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Bryant Just Quit, and the Suns and Clippers Play On

Great news here, of course, for the Clippers who began round two of the playoffs without Kobe Bryant.

How awful would it have been for the Clippers to have signed the guy, finally make the playoffs -- only then to learn Bryant is liable to tank it at any time?

The fact is, after the Lakers’ last performance, the best scorer in the game can no longer be trusted.

In the seventh game of a playoff series, a game in which Bryant scored 23 points in the first half, Bryant returned to the floor with the Lakers down by 15 to take three shots and score one point.

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What if he had taken the same approach a few years back when the Lakers found themselves down by 15 in the fourth quarter only to rally, win and eventually claim an NBA title?

Amazingly, the media in L.A. gave Bryant nothing but a free ride after the Lakers went dead against the Suns.

HEY, THE GREATEST CLOSER IN THE GAME TOOK THREE SHOTS IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTH GAME OF A PLAYOFF SERIES AND SCORED ONE POINT!

That’s a shocking story!

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Something had to be said at halftime inside the Laker locker room to irritate Bryant, igniting the immaturity that apparently still rests deep inside, thereby throwing him into a full-blown pout. And we’ve seen that before. Sacramento a few years back immediately comes to mind.

I guess we’ll have to wait for Phil Jackson’s next book to learn what really happened behind closed doors.

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SOME PEOPLE liken Bryant to Michael Jordan, but help me here, can anyone point to a moment in Jordan’s career when he tanked it with the season on the line?

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It’s one thing to shoot and miss and lose the big game, they have both done that. But to shut it down, only pass the ball -- and finish with one assist, Bryant cheated every Laker fan who sat there telling his friends, “You watch, Kobe will bring us back.”

Forget about the score, the inept play of Bryant’s inconsistent teammates, the Lakers’ chances to eventually win that game. It’s all irrelevant.

There is nothing short of knowing that his leg has been sawed off to think Bryant, the “Love me or hate me” and “Just do it!” competitor that everyone has known him to be, would be limited to three shots in the second half of a seventh game of a playoff series.

One of the assistant coaches in this building for the Clipper-Sun playoff game said he had lost all respect for Bryant after witnessing him quit Saturday night, and if memory serves, this guy was one of Bryant’s biggest promoters.

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NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke to the media before the Clipper playoff opener with the Suns, and while he was here to give Steve Nash the most-valuable-player trophy, I asked him whether he thought Bryant had tanked it against the Suns.

“No,” Stern said. “I take Phil and Kobe at what they said, that they were trying to get the front court more involved,” which was good news, because knowing right away that he wasn’t going to be straight with everyone, there was no reason to hang around for the rest of his “everything is good in the NBA” interview.

“I’ve missed L.A. writers,” a sarcastic Stern said, and here I’ve always thought he had the power to fix that, but I’m guessing even the NBA commissioner has no idea which Kobe Bryant is going to show up to work these days.

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STERN SAID, “It’s great to see the Clippers in the playoffs,” but I had my doubts, and asked him, “Are you really happy to have the Clippers in the playoffs?”

“I can’t say that,” he said, while contradicting himself, “but once every 30 years” is good.

I guess we know who he would have been pulling for in the Hallway Series.

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THE NBA is going to have to rely on the Clippers to keep the Los Angeles market interested in the playoffs. And that would be Elton Brand’s cue to show the country why he should have received considerable MVP attention.

Brand, playing in front of Duke Coach K, who will be working again with Brand in preparation for the Olympics, put up Bryant-like numbers playing hard the entire game. Can you imagine Brand ever tanking it?

“It’s too late in the season to take positives from losses,” said Brand, who had 40 points, a Clipper-playoff record, and isn’t everything the Clippers do these days, a Clipper-playoff record?

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SAM CASSELL went to the floor clutching his face late in the fourth quarter, and remained down while the Suns attacked at the other end. The Clippers finally got the rebound, called timeout and Cassell went to the referee to plead his case. A television replay, though, showed Brand slugging Cassell in the face by accident.

I assume it was an accident.

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CUTTINO MOBLEY pulled a Smush Parker and went 0 for 5 from the field in the first three quarters.

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ONE THING to consider with this NBA fad of passing out matching T-shirts to the hometown crowd. They did that in Miami, and with the Heat getting whipped, the crowd -- all dressed in white -- looked as if they were collectively waving the white towel of surrender.

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TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Andy Holderness:

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“I really liked your Oscar De La Hoya columns. He seems like a good guy and I’m glad he pulled the upset. Maybe this November you could follow Karl Dorrell around the week before the USC game.”

I’d rather follow Pete Carroll, and see whether he has to visit anyone in jail.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at

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t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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