Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Trade His Ass

As much as I respect Kobe Bryant’s game, I’m really beginning to hate him when he isn’t on the basketball court. I know he’s waffled on what he’s said from last weekend (when he told that he wanted to be traded, that the Lakers need to get more pieces around him, that Mitch Kupchak is doing a poor job and the Lakers need to get Jerry West back), but he’s starting to get out of hand, especially now that he’s reiterated that he “wouldn’t mind” being traded on ESPN Radio (of course, it was Stephen A. Smith’s show – don’t even get me started on that guy). It’s unbelievable how little class he’s shown in the last few years.

I’ll say this delicately: Kobe Bryant is a cancer. As much as he is a tremendous basketball talent, and as much as he understands the individual nuances of the game, he has little in the way of understanding team. I watched the Lakers at the beginning of the year, and while they weren’t very good talent-wise, they played together, moved the ball, and tried to defend. You watch the Lakers at the end of the year, and they were falling apart. Okay, a lot had to do with injuries, but hell, when your best player won’t stay in the flow of the game; when your best player doesn’t play defense (how did he get on the All-NBA Defensive Team?); when every interview with him seems like either an indictment of his teammates or a substantiation of his own skills; when every interview with his teammates seems like they can’t say what they want to say about him – you’ve got a problem.

A few years ago, when the question was Shaq-or-Kobe, I went with Bryant. Shaq was still a freak of nature, but slowing down, and Kobe was a freak of nature and really just getting started. Looking back, I’d have to give it considerably more thought. I know it took Dwayne Wade and some incredible fortune on the part of the Heat for Shaq to win the NBA Championship last year, and I think Shaq’s been on the downswing for about five years, but at least Shaq is funny and gets along with people. At least you kinda knew what you were getting with him, not Kobe’s bi-polar score-82-one-night-and-take-three-shots-the-next personality.

Kobe is the closest thing to Jordan in the NBA (I like Lebron, but he’s not there yet), except Kobe hasn’t learned the lesson Jordan did: how to work with your teammates. Okay, so Lamar Odom isn’t Scottie Pippen and Kwame Brown/Andrew Bynum/Ronny Turiaf aren’t Horace Grant/Bill Cartwright/Dennis Rodman… so what? At least it seemed like those guys were okay with MJ, even if MJ was crazy competitive and drove everybody nuts. Kobe’s just crazy and drives everybody nuts. I like Steve Kerr’s assertion that the Lakers can’t be “mentally healthy” going into next season, because who could be?

Does Kobe have a point that the Lakers need to have better players him? Sure. Does he have a point that they haven’t aggressively pursued some trades (the players that everybody’s talking about in this regard are Carlos Boozer, Ron Artest, and Allen Iverson)? Sure, but all of those guys are nuts. Could the Lakers have done better in finding free agents or in the draft? Okay, yeah. Is Mitch Kupchak doing a great job? Debatable. Would Jerry West be able to do a better job? Also debatable. But again, if your best player won’t help you recruit and nobody wants to play with him, it kinda makes everything difficult.

Bryant thinks everybody is against him? Sure. They are now. Now that I think about it, the big factor with MJ that is missing with Kobe is the influence of their fathers. I don’t know the first thing about Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, Kobe’s dad, outside of the fact that he played in the NBA and overseas, but he’s noticeably absent (or quiet) whereas MJ’s dad was everywhere, and you could tell the respect MJ had for his father. Maybe MJ’s dad kept him a little more on the right track. Maybe MJ’s dad kept his son’s head on straight. Hmm…

Regardless, Kobe hasn’t shown any signs of growing up. I thought he had for a little bit of this season, but it held true for maybe two months. He can do almost anything he wants with a basketball in his hands, but he’s got to figure out that there’s a lot more to it than that. Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers need some help, but they’d show a lot better if Kobe knew what the hell he was supposed to be doing.

So trade his ass, get some draft picks, start again, whatever. I still loved the franchise when it was Sedale Threatt, Anthony Peeler, Eddie Jones, Cedric Ceballos, and Nick Van Exel. Hell, I didn’t even mind Elden Campbell (okay, just a little). But those guys played hard, they didn’t do stupid stuff off the court (okay, Van Exel, a little), and they seemed like decent guys. I want the Laker franchise to be the jewel of the NBA again, and it starts with having the right people on the team.

BTW, Dr. Jerry Buss’ arrest on suspicion of DUI doesn’t help, either. =P


a mindless zombie said...

Yeah what's up with Kobe? I sort of blame everyone. But dude, when the team backs you during probably the toughest times in life (the whole rape thing) and then gives you max contract (and other perks), you need to show some gratitude and loyalty. Kupchak sucks and I think Jerry Buss shouldn't have handed the reins over to his son but you deal with the cards you're dealt.

I think the Lakers should see if Portland is interested in Kobe and see if we can get their #1 pick. Or how about trade to seattle and get #2 and lewis.

Steve said...

Interesting thoughts on the draft picks... Rashard Lewis is a free agent this year, so it would have to be a sign-and-trade...

Kupchak hasn't done that great a job, but it only takes a couple of deals to get it right. He's been hamstrung his entire tenure, but people forget that Jerry West has made mistakes, too. Memphis isn't a great ball club, either. Don't get me wrong - I love The Logo. The whole team is a mess right now.

Of course, Dr. Buss is getting older and his son and daughter are a little messed up (it seems), so who knows what's going to happen to the Lakers.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* oh that kobe. damn him! on another note, i loved anthony peeler, even if i clammed up when we met him. hmm, i remember that team. i loved all of them! eddie jones! bring them all back! stat. -steph