Will Kobe Bryant and Mike D’Antoni’s Relationship Devolve into Power Struggle?

For the first 19 games of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers' Mike D’Antoni was having a field day with a team that might be best be described as a bunch of perfectly agreeable misfits—and then the Black Mamba returned.

What will the relationship between D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant resemble for the rest of the season, partnership or power struggle?

The eternal optimist would say the former—if these guys survived last year’s train wreck together, then this season should be a piece of cake. Bryant’s finally back on the court after a long layoff from a devastating injury, and now it’s time to rock!

Or is it? A small difference of opinion recently materialized concerning the team’s record before Bryant’s return to action. It was enough to get people talking.

At issue are the primary parties’ own words.  Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, there’s a differing perception about the Lakers’ 10-9 start.

After Kobe Bryant downplayed the Los Angeles Lakers’ modest success in going 10-9 without him, saying Monday, "It's not like we we were gangbusters before," coach Mike D'Antoni came to the defense of Bryant's teammates.

"I have to disagree with that," D'Antoni said after Tuesday's shootaround in advance of the Lakers' game against the Phoenix Suns. "We were 6-2 in the last eight [games before Bryant's return] and I thought we played extremely well, winning three [in a row] on the road. ... So, that's not quite right. I'm really proud of what the guys did."

To put the situation in perspective, D’Antoni had in fact earned some redemption points over the first 19 games. Last season was a coach’s perfect nightmarish storm, from injuries to conflict to losses and back to injuries again. Adding fuel to the fire was the very arrival of the new head coach, which ...

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