New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers

Smush Parker: Kobe Bryant refused to talk to me during Lakers practices

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Kobe Bryant has never been kind to Smush Parker.

So, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Parker, speaking to Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones on ESPN’s Highly Questionable, talked about his experience playing for Kobe Bryant’s Lakers:

Parker:

He told me one day at practice – I tried to talk to him outside of basketball, about football. And he looked at me in practice and was dead serious and said, ‘You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.’

What a ridiculous way to treat someone.

Worse, Kobe hasn’t stopped demeaning his teammates this way.

Michael Jordan famously demanded excellence from his teammates by being a jerk to them until they reached his competitive level. It mostly worked, and the players who couldn’t handle it were weeded out of Chicago. I’m sure Kobe, to some degree, was trying to do the same with Parker.

But now that Kobe can barely get on the court, his act wears thin more quickly.

Parker had no choice but to take the scorn. It was Kobe’s team, and not only did everyone know it, Kobe earned that distinction by outworking and out-producing everyone on the court.

Unless Kobe regains his form, he better cut out this junk. His teammates won’t respond to it forever.

Smush Parker says he stopped passing Kobe Bryant the ball

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
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Kobe Bryant reverted to one of his favorite past times the other day, smacking around Smush Parker like his own personal piñata. He said Smush shouldn’t have been in the NBA but the Lakers were cheap and “let him walk on.” Which is how it felt.

But Smush — playing in China the past couple years — is convinced what did him in with the Lakers was not his below average play (PERs of 13.4 and 11.6 in two years) but rather that he wouldn’t kiss Kobe’s… ring. We’ll say ring.

Parker went on Hard 2 Guard Internet radio and said Kobe was a terrible teammate and that was the real problem. Larry Brown Sports listened to the interview and gives us highlights.

“You can’t knock the man’s legacy, you can’t knock what he’s done in basketball. His work ethic is tremendous. There’s not an ounce of hate in my blood whatsoever. The guy can play basketball — you’ve seen that throughout his career.

“What I don’t like about him is the man that he is. His personality. How he treats people. I don’t like that side of Kobe Bryant….

“The reason I wasn’t a Laker after my second year is because I didn’t bow down to [Kobe]. I didn’t kiss his a–. I wasn’t kissing his feet. Quite frankly, towards the end of the second season, I stopped passing him the ball. I stopped giving him the ball. I started looking him off.”

Smush tells stories, like the team going out for a bonding dinner before a playoff series against Phoenix and Kobe sitting at his own table with his security guards. Which does sound very Kobe. He’s gruff.

Two points here. First, Kobe was aloof and was not a great team leader at that time, something he has admitted he has worked to change. He has said he tried to hang out more with guys on the road. But you know what Smush — so what? It’s the NBA, you don’t have to like the guy, but when he’s clear and away the best player on the team you still have to pass him the ball. Be professional. Kobe only really talks with guys he respects. He’s more likely to have dinner or even a conversation with Steve Nash than Smush Parker. (Of course, Steve Nash is an old-school pro who couldn’t really care less if Kobe doesn’t talk to him.)

Second, Parker wants to know why if he doesn’t belong in the NBA why he was the third leading scorer on those Lakers teams, why he put up stats? Frankly, because those teams sucked and he had the ball so he got to shoot 10 times a game. Look who finished behind Parker in scoring on those teams — Chris Mihm, Brian Cook, Kwame Brown, Laron Profit and so on. Smush got his moment by default. Parker wasn’t efficient and didn’t make good decisions, but he was still the best option Phil Jackson had on that team.

I say to this day that Phil Jackson taking a team that started Smush Parker and Kwame Brown and getting them to the playoffs may have been his most impressive coaching job.

Kobe doesn’t really miss Smush Parker, Kwame Brown

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
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Kobe Bryant sounds like a professional poker player here — even guys sitting around wearing World Series of Poker bracelets will remember and talk about their bad beats more eagerly than their tournament wins.

Kobe has spent his career playing with Shaquille O’Neal, Glenn Rice, Robert Horry, Pau Gasol, and now Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. His list of teammates could form an All-Star team.

But what he remembers often is the bad years. And he talked about that 2005-06 Lakers team before Wednesday’s exhibition (which Kobe skipped). Via the Orange County Register:

“I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team,” Bryant said before Wednesday’s 93-75 exhibition loss to Portland. “I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown…”

Bryant continued, taking aim at his favorite whipping boy, Parker, calling him “the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on.”

Parker doesn’t like Kobe either. Problem for Smush is that in America the winners get to write the history, and Parker can’t win this fight.

Quote of the Day: Kobe loves Fisher, taking shots at Smush

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
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“You mean when I was throwing to Smush? I shot w/ three mother **** on me. That’s the difference. Now I only shoot w/ one, maybe two.”

—Kobe Bryant, on whether he missed Derek Fisher when he left the Lakers in 2004 (via the LA Times Mark Medina on twitter. Fisher stepped up and hit the game-sealing jumper in the Lakers win over Portland Sunday night. Two quick adds here. First, one of the rules of thumb with Kobe is you know he is being himself and honest when curse words casually slip into the conversation like this. Second, Kobe may be a little ticked at Smush Parker’s play (read: 2006 playoffs) but he more likely is ticked about Smush calling Kobe selfish during an interview while Smush was playing in Greece. Kobe does not forget personal slights so easily.

Kobe Bryant on how teams should see Warriors: “‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 03:  Retired NBA Champion, CEO, Kobe Inc., Kobe Bryant speaks onstage during 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton on May 03, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.

His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).

“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”

Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.

We’re going to miss Kobe.