fired up? Combine that with Westbrook being covered by Chris Duhon and you have a point explosion.
Ric Bucher of CSNBayArea.com says both Westbrook and Kevin Durant have a little extra motivation against the Lakers because Kobe wouldn’t stop talking during the Olympics.
…source says the Black Mamba talked relentless smack during the Olympics that the Thunder stars weren’t going back to the Finals after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and then added Dwight Howard right before the U.S. played Spain for the gold medal. Kobe also made a point of guarding Westbrook during practices and pumping him up, the theory being that he wanted to incite Russ to bump heads with KD over who the team’s best player is. (If you think that’s too conspiratorial to be real, you don’t know Kobe.) KD, in particular, got tired of hearing him. For what it’s worth: KD and Westbrook’s combined 69 points is the highest single-game total they’ve posted this season.
I’d take this with a little salt. Durant and Westbrook were fired up to play the Lakers and lately the Lakers defense looks like it consists of cardboard cutouts of the players. They were likely to have a big night no matter what.
But is it really hard to picture Kobe pushing and pushing and the more mild-mannered Durant getting peeved?
I bet Kobe wasn’t talking much Friday night. He’s got his own problems to worry about right now.