Following Sunday night’s game, reporters asked Kobe Bryant if his game would affect the chemistry of the team and possibly set back the team’s progression after experiencing some early success, he responded as you would expect a player that had amassed a large collection of diamond encrusted hardware in his career and always set the bar at no less than winning an NBA championship.
“The chemistry will be fine,” Bryant said. “It’s not like they haven’t watched me play for 17 years. It’s not rocket science. It’s not like we were gangbusters before.”
That last line, “It’s not like we were gangbusters before.” Is what triggered a response from Mike D’Antoni when informed of Kobe’s post game comments.
“I have to disagree with that,” D’Antoni said. “We were 6-2 in the last eight and I thought we played extremely well, winning three on the road. … So, that’s not quite right. I’m really proud of what the guys did.”
Kobe saying that the team prior to his arrival was not playing like gangbusters was completely accurate. The definition of the word gangbusters is something that is in an outstandingly successful state or situation.
What is outstanding about a 10 and 9 record?
Since when has a Lakers team being positioned outside of the playoff picture and on a path towards a lottery pick considered a success?
While it was a pleasant surprise seeing a lot of the young players that were cast offs and playing on 1 year contracts come together to exceed expectations, the state of a Los Angeles Lakers team being ordinary, in Kobe’s eyes, was deplorable, and as such, responded accordingly when asked about the absurdity of disrupting a team that was performing unexceptionally.
In D’Antoni defending the 10-9 start by disagreeing with Kobe’s gangbuster comment, he at the same time was defending being average.
He defended being average while occupying the position of head coach for a franchise that has won 16 NBA championships in its 66 years of existence; 10 of those NBA championships being won in just the last 25 years and the last one being acquired just 3 short years ago.
Surely he’s aware that more than average results are expected of him?
He felt a modest start to the season was okay for a team that just paid their star player 48.5 million dollars for the next 2 years. If all the Lakers’ brass wanted was being average they could have gotten that at a significantly lower price.
D’Antoni pointed to the team’s 6-2 record in the previous 8 games to Kobe’ s return as something that should be applauded. Not impressive when you see that those 6 wins came against 3 teams that combined for a.371 winning percentage and another team that was missing their 2 All Star Starters (Golden State Warriors.)
That is what D’Antoini hangs his hat on, a 6-2 record against the cellar dwellers of the league.
Three straight road wins against Brooklyn, Detroit and Sacramento is what D’Antoni commends.
I wonder if the 9 Hall of Famers whose jerseys hang from the rafters and have 22 championships as Lakers would agree with D’Antoni that average should be celebrated. Maybe D’Antoni would like to carve out some space by those jerseys to honor the most ordinary as well.
What D’Antoni is yet to learn is that you don’t get praise from championship achieving franchises and players like Kobe for moral victories, or exceeding incredibly low expectations, or for amassing a measly .500 record. You only get praise here for feverishly pursuing or winning championships.
If D’Antoni wants to hang up 12th place ribbons and participation awards on his wall, that’s great, but he won’t being that for the Lakers for long. When the Lakers brass selected D’Antoni as the head coach of the Lakers team over 11 time champion head coach Phil Jackson, they did so with the expectation that he was the coach best suited to lead Kobe, Pau and Nash to another championship run. They didn’t bring him along to do decent with a cast of misfits.
With Kobe Bryant back, D’Antoni’s 19 game vacation from the pressures of winning is now over. Average will no longer do the rest of the way.
The Lakers brass going all in on a 35 year old Kobe Bryant who is coming off an Achilles injury is a risky move that could set the Lakers rebuilding phase back for years.
They are aware that Kobe might not return to the Kobe of old and be able to carry this team to another championship in these next 2 years; but they also understand that Kobe gives them the best chance of doing that and no matter how slim those possibilities are, that alone is worth the pursuit.
Kobe and the Lakers might fall flat on their face in their attempt.
It might be an ugly, unmitigated disaster.
But that fall from their failed pursuit wouldn’t be a fraction of the embarrassment as reveling in the ordinary as D’Antoni displayed.
Average, ordinary, run of the mill, having a seat at the lottery presentation is not becoming of the Lakers.
Not in L.A. Not wearing purple and gold. Not under the leadership from the progeny of the great Dr. Jerry Buss.
Most importantly, not on Kobe’s watch.
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