It was a relief play to play in Phoenix thought Kobe. The owner wouldn't go there, Kobe thought. He didn't need him. But with Ron's concussion, and Derek Fisher wilting before the Suns...
Lakers 103 Phoenix 118
Phil Jackson and the owner were silent in the team meeting afterward, all six light-less hours. The whole while Kobe could hear a ball dribble at center court. At first it sounded like distant drips of water. After the first few hours, Kobe sensed his teammates' pain. On Kobe's left and right, Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar stifled grunts and tears. The dribble pounded as if a hammer set upon the skulls.
The cold dank air seared. It felt like meat hooks in his lungs when he breathed. When Coach Jackson finally whistled, Kobe's ears popped.
"Ten wind-sprints in the parking lot then you are all excused," The coach's order felt like a reprieve.
Steady throughout the night, even Kobe unconsciously grasped for breath as street-light gloom breached the pitch. They could barely stand, but they would run.
Jackson whistled once more, "Except for you, Pau, the owner wants to speak to you."
Pau Gasol collapsed three steps from the door. The Spaniard covered his face with bandaged wrists. He would not cry, Kobe hoped.
Kobe taunted his teammates along. They did not play hard enough -- they did not want to win bad enough. The owner and coach Jackson are right, they needed to be scared.
But they needed to be scared of me, thought Kobe, as he picked up speed for an eleventh lap.