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Mike Brown lets Kobe take his best (and worst) shots

“You can say what you want,” Lakers coach Mike Brown says.

“You’re deferring to Kobe Bryant.”

“OK,” Brown says.

“You’re rolling over.”

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“OK,” Brown says.

“You better be careful about not upsetting him.”

And Brown laughs. “I think this is a players’ league and I don’t care if you’re Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich or whoever. Your best player has to allow you to coach him.

“Right now Kobe Bryant allows me to coach him,” Brown says. “And I don’t have any problem saying that. It makes it easier for me to coach this team.”

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Pushover.

“You can ask any of the players,” Brown says to prove he’s still in control. “I like to save my timeouts. But I’ve taken one just to tell Kobe to get his behind back on defense.”

So there! And where is Phil Jackson today, and how big a smile does he have?

Here’s the thing, Brown’s offense focuses on getting the ball inside to the big men, and while Kobe is a big man, he’s not one of the Lakers’ big men.

So how are Brown and Kobe going to coexist as Andrew Bynum becomes more of a force to complement Pau Gasol, and the coach calls for the ball to go inside more?

“In my mind Kobe can still close games for us,” Brown says while dodging the direct question. “I’ve got to put him in the right spot to close games for us. I keep putting him at the top of the floor where he’s dribbling, dribbling, dribbling. That’s on me.

“I have to get him at the free-throw line or right off the post where he can use his moves. Then I’ll be doing my job and he’ll be doing his.”

But getting back to the question that was really asked, how about Kobe shooting the ball?

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“If Kobe comes out and hits his first two, I’m OK with him to keep going, but I’m not going to call Kobe’s number early on. I think it’s good to get others to touch the ball early and let the game develop. Early on, if I’m calling anyone’s number, it’s the big guys inside.”

But who knows how Kobe is going to play it? When Jackson was here he said he had no idea which Kobe he was going to get, the facilitator or the shooter.

There have been times in the past when Kobe has shot poorly, a hint of criticism in the air and all he’s done is passed the ball early in the next game. It’s as if he was saying, “Let’s see how you do without me.”

He began play Tuesday against Houston having hit only 12 of his previous 46 shots, a hint of criticism in the air, but rather than shut it down, he pressed the attack.

He took eight shots in the first quarter, hitting three, while getting to the free-throw line six times. As the game continued, he forced and fired up shots as if on a mission to prove he can still shoot — as if anyone had any doubt.

Bynum, meanwhile, was dominating inside, and as short as the Rockets are, the Lakers should have been blowing them out. But it was 76-75 Lakers after three quarters, before they finally put Houston away in the closing minutes.

But not before Stu Lantz was telling everyone on TV, “I’d like to see Andrew featured a little more.”

So would that mean less Kobe?

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Kobe had 27 of the Lakers’ first 76 points, hitting 10 of 21 — giving him one more shot than Gasol and Bynum combined, who were 12 for 20 through three quarters. Kobe would finish with 37 points on 29 shots, proving his point that he still has it, I guess, while Bynum had 21 points and 22 rebounds.

A “delicate balance,” as Brown called it earlier in the day. Kobe is the megastar and Bynum and Gasol combine to give the Lakers the best chance to win consistently — as Brown sees it.

A work in progress — can’t wait for the Mike Brown book to come out.

AND SOME people wonder why I call them the Spanos Goofs.

Dean Spanos announced he was bringing back Norv Turner and A.J. Smith, presumably so everyone in San Diego will be so disgusted with the franchise that no one will complain when he moves it to Los Angeles.

Up here, of course, we know how depressed those people down there must feel. We now have word David Beckham is returning to Los Angeles.

The decision to keep Turner and Smith is a good indication the Chargers won’t be coming to L.A. this off-season. They would probably want a fresh start with a new coach and GM.

No one has irritated fans in San Diego more than the guy with initials, and I don’t know what it is about guys who have initials who insist on upsetting folks.

The Chargers have been begging folks to buy tickets to avoid TV blackouts, and yet they have a general manager treating the media and fans like a drill sergeant would recruits.

Then there’s Turner, doomed as a commander by poor body language and almost an “excuse me” presence on the sideline. He has a better record than Marty Schottenheimer and Bobby Ross, both considered successful Chargers coaches, yet few have confidence in him to win a championship.

The San Diego newspaper reported weeks ago Turner was a goner, so Spanos isn’t the only goof down there.

I had it wrong, too. I thought the Chargers would move here this off-season. But Spanos and Philip Anschutz, who is offering to build a new stadium downtown, can’t seem to agree on a deal.

That puts Jacksonville and St. Louis in play and Spanos is taking a risk a deal won’t be there at some point.

The Los Angeles Rams. Now that has a nice ring to it.

BYNUM SAID after the game he would be driving himself home. Asked which of his 13 cars he would be driving, he said, “The one that gets me in all the trouble.”

t.j.simers@latimes.com


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