Nothing Friendly About Kobe Bryant's Newfound Rivalry with L.A. Clippers

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 04:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during a 107-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on January 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant isn't happy about the current balance of power in Los Angeles, and he's been pretty blunt about his feelings toward the suddenly superior L.A. Clippers.

Apparently, he can't even put his ire aside for a friendly exhibition game.

Dave McMenamin of reported that Bryant isn't exactly relishing the idea of teaming up with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the 2013 All-Star Game.

First of all, why expect anything less from the ultra-competitive Bryant? He has built a career on killer instinct and an us-against-them attitude. So it shouldn't be surprising that he's viewing the Clips as hated rivals—even when he'll be sharing a bench with them.

Second, again with the curse words, Kobe? Come on, man. Clean it up.

Then again, maybe we can forgive Bryant for his profanity. After all, he's got good reason to be upset; his Lakers have suffered a trio of defeats this year at the hands of the Clippers, and the most recent one was a true Valentine's Day massacre.

The Clips rode their vastly superior frontcourt depth and perimeter shooting to a resounding 125-101 stomp-out of Bryant's Lakers on Feb. 14. The Black Mamba certainly tried his best, but even his angriest slam of the year wasn't enough to inspire his overmatched teammates.

According to, Bryant voiced his displeasure about the loss immediately after the game:

"It’s not a good feeling at all. When things got difficult, we didn’t step up and meet that challenge. And I’m not very happy right now. Hopefully, my teammates feel the same way," Bryant said.

Frustration like the kind Bryant is clearly exhibiting now is a natural byproduct of what's been happening to the Lakers this year. Despite having a theoretically superior collection of talent before the season started, things simply haven't worked out for the Lakers.

Dwight Howard hasn't looked like himself, physically—although, from a mental and emotional perspective, he has looked a bit too much like the petulant brat he resembled with the Orlando Magic. So at least some of his identity remains intact.

Pau Gasol started the season looking worn out, then lost his role amid a coaching change before finally hitting the injured list with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

And Steve Nash has been struggling to find his place in the offense, as well.

Combine all of those individual tribulations with the fact that the Clippers have compiled 14 more wins than the Lakers this year, and it's easy to see why Bryant might not want to spend much time with Griffin and Paul: The two of them are physical reminders of Bryant's personal and team-related failures.

If Phil Jackson were still around to guide Bryant, he might suggest getting to know the enemy. That's sufficiently Zen, right? Maybe if Bryant buddies up to Griffin and Paul, he'll gain a little insight into how they've elevated their team to a level above Bryant's.

Sure, that sounds crazy. But Bryant has already transformed his game more than once this year in his effort to right the Lakers' listing ship. Hoisting a high volume of shots didn't work; neither did the experiment of Kobe checking the opposing team's point guards.

The whole "Kobe as facilitator" idea seems to be working a bit better than some of his other attempts at metamorphosis, but even that wasn't enough to help the Lakers avoid yet another beating at the hands of the Clips.

It's hard to imagine Bryant buddying up to his L.A. rivals, but that might be the best course of action. Still, the more likely scenario is that the Mamba keeps hissing and spitting venom.

It's just in his nature.