HANG TIME TEXAS, Y’ALL – Let’s see, the Lakers had Pau Gasol packed up and traded to Houston two weeks ago and are likely still trying to find a way to punch Andrew Bynum’s ticket to Orlando.
So, all that’s required to make the purple-and-gold NBA champions again is for Gasol and Bynum to swallow their pride and any insecurity to have their best seasons ever.
That’s the winning prescription from the legend and noted stick-poker Magic Johnson as the Lakers prepare to host Derrick Rose and the Bulls for the Christmas Day season opener. And it’s Kobe Bryant who has to feed them the medicine, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“What Kobe has to do now is really look to get Gasol and Bynum going and then pick and choose when he should dominate,” Johnson said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “Because he’s going to need help, especially more this season than any other season, for them to be really one of the best teams and win a championship…
“Those two guys got to have banner years — Gasol and Bynum — because Kobe can’t carry the load,” Johnson said, noting Bryant was entering his 16th season. “You can’t expect him to be carrying the load night-in and night-out. They’re going to look to those two big men to control the paint, give Kobe a break.”
And what happens if Gasol and Bynum don’t step up?
“If they don’t dominate, it’s going to be a long season not only for the Lakers but Lakers fans as well,” Johnson said.
Of course, Gasol and Bynum are both accustomed to being the lightning rods for criticism any time that something goes wrong with the Lakers. Gasol, coming off a particularly tepid performance in the playoffs last spring, is hearing all of the questions about his softness resurrected again and Bynum continues to search for a way to stay healthy and live up to that potential.
But Magic says that Bryant will also have to change his ways and take on a new role this season.
“I think he’s going to have to be more of an emotional leader,” Johnson said. “Not just a game-time leader in terms of scoring points and playing defense, but he’s going to have to be a locker-room leader. He’s going to have to really pick guys up and probably do something he’s never done before, and that’s really in practice, get these guys going. In the locker room, get these guys going.
“Because the one guy that did that is now gone, and that’s Lamar Odom. Lamar was valuable both on the court and off the court. You’re going to miss him in the practice and in the locker room, on the airplane and on the busses. Who is going to replace him being that leader? I think that the way I see it, it has to be Kobe.”
“That’s big shoes to fill. L.O. was such a goofball. I’m not that personality,” said Bryant after practice Tuesday. “That’s just not in my DNA. (I’m the) class a–hole.”
So what’s the verdict? Can so many leopards change all those spots?