- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Kobe Bryant is shocked. He is angry. He is frustrated.

Bryant’s whirlwind of emotions comes after a week during which his Los Angeles Lakers lost three consecutive games and he displayed his violent side again. He was suspended two games after Mike Miller’s neck ran into his forearm Wednesday night.

Two days earlier, after his Lakers lost by three points to the Washington Wizards at MCI Center, Bryant assaulted a couple of unsuspecting cameras and physically confronted teammate Lamar Odom about the game’s last play.

Of course, Bryant has a history of violence. There was that whole thing involving a woman at a hotel spa in Colorado on June30, 2003.

Now Bryant is shocked that after being elbowed by Miller, leaving the court with a cut above his eye, promising and exacting revenge with a forearm to Miller’s neck and crowing about it afterward, he was suspended for two games.

“Very surprised. Shocked, actually. Very, very surprised,” Bryant said of the suspension. “Angry and frustrated. I’ve been hit with a couple of flagrant fouls already this year. I’ve been hit with a clothesline, and no suspensions came of that. And I get two games for this?”

Hey, this is the NBA in 2006: Kobe Bryant is the league’s No.1 villain, and Rasheed Wallace is the consummate teammate.

The world isn’t upside down. Players evolve or devolve. People mature — or they don’t.

Bryant is playing with a considerable chip on his shoulder these days. It’s Bryant vs. the league. It’s Bryant vs. his teammates.

Maybe he is shocked that he, Odom, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Brian Cook are just a .500 team. Many basketball people are shocked they are that good.

Maybe he is angry that this is the best management could do for his Lakers. General manager Mitch Kupchak traded two viable role players — Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins — for Kwame Brown.

Maybe he is frustrated because he played with Shaquille O’Neal — the most dominant NBA force of the last decade — and ran him off. With O’Neal, the game was easy. Now the game is hard.

And when Odom — a role player impersonating a No.2 option — makes a mistake, he is physically confronted by Bryant.

With Bryant, it’s always someone else’s fault. But this is what Bryant wanted: his team, his way.

It’s disappointing to see Bryant was the first player selected to represent Team USA in the 2008 Olympics.

Maybe no one will want to play with him. That will be an interesting prospect: Bryant vs. the world.

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