Kobes ego is Lakers big problem
Updated Dec 18, 2012 12:14 PM ET
The return of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to the lineup is likely to mask most, if not all, the symptoms afflicting the underachieving Los Angeles Lakers. But the perennial all-stars will do nothing to address the disease lurking deep inside the foundation of the Lakers, the malady that will prevent the high-priced collection of veterans from getting past the Thunder, Spurs or even the Grizzlies come playoff time.
The disease isnít bungling, overmatched executive vice president Jim Buss. Itís not bungling, overmatched coach Mike DíAntoni.
The root cause of the Lakersí dysfunction has been consistent for 15 years. It is Kobe Bryantís ego, his desperate pursuit of Michael Jordanís legacy. L.A.ís Dwight Howard experiment is going to explode and implode in spectacular fashion unless someone in the Lakers organization is bold enough to kill Kobeís Michael Jordan avatar so that Howardís Bill Russell avatar can emerge and lead the Lakers.
The wrong player is driving the Lakers. Dwight Howard is the second-most talented player in the league. Heís the single-most gifted defensive player the NBA has seen since Bill Russell. On a properly functioning, championship-chasing team, Howard cannot be a sidekick, a No. 2, Scottie Pippen. Canít happen. The Heat tried it with LeBron James in Year 1 of the Big Three, and we know how that ended. Dwyane Wade is an awesome basketball player and a terrific leader, but he had to surrender the soul of the Heat to LeBron in order for the Heat to win a title.
Kobe has to let go and let D12. Has to.
Kobe has to accept that he is not the 34-year-old Michael Jordan. You see, at 34 Jordan was taking his final victory lap in Chicago, completing his second three-peat, securing his sixth title, winning his fifth MVP award and 10th scoring title. Kobe wants to duplicate that feat. Heís putting up MVP-like numbers. He leads the league in scoring. Heís shooting a career-high .478 percent from the field. Heís averaging five rebounds and five assists. Heís knocking down 38 percent of his three-pointers. Oh, the numbers look great. The results? The Lakers stink.
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You can blame that on the injuries to Gasol and Nash. You can blame it on the incompetence of DíAntoni.
I blame Kobe. Heís the guy stopping Howard from eating. Kobe is the guy giving Howard room to lose himself in his immaturity and hide. Hereís what Kobe has never understood about the Los Angeles Lakers. Itís an organization built to house and nurture giants. From George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille OíNeal, the Lakers function best when the once-in-a-generation big man the organization acquires is allowed to be the man of the house.
Kobe emasculates his big men. Andrew Bynum politely admitted this week that Kobe stunted his growth.
ďI think Dwight is a great player, but heís going to have to get accustomed to playing with Kobe and not touching the ball every single play,Ē Bynum said.
The problem is deeper than touches. Itís a mentality that a big man must have in order to lead his team. Dwight Howard must enter every NBA arena with this mindset: ďIf I donít hunt and kill, no one eats tonight.Ē
Thatís Kobeís mindset. But at 34, having played 1,186 regular-season games and 220 playoff games, Kobe doesnít hunt and kill as effectively as Howard. Kobe isnít the same as a 34-year-old Jordan. At this stage in his career, Jordan had played 873 regular-season games and 158 playoff games. Jordan was still a force of nature. Donít get fooled by Kobeís numbers. Heís not Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe damn sure isnít LeBron James.
James, Durant and Melo can impose their will on the opposition. Over the course of a seven-game playoff series, they can mentally bludgeon an opponent into submission. We saw James do it to the Pacers and the Celtics in last yearís playoffs. Kobe is smart. He can be efficient. But heís trying too hard right now. Thatís why he leads the league in turnovers with 97. Kobeís days of imposing his will in a playoff series are over. Howardís days should just be beginning.
Why is this guy still able to write professionally? Nothing he says ever makes sense. Kobe has five national championships. If anyone is an expert on how to win championships, it's Kobe.
I remember when Jason Whitlock predicted that the Orlando Magic would defeat the Lakers in the finals because Dwight Howard is the second coming of Bill Russell. Whitlock should've been fired after the end of the finals that year. I want to start a petition to remove him from the sports world. I hope Shaq kicks his a&&!