OAKLAND — Lakers fans weren’t the only ones wondering what Mike Brown was thinking.
With his team trailing the Memphis Grizzlies by 14 points midway through the fourth quarter Sunday, the Lakers coach subbed in his lowest-scoring starter for the NBA’s leading scorer.
What, exactly, was the logic there?
“My son asked me that too,” Brown said Tuesday. “I said, ‘Good question.’ ”
And his response?
“I just said I felt like I needed to make a sub,” Brown said, “so I made a sub.”
Metta World Peace replaced Kobe Bryant with 5 minutes 45 seconds remaining in the game and the Lakers down, 93-79. Bryant didn’t return until there was 1:51 left, too late to make much difference in the Lakers’ 102-96 defeat.
Brown refused to second-guess the most dissected move of his Lakers coaching career, saying he had no regrets.
“To play Monday morning quarterback or look back on stuff … it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, I should have done this or that,’ ” Brown said, “but I probably would have done it the same way. Who knows?”
Brown had a simple explanation when prodded further about his substitution.
“I felt it needed to happen to win the game,” he said.
Bryant had scored 18 points on seven-for-14 shooting at the time of his removal and had not been playing stellar defense.
Brown and Bryant have not discussed the way the final minutes unfolded, according to Brown. Bryant acknowledged having wanted to play after the game but did not publicly question his benching, saying it was his coach’s decision to make.
Brown said he did not notice when Bryant strayed from the huddle during a late timeout, standing near the top of the key as coaches diagramed a play. But the buzz sparked by Brown’s decision to remove his best player was impossible to ignore.
“When I got home, my son goes, ‘Dad, you’re the No. 1 topic on Twitter,’ ” Brown said. “I was like, ‘What?’ From that standpoint, that’s the only thing I’ve heard of it. I haven’t read or seen anything. But obviously Kobe is Kobe, and he’s the talk of a lot of things that he does or that happens to him.”
Little in reserve
The Lakers’ bench is back to doing what it does best: not much of anything.
The reserves were outscored in four of the Lakers’ previous five games before Tuesday, with the discrepancy becoming even more pronounced in the first two games after point guard Ramon Sessions moved into the starting lineup.
A unit that was averaging an NBA-worst 20.8 points per game outdid itself against Portland and Memphis, getting outscored 34-13 by the Trail Blazers and 41-9 by the Grizzlies.
“There’s a little bit of a concern with it because you hope that you can get more production point-wise from your bench,” Brown said.
Brown said he has tried to intersperse a few starters with his reserves to ensure he has adequate scoring punch on the floor at all times. Small forward Matt Barnes has been the only steady scorer off the bench lately, averaging 10.4 points over his last seven games before Tuesday.
Rookie Andrew Goudelock had pockets of productivity before being relegated to spot duty in recent weeks. Brown said the 6-foot-3 shooting guard’s relatively slight stature often forces the Lakers into unfavorable defensive matchups.