So with 5:52 to go in the 4th quarter of the Lakers' loss to Memphis Sunday night, the following happens:

  • Kobe Bryant misses a jumper. 
  • The Grizzlies outlet the long rebound immediately and wind up with a 3-on-none which Zach Randolph finished. 
  • The Lakers call timeout.
  • Kobe Bryant angrily punches a chair in disgust headed to the bench. 
  • After the brodcast returns from the timeout, ESPN reports the above anecdote. 
  • Bryant remains on the bench, going to the scorer's table once and then heading back to the bench at one point.
  • Bryant finally checks back in with 1:51 to go and the Grizzlies up 9. 
  • Bryant is unable to lead a comeback and is blocked by Tony Allen.
  • The Grizzlies run out the clock and pick up a 102-96 win.
After the game, Bryant refused to comment on the situation to reporters. From the Los Angeles Times

"It's his decision to make," Bryant said. "If you guys are looking for a story, I'm not going to contribute to it. I can't sit here and criticize the decision. As leader of this ball club, it's something I can't afford to do. I've got to have his back. I've had his back the whole season. I can't start doing something crazy now. It doesn't make any sense."

Brown said he "probably won't" discuss it with Bryant.

"I treat him the same as everybody most of the time," Brown said. "Obviously he's a superstar. And when you have superstars, you try to give them some leeway because they've been there and done that. But if I make a sub for somebody I don't feel like I always have to go explain to them why I made a sub."

via Lakers loss doesn't sit well with Kobe -

Credit Bryant for not doing what would have been very easy to do and blow up to the media over the Lakers' head coach in his first season benching the five-time champion, former MVP late in the 4th quarter. But this isn't going to sit well. You don't bench Kobe Bryant in the 4th of a close game You just don't. 

It would be one thing if Bryant had been having an awful game. But Bryant was 7-14 at the time, wasn't chucking up shots, and he wasn't the problem defensively. If you're going to pull that card you have to pull it when Bryant goes hero mode, not when he's been playing in the flow of the game. And if you do pull that card?

You have to mount a comeback. Andrew Bynum made several plays to cut the lead, but the Grizzlies just had their number and the Lakers' defense was overwhelmed as it was for much of the night.

Bryant usually rests to start the fourth quarter, but played the first six minutes of the quarter instead. There's any number of reasons for Brown to have put Bryant out but the timing of the move, where it was in the game, after Bryant's reaction on the bench heading to the timeout, his reaction afterwards where he sat on the far end of the bench away from Brown, and the fact the team was still within striking distance is simply boggling.

Don't expect this story to fade quietly into the night.