AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown would like to think he knows an MVP when he sees one. He did, after all, coach LeBron James in his two MVP seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This year he believes he's seeing another MVP-caliber season from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
"He definitely should be involved in the MVP talks," Brown said. "I think it's hilarious that he's not. You talk about everything new in a shortened season and everybody saying he's 85 years old or whatever they're saying and he's leading the league in scoring.
"He's efficient with it. He has this team sitting in a pretty good position. And I truly believe this team, with a guy like that, can be very dangerous come playoff time. There's no doubt in my mind that Kobe Bryant should be mentioned in the MVP talk."
Despite a painful wrist injury that he probably should have had surgery on at the beginning of the season, and now a concussion and nasal fracture suffered in the All-Star Game, Bryant, 33, is leading the league in scoring with 28.9 points a game. He's also averaging 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 38 minutes a game. In his lone MVP season of 2008, Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
"It's everything," Brown said. "I mean, who plays with the injuries that he's played with? Who puts up the numbers that he puts up? Who goes through the amount of changes that have happened to his team in the shortened season? Nobody. Name one person that has played with the injuries and done what he's done in the history of the game. Not in the last four years or three years, in the history of the game."
Bryant's numbers this season aren't a lot different from his career averages of 25.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists, but Brown says it's not about his statistics. For Brown, it's about how he's essentially carried the Lakers (23-14) through the first half of the season, easing the transition from Phil Jackson, and buying Brown time he needed to adjust to a roster that also underwent significant changes in the offseason.
"He and I actually talked about that," Brown said. "Right after the first few games, we were floundering about .500 and we had a stretch of games at home we might be able to get some wins and I just told him, 'Let it go [offensively.]
"'We're going to have to rely on our defense. I'm going to let you go on offense quite a bit, you're going to have to carry us offensively because there's a stretch of games that we can win, try to get us over .500, start us heading in the right direction. It was, 'Go get it, I'll take care of the defense and we'll go from there.' And he went and did it."
When asked to compare Bryant's season with James' MVP season, Brown shook his head and explained how the circumstances are different.
"You talk about two major injuries that this guy [Bryant] has had, that he's playing through, that would've sidelined guys for multiple games, if not most of the season or the whole season," Brown said. "Then you're talking about LeBron at 24 or 25 when people think he should be running and jumping and playing 47 minutes a game.
"There are a lot of different circumstances that Kobe is dealing with that LeBron did not have to deal with when we were together. For me that's what makes this year, knock on wood, so far a very special year for a guy like Kobe Bryant."
And just why did Brown pick this night to take up the cause for Bryant?
"My TV was on ESPN as I was heading out [to the Lakers game against the Pistons Tuesday] and I heard, and I don't know who said it, but I heard [MVP talk about] Kevin Love because he has the team at .500," Brown said. "Now Kevin Love is a very good basketball player and he's putting up extraordinary numbers, but if you're going to say Kevin Love is fourth or fifth, then Kobe Bryant needs to be in the top two."
Reminded that he was a commentator for ESPN last season, Brown said:
"Yes, and I'm going to use my ESPN connections and get to everybody at ESPN in the NBA department because I know who you are, I know where you live. I spent that year with you guys. I'm going to find out what the deal is."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and a reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.