These are supposed to be the salad days for Kobe Bryant. KB24 isn’t supposed to be competing for the scoring crown anymore. Not when he’s got a 20 and 10 guy named Pau Gasol on his squad. Bryant shouldn’t be defending the opponent’s best perimeter player late in games. Not when he’s got Ron Artest to do that dirty work. Kobe certainly shouldn’t be initiating the offense either. Not when he’s got a do-it-all sidekick named Lamar Odom.
Truth be told, Bryant should be limiting his minutes, only stepping in and dominating when absolutely necessary. I’m here to tell you that a game in early December against the New Jersey Nets is not the time KB24 should be called on.
I’m not saying Bryant has no obligation to give maximal effort every night. I’m not saying his resume gives him a pass to take the regular season off then flip the switch come June. All I’m saying is Dr. Buss has shelled out a lot of cash to insure Bryant doesn’t have to treat the Washington Wizards as if they’re the Boston Celtics.
Easier said than done given Bryant’s all too competitive nature, I know. But still a luxury he should be afforded at this point in his career.
Kobe’s place in the Hall is in the bag. The only question is how much more can he tack onto his resume. We know this. What we don’t know is just how much more productivity remains in a 32-year-old body closing in on nearly two decades of professional hoops. Many will argue Kobe’s place in history but when you do the math you’ll see the man is in the Finals almost every other year of his career.
That’s just sick. What’s also sick is the thought of Bryant not getting to catch or possibly surpass MJ thanks to a weakened body worn down by the rigors of playing high intensity games against the NBA’s lower third.
Go ahead, call me a Laker snob cause I think my team should be playing better to protect Kobe. Call it whatever you want but it’s true. Gasol, Ron Ron, LO and quite a few other men with rings know they wouldn’t be meeting President Obama every year were it not for #24 wearing the same uniform as they do.
This squad owes a lot to Bryant. Naturally he too wouldn’t have won without them. The problem is you can replace many parts of a championship team and still win without them. Right, Bynum? But you cannot remove the brain and expect the body to still function. Derek Fisher might be the heart. Ron Artest the muscle. Pau the glue. But Bryant is the brain and right about now the Lakers are causing themselves brain damage.
Let the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James duel for regular season fame. We’re all about championship glory in these parts. With the way things are going, we’re going to see some major disappointment if this team doesn’t get it together soon. Struggling to win in December is as much mental as it is physical. Come March, it will be more physical than anything else. And when you’re asking Bryant to give a June effort in a December contest you’re setting up for a letdown late.