No talking or listening, but Phil and Kobe communicate


I find the relationship between Phil & Kobe fascinating.

As you know, we learned more about that earlier after reading Phil’s book, “The Last Season,” no plans for his next one, he says, but he says he has been keeping a journal as this season unfolds.

Too early to say if we’ll be reading, “The Last Season, No Really, I Mean It,” but I’d sure like to know if Phil ordinarily has any idea whether Kobe is going to start the game on the attack or play the role of playmaker?

It seems to be a secret most of the time, and Jackson appears to be fine with that, or so he did until Kobe began to shoot as if playing with his eyes closed.

He’s never been one to really criticize Kobe because we all know how well he takes that, but I was wondering, since he’s an expert on what it takes to win 16 games and a championship, if Kobe can give the Lakers that in the coming weeks?

“If Kobe is going to play this style of basketball, he’s got to adjust his game to match ours,” said Phil. “He can still play exactly the way he’s playing right now, but he has to limit the amount of shots he’s takes” if it’s going he’s going to shooting poorly.

In Game 1, Bryant hit 31.6% of his shots, a nice way to keep Sasha Vujacic’s memory alive, but Kobe “can’t shoot that percentage and have us be successful,” Phil said. “Either his proficiency has to increase or else he has to become the playmaker.”

I suppose I could wait for the book, but I wondered, did Phil happen to mention this to Bryant?

“Through various means I make that work and get the message across,” he said, later indicating he does that by using “emissaries,” and how would you like that job?

to be an emissary telling Kobe Bryant to stop shooting if he can’t hit a thing?

“He’s well aware of it,” Phil said after apparently getting feedback from his emissaries. “He’s a little befuddled about it — coming to terms with this, but he’s looking for a breakout game.”

So here we are, Game 2, and everyone in Staples Center looking for the same thing, the fans chanting “MVP, MVP,” which only tells you they didn’t watch LeBron James play Monday night.

The first half ends, the Lakers losing, Kobe six for 16 from the field after going six for 19 in the opener. If Oklahoma City was any good, this might be a series.

What are the chances Phil told him to cool it in the second half? Or, if he did, what are the chances Kobe would listen?

That book could be a best seller.

Whatever, Kobe comes roaring back for a breakout half. He shoots, he scores, he makes a face. Kevin Durant shoots, he scores and he runs to the other end of the court. Soon he can begin his off-season plans.

As for the Lakers, a win is a win, but this game wasn’t anywhere near as important as the next three series and whether Kobe has what it takes to do this again — at least 14 more times.

OUTSIDE THE ceremony was perfect, basketball superstars and broadcasting talent paying wonderful tribute to Chick Hearn before his statue was unveiled in front of Staples Center.

Inside the building a little later, section 112, first seat — just where you would find Chick two hours before every home game, sat Miguel Ruezga.

It was his idea, his own tribute. He’s been promoted to supervisor now, but 10 years ago he was an usher here, assigned by Staples to hang with Hearn before every game.

“He always wanted to talk about my family, my job,” says Ruezga, Chick so trusting of Ruezga he’d give him a championship ring to go show fans. “I have so much respect for that man.”

Outside, Chick’s statue is all about the people who love the Lakers, a chance for fans to sit beside the likeness of Chick.

Inside, another reminder how Chick connected with people, Ruezga admitting he didn’t even know who Chick was when they first met.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t wait to come to the game and see Chick,” he says, while recalling his fondest memory. “He hated going down to the court because of his knees, but they wanted him to meet Ray Charles.

“He gets down there and he goes forehead to forehead with Ray who tells Chick, ‘I don’t need eyes, you’re my eyes.’ I looked at Chick and I could see tears in his eyes.”

When Chick died in 2002, they set up his broadcasting table, stat sheet, notes, microphone — just the way it’d be if he was working.

“Forgot one thing,” says Ruezga. “Cough drops.”

No problem. Ruezga carried Halls, honey-flavored cough drops in his pocket for every Lakers’ game just in case Chick needed one.

He was prepared once again.

And then he stood there beside Chick’s seat all day long as an estimated 20,000 fans filed by to pay tribute. “I took 10 minutes off,” he says. “I was given the honor of escorting Marge upstairs.”