To say this Lakers season was tumultuous would be an incredible understatement. The Lakers were nagged by injuries, made some questionable decisions (i.e. Mike Brown firing), and couldn’t catch a break all season.
However, none of that’s to say that this season didn’t have it’s memorable moments. Kobe Bryant provided handfuls of them as he personally made sure the Lakers made the playoffs.
What were the best moments of the season? Worst? We here at Lake Show Life are ready to hand out some awards.
Most Valuable Player
Jacob Rude – This is nothing more than a formality. Kobe Bryant is your Lakers MVP this season. Just when it looked like Kobe would begin the decline expected of a 34-year old with 17 seasons in the league, he gave the big middle finger to Father Time and produced a spectacular season, willing the Lakers to a playoff berth.
Caleb Cottrell – Kobe Bryant, hands down. He was the one player the Lakers could rely on, whether he was injured or not. Kobe not only had one of his best offensive seasons as a pro, but he basically put the injury-riddled team on his back and led them to the playoffs. Yeah, yeah, his defense wasn’t good, but what do you expect from a player who’s been in the league for 17 years and has injuries all the time? I could talk about Kobe’s season all day, but I’ll leave you with this: If it weren’t for Kobe, the Lakers would be most likely thinking about who they should take with their lottery pick.
Colin Lopez – Only one possible choice for this one – Kobe Bryant. Kobe had one of his best offensive seasons, (although defensively it was a struggle) and basically willed this undermanned, injured team to the playoffs. He also tied his career high in assists with 6 per game. Unfortunately his season came to an end prematurely when he tore his Achilles tendon late in the year. The numbers he put up at his age, with his mileage are just unbelievable. Kobe, as usual, was the Lakers MVP.
Brian Booth – Do we really need to ask this question? Kobe Bryant hands down, no argument. Kobe was nothing short of phenomenal this season. At the ripe old age of 34 he averaged an impressive 27.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and a career best 6 apg., while also ranking in the top 5 in mpg for the league. It came to the point where he played 3 games straight without going to the bench, all to make sure the Lakers secured a playoff berth. He seemingly did everything and beyond what the Lakers needed him to this season, and if they had had a better record, Kobe would have undoubtedly been in the MVP talks.
Fern Rea – While it’s hard to award a player as most valuable on a team that underachieved, the one player that stood out most this year was Kobe Bryant. Despite being 34 years of age and having 16 years under his belt, Kobe had one of his best offensive seasons in his career. Kobe finished 3rd in the NBA in scoring at 27.3 points per game, shot his 6th highest field goal percentage in his career at 46.3 % and tied his career high in assist by averaging 6 assists per game. In addition, Kobe had numerous moments throughout the year of willing the listless Lakers to wins.
Laith Cahill – Ty Corbin: Kobe was truly great on offense and is deserving of votes here. But his effort on the defensive end was an atrocity. The Utah Jazz coach however, was a revelation for the Lakers in their bid to make the playoffs. Without him, Kobe’s Herculean (Achillian?) effort would have been for nought. Per Basketball Reference, the only 4-man line-up that generated a positive point differential (PD) for the Jazz (Jefferson-Millsap-Carroll-Foye) was also the second LEAST used 4-man line-up; no other 4-man line-up even generated a positive point-differential. Their +5.5 PD was the same as the PD that the Spurs got from Parker-Neal-Green-Duncan quartet. Not too shabby, especially after watching with Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Though the Lakers eventually squeaked past the Houston Rockets, it may have been a different story had the Jazz lived up to their potential.
Blair Hicks - Who else could it be? Kobe Bryant had one of his best seasons ever, set the tone emotionally during the second half of the season by going into facilitator mode and often taking the toughest defensive assignment, and pushed past fatigue to ensure the Lakers made the playoffs. His stunning injury against the Golden State Warriors was an example of a player pushing his limits until the wheels literally fell off. Kobe isn’t perfect but when we look back at his career, we’ll remember the character he showed this year.
Skyler Gilbert – Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba was at it again, putting together another phenomenal season for the purple and gold. This year was one of the most efficient years in Kobe’s career. He was among the league leaders for shooting guards in essentially every category. Without Bryant, it’s difficult to picture just how bad the Lakers would be. Would they even win 25 games?
Top Play of the Season
JR – There’s so many to choose from, and most of them involved the aforementioned Bryant. For me, I’ll have to go with one that came from possibly his finest game this season. With the Lakers down three and under 10 seconds left in the game, Kobe completed the improbable comeback he initiated with a double pump, fade-away three with 5.5 seconds on the clock to force overtime. Truly only a play Kobe Bryant makes.
CC – Oh, man. This is tough. There were a few plays that stood out to me, but I think the one that stood out the most was against the Toronto Raptors. 8.4 seconds left, down by three. Kobe comes off a screen from Howard, and ends up in a double team. He somehow gets the pass, pump fakes one defender, shoots over another defender. Swish. The Lakers complete the comeback, and go on to win in overtime. Vintage Kobe.
CL – My favorite play of the season is unsurprisingly a Kobe Bryant dunk. This particular dunk came against the Brooklyn Nets in the 4th quarter of a closely contested game. The dunk managed to ignite the team to an eventual win. It seems like every Kobe dunk this season got a lot of publicity, but this one was clutch in terms of where the game was and just flat out awesome to watch.
