Fri, Jun 12, 2009 - Page 19 News List

NBA: Bryant serving as both star and floor coach: Mourning

AP , RENO, NEVADA

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has developed such a floor presence during the NBA playoffs that Alonzo Mourning isn’t sure what exactly coach Phil Jackson is doing on the bench.

“To tell you the truth, Phil doesn’t have to do anything but call time outs,” said Mourning, the former NBA star who helped lead the Miami Heat to the 2006 championship and was twice named the league’s defensive player of the year.

“Kobe is the facilitator. He is the one driving the mission of this particular team right now. The communication level he has with his teammates out there, you can just see it,” Mourning said. “I think Phil is just showing up, to tell you the truth, and Kobe is doing all the work to make this team successful.”

Mourning was speaking on Wednesday on a teleconference promoting the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. He’s among 75 sports stars and celebrities scheduled to play next month.

Mourning said he would be cheering for the Orlando Magic to bounce back from a 2-1 deficit yesterday and ultimately win the title because of his long relationship with coach Stan Van Gundy and longtime friend Patrick Ewing. But he said he doesn’t see them pulling it off unless they step up their defense and especially clamp down on Bryant.

“Once you get to the finals you’ve got to establish a defensive presence and use your defense to stimulate your offense,” Mourning said.

“When I see the way Orlando is playing that pick and roll, it is just ridiculous — slacking back on the screen and giving Kobe air space. You’ve got to get Kobe to turn his back on a hard trap, get the ball out of his hands and deny the ball back to him. By then, time is off the clock and somebody else has to make a decision,” Mourning said.

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