Archives For Kobe

This does not mean the Lakers have no chance. And, at some point, the team is very likely to have a game where they break through, shoot well, get a few timely defensive stops, and pull out a win. Tonight would be as good a night as any to make this happen. After all, the Wizards did travel from Cleveland last night while the Lakers only came from Philly. There is a chance they will be as tired or more than the visiting team. Or maybe I’m reaching. We shall see.

The above paragraph was from Wednesday’s game preview against the Wizards. I’m not saying I can tell the future, but if you’re interested in tonight’s lottery numbers, hit me up in the comments and I might share them with you.

No, but seriously, the Lakers were due for a win. They have been a bad team this year, but coming into the game against the Wizards they were on pace for about an 11 win season. That win total would be the worst by any NBA team ever. The Lakers may be bad, but they’re not that bad.

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Have you ever had that friend who the rest of the group just says: “Oh, that’s just so-and-so.” They’re late for everything; they skimp out on dinner and bar tabs; you don’t trust them with you significant other… But you keep making excuses for them because of what else they bring to the table or how long the friendship has lasted.

Eventually, it hits everyone that, hey, maybe that friend is just an a-hole. No one else gets those same excuses made for them, right? So what is it about that one friend?

For the Lakers and many fans, it appears we’re reaching that point with Kobe Bryant. For the last two decades, you’ve overlooked some chemistry issues, borderline selfishness on the court, and a manipulation of the various offensive systems at only his benefit because, you know, he’s Kobe. All the other stuff was worth it.

Now, at the end, though, those habits are rearing their ugly head, and at the detriment of the Lakers’ future. Tuesday night in Philadelphia was the absolute worst case scenario of his farewell tour taking priority over developing the rest of the roster. Or so we hope.

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We all knew this day was coming. From the minute Kobe started talking about basketball as work rather than the steps along the way to being great, I knew we were closer than he was letting on. As soon as he started to talk about “if my mind changes“, I knew we were closer still. And so, on a Sunday afternoon a few hours before an early evening match up against the Pacers, Kobe made clear what we all were seeing through the previously murky messages.

His body could give no more; this season would be his last.

While the emotions swirled in me, to be honest, I smiled a little.

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With the way Kobe Byrant has played to start the season, there has been a lot of eulogizing his career. You do not have to look far to find the next read on how bad he currently his, how he should retire, and how much of a drag he is on the court in what will likely be his final season.

But this version of Kobe is not how I will remember Kobe. The Kobe I will remember is the one who dominated for a decade and a half, the Kobe who struck fear into opponents simply by walking onto the court.

This is the guy I am talking about:

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It used to be you could put Kobe Bryant in any scheme and he would excel. Triangle offense? Sure. Spread pick and roll? You got it. Flex? Princeton? Whatever Del Harris or Rudy T ran? He’d still get his because, well, when you are that good at scoring the basketball, it does not matter.

At its most simplest level, Kobe would have the ball, the guy in front of him (and the guy behind that guy) would have to try and stop him from scoring, and they couldn’t. Check-mate.

Those days are gone. And if you didn’t know they were gone from simply watching Kobe play in his 20th season, you should know now that he’s telling you himself.

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I want to see Kobe Bryant play well. I want this not as much for me, as a fan with rooting interests in the player and the team he plays for, but for him. As a person and a player.

I want it for him because as one of the best players who I have ever seen play basketball I want him to go out on terms somewhat relatable to the player he has been throughout his career. I want it for him because, after coming back from three season ending injuries and spending an inordinate amount of time simply rehabbing to prepare to play, I want that work to have meant something. I want it for him because, well, on some levels I think he’s earned it.

You can understand my disappointment, then, that I am coming to the conclusion that Kobe will not play well this year. He will not approximate the player he was. He will not depart the game at a status befitting his contributions to it. The hope to avoid the “Willie Mays as a Met/Patrick Ewing on the Magic/Hakeem on the Raptors” comparisons will, very likely, go unfulfilled.

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“Will he or won’t he?” Kobe retirement pieces will be written all season or until he definitively comes out and says for certain either way. Consider this your latest installment. If you don’t want to read it, either skip to the bottom or go read about D’Angelo Russell.

I have long been of the mind that Kobe will retire at the end of the season. My logic is pretty simple and can best be summed up by something I wrote this past August:

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It is pretty easy to be down on the Lakers right now. They possess a 1-5 record. They are in the bottom 10 in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have lost two very winnable games (opening night vs. the T’Wolves, Sunday against the Knicks) while facing a relatively soft schedule (for example, one of their losses was to the Kings who have only that single win in eight games).

I think some of the major frustrations aren’t necessarily with the losses (though winning more would be nice), but the process in which the losses are occurring. If the Lakers are going to lose anyway, many would like to see D’Angelo Russell in those late game situations where learning can occur. There are questions about the rotations being put together, the schemes the team is using on both sides of the ball, and whether it all combines to put players in the best positions to be successful.

And while it is important to always know that there are things we do not have information on (how practices are going, what’s being discussed in film sessions, specific directions doled out to players), what we see in the games does cause frustrations to mount.

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