SAN ANTONIO — On the court here, surrounded by hostile screams and rattling balloons and at least one dude in a black Lucha Libre mask, the new Lakers were struggling to find themselves.
Back in Newport Beach, their 140-character coach was doing his best to help.
“Matador Defense on Parker. His penetration is hurting us.”
“Gotta milk Pau in the post right now and D12. Will get good looks from it.”
“Post. Post. Post.”
Those were the direct quotes of Kobe Bryant sitting at home with his surgically repaired left leg elevated and his dander up during the Lakers' 91-79 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday in the playoff opener. In an unprecedented move for a star of his stature, the injured Bryant tweeted his feelings about the game, during the game, for more than 2 million followers to digest.
It was cool. It was insightful. It was a bold new testament to social media's ability to connect the commoner with royalty.
If you believe Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni's rolled eyes afterward, it was also annoying.
“It's great to have that commentary,” said D'Antoni bitingly.
He added, “He's a fan right now, he's a fan, you guys put a little more importance on that kind of fan. He gets excited, he wants to be part of it, I don't blame him, it's good.”
Bryant responded to the postgame statement by tweeting, “A fan?? Lol.”
This snarky exchange leads one to wonder if this sort of public communication is worth it for Bryant or the Lakers.
That was the topic of postgame debate with folks lining up on two distinct sides of the issue. With the Lakers losing this one because they did not have Bryant's shooting or leadership, he remains the story here, even from nearly 1,200 miles away.
On one side, Bryant was only tweeting things he says to the Lakers anyway, so what's the harm in making them public as he deals with his frustration at not being part of a Lakers playoff run for the first time in 17 years?
“He'd be saying that same stuff right to our faces if he was here, tell us what to do and when to do it,” said Steve Blake. “I'm sure he's feeling terrible not being here, and he just wants to stay connected.”
On the other side, because Bryant's stature elevates the tweets to gospel status, is it good for the team to publicly receive strategy and scoldings from someone who is not on the sidelines to help them adjust or implement? Even though Bryant is obviously tweeting out of his longtime love for the Lakers, can't some of this be interpreted as public first-guessing of his teammates and coaches?
“We're the guys that have to control what we do on the floor,” said Dwight Howard.
Bryant began tweeting late in the season, and he has kept followers updated with messages about the beginning of his recovery from a torn Achilles' tendon. For Twitter sports fans, he is a must-read. But when Sunday's game began, the commentary seemed directly toward his team.
Bryant began hopefully: “I like how Nash is moving so far, both teams a lil out of rhythm to start.”
He immediately called for the ball to go inside: “Gotta get to the block. See wat Spurs r gonna do with Pau and D12.”