Originally written on Crossover Chronicles  |  Last updated 5/4/12

I can't help but picture Phil Jackson sitting by a babbling brook, way up in a mountain somewhere, smiling as a reads the Los Angeles Times while smoking his morning's peyote. His young prodigy and once rebellious student, has now embraced the ways of the Zen even in King Phillip's absence, and I couldn't imagine the great teacher being any more proud of all that.

Kobe Bryant is ballin out of control right now. While all the playoff attention is on LeBron James' MVP-caliber season, the birth of Chris Bosh's kid, and Amar'e's fire extinguished hand, Bryant is averaging 34.5 points per game on 49% shooting from the field. He's focused, man, and there might not be anybody outside of father time in this year's playoffs who can stop him.

But none of that is why Phil's smiling with that peace pipe this morning in the fictitious image I've conjured up in my head. He's smiling because of the communicator that Kobe's become in his wise old age, and the leadership that has helped facilitate for the guy who was once Shaq's biggest nemesis.

This from Kobe via the Los Angeles Times:

How to explain Bryant’s patience with Andrew Bynum’s immaturity issues, Metta World Peace arriving to training camp out of shape and Bryant's willingness to be a coach on the sideline during his recent shin injury? He has a former head coach to thank.

"It's part of being around Phil [Jackson] so much," Bryant said. "A lot of it has rubbed off on me. I try to communicate that around the guys as best as I can."

That doesn't mean Bryant lacks his usual fiery demeanor. After all, players routinely knew Jackson's blood boiled underneath his calm demeanor. Lakers rookie guard Andrew Goudelock also said Bryant "doesn’t sugar coat anything so he’ll tell you straight up how it is" when he's pointing out mistakes on film, on the practice court and in the game.

"I haven’t done anything I haven’t done in the past," Bryant said. "Because of the learning process we’ve been going through with the coaching staff and us players, I’ve had to do a little bit more vocal leadership in that aspect. But it’s pretty much status quo."

If Kobe was able to do the unthinkable this season, and carry those 34.5 points per game all the way to an NBA championship, this would be by far the absolute worst team he has ever won an NBA title with. Each of the last five teams he won titles with would beat this year's version by at least 12 points I think. But if Kobe can keep doing what he's doing, on the floor and off, he just might get ring number six while nobody else is looking.

The first ring he'd get without the guy who rubbed off on him so much sitting on the sidelines too.


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