The Los Angeles Lakers continue to be in utter and complete disarray, and right now it's difficult not to feel a semblance of sympathy for one of the eight greatest players of all time, a first ballot Hall of Famer, and the greatest player of my generation — Kobe Bryant.
From my perspective, feeling anything close to remorse for something associated with the Lakers is almost akin to feeling sorry for Nicky Santoro's demise in Casino. Growing up where I did in Rhode Island, the Lakers were almost as pure evil as Haman; reveling in any misery associated with the gold and purple hits the spot just as much as a hot tottie on a frigid New England night. Still, even the most die hard Celtics fans can't help but feel a little bad for Kobe at this point.
Kobe Bryant, at the age of 34 with 43,973 miles on his odometer (and climbing), is having his best statistical season in about four years. He's on pace to record his eighth season of 2,000 points or more, and if he continues at his current rate of averaging 27.0 points per contest, will achieve his third-highest point total ever. His eFG percentage (.514) is at an all-time high, his WS/48 (.181) is the best since the 2008-09 season, and he is on track to log the most amount of minutes on the court since the same season, when he was still just thirty years old. And while he's on a pace to hoist up 510 threes this season (the second most of his career), Kobe is still on pace to convert 35.2 percent of those attempts.
On top of carrying the offense, Kobe's been asked to guard the opposing team's best player, quarterback the defense, and take the brunt of the blame for the team's struggles.
There isn't anyway around it. The Mamba is having one of his best seasons in the Association and it's being floundered by a group of derelicts like Mike D'Antoni, Jimmy Bus, and L.A.'s prize last summer,
Superman Clark Kent-wannabe Dwight Howard.
The Lakers are 17-24, a laughable 15 games out of first and four behind the Houston Rockets — the Houston effing Rockets — for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The only good news if you're a Laker fan is that under ESPN's advanced playoff odds, the Lakeshow still have 19.3 percent chance of making the postseason. By that algorithm the Lakers can still hit 51 wins this season, but at this point maybe ESPN needs to employ one of the guys from Anonymous to start looking for a glitch in the code.
The Lakers still have a point differential of +1.1, which ranks them eighth in the West, but are a putrid 7-17 this season against teams that have a record of .500 or better and just 2-4 in games that have been decided by three points or less. Some could point the finger Bryant's way and say that it's symptom of Kobe not being the elite closer or big time player he once was.
The stats don't lie. Bryant is shooting just an eFG% of 33.3 in the clutch this season, and his net point differential per 48 minutes is a ghastly -29.8. Against the Bulls last, Bryant was stuck mired in a 7-22 slump (0-6 from downtown) and was only able to get to the charity stripe three times. Still, I'm not going to be complacent in pointing the finger at Kobe. Against the Bulls, just like against the World Champion Miami Heat, their offensive execution in the last five minutes of the game was glaringly woeful, and in both games the Lakers gave up monster runs in the final five minutes. Getting outscored at the end of games happens, it just seems to be happening with a bit more frequency to Mike D'Anonti's teams.
At this point you can't ask Bryant to do any more. On top of carrying the offense, he's been asked to guard the opposing team's best player (like he did with Chris Paul), quarterback the defense, and take the brunt of the blame for the team's struggles. Come on.
Meanwhile, the Lakers coaching staff and front office have done everything possible to placate Dwight Howard this season. How and why he can't play with Pau Gasol is turning into Hardy Boys mystery, but the stats don't lie.
I'm no psychologist, but Dwight looks about as happy in L.A. as Tommy Lee Jones did at the Golden Globes. He's been a petulant child for the last three years in the NBA, and while Pau might soft, Dwight's softer. Ask Orlando — Jameer Nelson in particular — how they feel they made out in that deal. Are you telling me Rob Hennigan doesn't make that trade ten times out of ten?
Everyone looks at Howard and sees a dude built like Zeus, who has first step that's quick as hiccup and can singlehandedly dominate the boards. At least that's what we used to see. He still has a PER of 20.3, blocks 2.5 shots a game, and gets his 17-12 consistently. Yet he's also a headache, can't be played in the last two minutes of any game because he's about as effective from the free throw-line as rehab was for Linsday Lohan, and quite frankly still looks more interested in pouting in front of the camera than he does hoisting the Larry O’Brian trophy.
Jimmy Buss won't do it, but maybe it's time to either ship Dwight back east, or to Dallas for Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion, a top prospect, and a bevy of top-five protect lottery picks. Seriously, the bank de Cuban is open; start applying for a loan. Dallas has close to $16 million in cap space next season, yet $53M in possible cap holds so how much can they really play in the free agent market anyway? Cuban didn't have a problem bringing in another Laker malcontent in Lamar Odom, so what's the problem? Oh, Dwight's too valuable? Please!
Also don’t forget the the fact that Buss and the Lakers are buried so deep under the luxury tax this season (and next for that matter) for the amount of money they’ll owe, Buss could build a replica of the colosseum in the Valley.
Sure you can appease Howard and send him to Brooklyn, but so long as you have D'Antoni in place, swapping out Howard for Brook Lopez, Mirza Teletovic and a prospect like Tyshawn Taylor or Marshawn Brooks really doesn't solve the identity crises problem the Lakers are having, now does it?
Some would argue that Kobe's lived a charmed life in Lakerland from day one. He very well may have, but in the twilight of his career he shouldn't be forced to stand on the bridge arm in arm with the captain while the ship is plummeting towards the abyss.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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