When he was a lot younger and had a lot fewer knee surgeries, Kobe Bryant thought he could go one-on-three and win that battle. Crazy thing was, most times, he did.
He also adopted that mentality because of the help, or lack of it, around him. Basically, Kobe didn’t trust his teammates much in the post-Shaq, pre-Pau Gasol period. Even now, he’ll take a shot at Smush Parker, just to revisit bad memories.
Surely you saw Kobe in the Lakers opener, on the last possession, when he lapsed into 2004 mode and waved everybody off. Perhaps it was a reflex reaction to Derrick Rose putting the Bulls up with a running hook that eventually became the game-winner. Whatever, Kobe had the ball and everyone else was getting out of the way, for better or worse. And so he dribbled to his right, attracting a swarm of Bulls, ignored Derek Fisher standing all alone at the 3-point line, and then elevated.
His elevation only reached the fourth floor. Three Bulls — Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng — challenged him and Kobe’s shot never really had a chance before it was swatted by Deng. Welcome to the a new era, then, that might begin to look familiar fairly soon if the Lakers don’t get Dwight Howard, pronto.
In the possession before, Kobe was trapped with the ball, tried to pass it, and had it stolen. So it’s not like Kobe isn’t looking for someone, anyone. But even then, he didn’t think about giving up the ball until he was forced to do so by the Bulls. It’s yet another hint that Kobe, after a short preseason, needs to be sold on this Laker team. He’ll get Andrew Bynum back in a few days, with Bynum still serving out a suspension for clubbing J.J. Barea last spring, but is that enough?
As Bill Plaschke from the Los Angeles Times wonders, is it time to get the Kobester some help?:
For all the good Lakers feelings that emerged from their 88-87 loss Sunday — this Mike Brown guy has fitted them with fists and scowls and defense — there was one siren of doom.
Bryant needs help, the Lakers need another skilled player, and they need one soon, or they won’t simply bore us to death, they will also lose a bunch of games while doing it.
“It’s going to be ugly,” Bryant said. “We’re going to be grinding it out.”
Bryant needs help, and if the Lakers can’t figure out a way to get Dwight Howard, they needed to check out Sunday’s earliest NBA game to find their next target.
How about Bynum to the Boston Celtics for Rajon Rondo? The Celtics also need to rebuild, and maybe they would rather do it around a big man than a temperamental little guy.
If that doesn’t work, maybe they could deal Bynum to the New Jersey Nets for Deron Williams? The Nets need a center, and Williams is probably going to leave there after the season anyway, so why not now?
Over-reaction alert: The Bulls did have the league’s best record last season and the MVP award is still on Rose’s mantle at home, a way of saying there’s no shame in losing in the last few seconds to that guy and that team. Still, the Lakers are trying to maximize the next few years with Kobe, while he’s still a player to be feared and respected, and before his knees get another checkup or three. That means they must win now, which could be tricky without Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom and with strange-looking names on the floor (Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono, Troy Murphy and well, OK, Metta World Peace, strangest of all).
Kobe is still terrific at an old 33 because he stays in tremendous shape and keeps his fangs sharpened. He had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists (and also eight turnovers) , yet another reason for the Lakers to get what they can in terms of help, while Kobe can give them this. Most likely, because Gasol carries a big price tag in terms of salary, it’ll come down to what Bynum can fetch.
Better something happen sooner than later, before Kobe’s 2004 lapses become habit-forming and Brown once again questions Kobe’s strategy, as the Orange County Register‘s Jeff Miller points out:
After being here an entire 48 regular-season minutes, Mike Brown did the unimaginable Sunday.
We only wish he had realized it.
He publicly questioned the Laker who has been here since 1996, the Laker who has played in more games than any other, the Laker who has played for more minutes than any other.
He publicly questioned the Laker.
Mike Brown has been a Laker for one game. Kobe Bryant has been a Laker almost half his life.
And, get this, Brown questioned one of Bryant’s end-game decisions. Bryant, one of the greatest finishers in NBA history.
Now, if Brown only had intended for his words to sound both gigantic and Titanic. Instead, he was just doing what he does so politely and so thoroughly — answering a reporter’s question.
Even when the Lakers fail — and they failed spectacularly on this Christmas Day — they’re interesting.
It should be a fun season in L.A., full of surprises and happy superstars and big projections. But enough about the Clippers. What up, Lakers?