BB – Hard to pick one, as there were few this season, I’ll go with a bit of history; December 5th, vs. the Hornets, when Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to record 30,000 points, joining the ranks of Kareem, Karl Malone, MJ, and Wilt as the only players to have done so. It was a fairly simple and basic play for Bryant; driving to the basket, slightly hesitating, and pulling up for the one-handed jumper over Robin Lopez.
FR – I am partial to posterizing dunks and Kobe had a few to choose from this season. The turn back the clock throw down from Kobe in Brooklyn was my selection for top Lakers play of the year. Kobe Bryant gets a step on Gerald Wallace, zips down the lane and rises up to hammer a nasty facial on Nets’ forward Kris Humphries.
LC – Innocuous block on Brandon Knight: An early sign of what we thought would come. It wasn’t the very best play but it was, for me at least, an early sign of a promising Laker future. Starting off against the Detroit Pistons, Dwight rose to easily swat Brandon Knight and it reminded me of just how powerful he is and how devastating a defender he can be. For that one second, Dwight was a beast and the Lakers were finally on their way to a W. The way he hardly budged while in the air stayed with me all season. Then again, doing anything to Brandon Knight might not be such an achievement these days.
BH – Kobe’s crunch time dunk over Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries at the Barclay’s Center was the top play for me. It was a flashback to mid 20′s Kobe and a reminder to all that Bryant is one of the few players that can turn your crowd against you. In light of the Achilles’ injury could that be one of the last images of Kobe above the rim?
SG – The one over Josh Smith was pretty great too, but I particularly enjoyed the fast break dunk against the Clippers on January 5. He started it with a good defensive play, stepping into the passing lane to steal a pass, then raced to the other end of the floor to jump, lean back, then throw it down with absolute authority over the “Point God”, Chris Paul. I mean, seriously. Look at the extension his arm takes backwards on this jam. Yes. He dunked that ball. Yes. That man is 34 years old.
Best Moment of the Season
JR – In a season with lots of turmoil and chaos, finding a good moment may be difficult. However, for me, it’s the comeback win against New Orleans. Sparked but Dwight’s great defense, Jodie Meek’s red-hot shooting, and Kobe’s superb leadership, the Lakers stormed back from down 25 to pull out a victory in a gutty effort, especially from a team that was struggling with injuries.
CC – I have two that go hand-in-hand. First, Kobe scoring his 30,000th point. Second — hear me out — is when Kobe tore his Achilles tendon. No, I’m not saying that was a good thing; in fact, I was on the verge of tears when I heard his interview afterwards. If you think Kobe being injured made me happy, I’m just going to assume you aren’t very bright. Here’s why those were the best moments for me: Seeing/hearing all of the “Kobe haters” talk about how much they respect his game afterwards was just so great. I’ve never seen so many people talk about Kobe in a good way before. It was just awesome.
CL – I’ll let the clip do all the talking for me. Vintage Kobe Bryant heroics.
BB – Again, hard to pick one with so few to choose from. The top moment for me came February 20th vs. the Celtics. This game immediately followed the unfortunate death of Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss, and just a couple weeks after the Celtics gave the Lakers a beat-down in Boston (which I was there to witness). Emotions were already very high due to the passing of Dr. Buss, and this was a game against our most hated rivals. If memory serves, Dr. Buss once said a reason he bought the Lakers was to beat the Celtics. And here it was, the first home game since his passing, and look who’s in town. The Lakers won, 113-99. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the game “When you consider everything that the Lakers are going through right now, there was no way we were winning tonight.” In the midst of a season where nothing was going right, something finally did. The Lakers won that game for their father, who no doubt was watching from his owners’ suite in the sky.
FR – Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris combine for 44 points in spot start. The Lakers chances of defeating the Spurs in the 1st round without Kobe Bryant were already slim; after they lost the next 3 guards in the rotation after game 2, slim hitched a ride to Cabo San Lucas, leaving the Lakers with two 2nd year guards, one of which was signed just 12 days before the start of game 3. Despite the pressure of a game 3 must win in the playoffs, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock each had the games of their career. Morris scored 24 points, dished out 6 assists and shot an efficient 9 for 15 from the field. Goudelock showed early on in the game his propensity to heat up from the outside, scoring 10 points in torrid 2 minutes and 25 second stretch in the 2nd quarter. Goudelock ended the night with 20 points. This one moment of young players exceeding expectations under incredible pressure and against all odds provided a reason for the Lakers fan base to celebrate and actually feel good, in an overall disastrous season where feeling frustrated and dejected was the norm.
LC – The Anti-Social Becomes Social: After a season like the Lakers just endured it is best to concentrate on what happens off the court. Kobe’s highlights since becoming the social mamba include but are not limited to: a Facebook rant while ostensibly on Vicodin, images of (unsuitable for the faint of heart) his opened Achilles and a coach killing moment that Dwight would have been proud of.
BH – Phil Jackson being left holding the bag without a team to coach or front office to run. Phil was arguably the greatest coach ever but his mistreatment of co workers was always brushed under the rug. From Jerry Krause to Jerry West to Jim Buss, Jackson made life difficult for his front office counterparts. The Lakers could have used his brilliance this past season, but ultimately its time the franchise moved forward toward the future. The fact that no team has offered him a chance to run their franchise, even after a publicity tour touting his acumen, speaks volumes. Your reputation always catches up to you.
SG – With two minutes left against the Raptors on March 8, the Lakers trailed by 5. Kobe Bryant, like he’s done so many times in his career, knocked down three 3-pointers to force overtime. THREE. All contested. All fading away. All clutch. Not to mention that it was down the stretch and vitally important in the Lakers’ quest to get into the post-season.