Two For The Show
Midway through the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 112-110 win over the Rockets Tuesday, with the Lakers up 93-91, Kobe backed the ball down on the right block against Houston's Kevin Martin. He was deliberate, arching his back twice, drawing attention from defenders on the perimeter. But he had no intention of shooting the ball. His eyes were on Shannon Brown, who was rotating into open space 26 feet from the basket near the top of the key.
"He drew everybody in and looked everybody off," Brown said, smiling in the postgame locker room.
It was only opening night, but there was a little something Jordan-to-Kerr about the moment; the go-to guy going to somebody else at crunch time. A gesture of trust. A signal. I believe in you. You got this.
Brown says Kobe has looked out for him from the first day he joined the Lakers: "He was the first one to joke with me, to make me laugh. It was like, cool, they want me here."
But this wasn't the vet taking the kid under his wing. This was the best closer in the game relying on a partner, collaborating. There was balance in it. Symmetry. And strategy too: Together they worked against the grain of the defense's expectations.
"We made eye contact," Brown said. "He knew I was coming and I knew he was coming to me."
After Brown hit another big three moments later (this one off a feed from Steve Blake), Kobe embraced him at mid-court in celebration and whispered something to him beneath the roar of the crowd.
"I told him hell of a shot," Kobe said later. "He's playing extremely well."
Kobe is an elite talent and Brown is still trying to prove he can be a difference-maker in this league, but they're connecting; Brown calls it a "special bond." Kobe calls Shannon a "brother."
And if the late-game sequence Tuesday was any indication, that's more than a nice back story, it's a developing weapon for the Lakers.