D'Antoni passed Bryant near center court, walking onto the floor minutes before the house lights were dimmed for pregame introductions, and said, "Hey, Kobe, what's going on?"
This is a phrase D'Antoni uses the way your mom greets company at the door, asking folks to come in, sit down and talk a spell. It's a West Virginia welcome between friends.
D'Antoni was one of Bryant's idols when the kid was growing up in Italy and D'Antoni was starring in the Italian Professional League. Kobe wore D'Antoni's No. 8 as a young Laker. The two became brothers in arms while spending three years as part of Team USA, too. They won gold together.
"And he won't even look at me," D'Antoni says, raising both eyebrows.
No "Whassup, Mike?" no quick head bob, no raise of the eyebrows, nothing. Pursed lips. Boxer's shoulder wiggle. Steely, faraway stare.
D'Antoni laughs. Shakes his head a little. As if to say, I tell you what, that Kobe Bryant, he's pretty damn good.
"I knew right then we were f---ed."
thats an interesting story. It shows how Kobe was motivated and picked up his game for the game in MSG. I think that certain top-caliber players do pick and choose which games to ratchet up their focus and their energy. As I've written about before, rarely do players give 100% effort. They start out at around 75% effort and can go up or down depending on associated factors.