Found December 18, 2012 on
Stephen A Smith
Los Angeles Lakers
Oklahoma City Thunder
New York Knicks
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 isn't bungling, overmatched executive vice president Jim Buss. It's not bungling, overmatched coach Mike D'Antoni.
The root cause of the Lakers' dysfunction has been consistent for 15 years. It is Kobe Bryant's ego, his desperate pursuit of Michael Jordan's legacy. L.A.'s Dwight Howard experiment is going to explode and implode in spectacular fashion unless someone in the Lakers organization is bold enough to kill Kobe's Michael Jordan avatar so that Howard's 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. He's 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. Can't 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. He's putting up MVP-like numbers. He leads the league in scoring. He's shooting a career-high .478 percent from the field. He's averaging five rebounds and five assists. He's knocking down 38 percent of his three-pointers. Oh, the numbers look great. The results? The Lakers stink.
You can blame that on the injuries to Gasol and Nash. You can blame it on the incompetence of D'Antoni.
I blame Kobe. He's the guy stopping Howard from eating. Kobe is the guy giving Howard room to lose himself in his immaturity and hide. Here's what Kobe has never understood about the Los Angeles Lakers. It's an organization built to house and nurture giants. From George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O'Neal, 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.
"I think Dwight is a great player, but he's going to have to get accustomed to playing with Kobe and not touching the ball every single play," Bynum said.
The problem is deeper than touches. It's a mentality that a big man must have in order to lead his team. Dwight Howard must enter every NBA arena with this mindset: "If I don't hunt and kill, no one eats tonight."
That's Kobe's mindset. But at 34, having played 1,186 regular-season games and 220 playoff games, Kobe doesn't hunt and kill as effectively as Howard. Kobe isn't 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. Don't get fooled by Kobe's numbers. He's not Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe damn sure isn't 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 year's playoffs. Kobe is smart. He can be efficient. But he's trying too hard right now. That's why he leads the league in turnovers with 97. Kobe's days of imposing his will in a playoff series are over. Howard's days should just be beginning.
But Kobe's ego is in the way. Howard can't be the man of the house with Kobe sitting at the head of the table eating the biggest plate of food. As long as everything revolves around Kobe, as long as Kobe is on TV sitting across from Stephen A. Smith speaking in hushed, dark tones about the state of the Lakers, Howard gets to hide, gets to feel like the Lakers family can eat regardless if he chooses to hunt.
Kobe needs to fall back. He's Dr. J right now and he needs to let Dwight Howard be Moses Malone. That does not mean turn the offense over to Howard. It means building a strategy and philosophy that revolves around Howard's many gifts, which are mostly at the defensive end (and make the hiring of D'Antoni even more ridiculous). It means forcing Howard to mentally and verbally take full responsibility for the success of the team.
Howard is immature. We know that. We watched him in Orlando. Put some pressure on his ass. Make Howard explain why this team is underachieving.
I know this column will appear to many as hatred of Kobe. I don't hate Kobe. He's a wonderful player and terrific competitor. He simply has to make the mental adjustment that Dwyane Wade made last season. Come May and June, the Lakers are going as far as Dwight Howard can take them. Nash and Gasol might help the Lakers recover and get into the playoffs. And Kobe is certainly capable of continuing to put up big numbers.
But the Lakers are not winning a title if their second-best player continues to stunt the growth of their best player.
BEST OF MAXIM
Pau Gasol returned Tuesday night from an eight-game absence as the Los AngelesLakers host the Charlotte Bobcats at Staples Center.
Gasol, who struggled with knee tendinitis through most of the early part of the season, has been given the green light to play without restriction.
"The sky is the limit, 48 (minutes), if overtime 50," joked Gasol.
The Lakers have struggled...
As expected Pau Gasol returned to the court last night. The Los Angeles Lakers had their All-Star forward back in the lineup for the first time since December 2nd. His return signified a new hope for the team, but it is going to take time. The Lakers beat the Charlotte Bobcats last night with Gasol back, but just barely.The Lakers won 101-100 against one of the worst teams...
Gasol had an impact in a variety of ways even while struggling with his shooting touch. He finishing with 10 points on three-for-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes after missing the previous eight games to let the tendinitis in his knees subside. He was not on the court at the end of the game, with D’Antoni saying his conditioning was a factor....
The Los Angeles Lakers will get a boost this week when Pau Gasol returns to the lineup. Gasol has missed the Lakers last seven games. During that time, the Lakers have gone 2-5. They have struggled all year, but the team hopes that Gasol's return and Steve Nash's eventual return will help spark them to a run and get them back into the playoffs.According to Kevin Ding...
Struggling mightily in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, rumors persist that the underachieving Los Angeles Lakers may trade four-time All-Star power forward Pau Gasol to the New York Knicks for six-time All-Star and 2007 All-NBA First Team selection Amar’e Stoudemire. The Lakers, … Continue reading →
Earlier then expected, Pau Gasol will return to the lineup tonight against the Bobcats after missing the last nine games with tendinitis in his knees.
Mike D’Antoni says @paugasol will start tonight. He responded well to practice yesterday. LAL were 3-5 w/out Gasol.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 18, 2012
The Lakers received a bit of good news Monday as Pau Gasol and Steve Nash participated in a light, noncontact practice.
Gasol (knee tendinitis) isn't officially cleared to play Tuesday night when the Lakers host the Charlotte Bobcats, but he should be able to return from an eight-game absence if he suffers no ill effects from Monday's workout.
Nash is shooting to play in...
Pau Gasol had a successful workout on Saturday.
December 15 was a big day in the NBA trade market. Now, a big group of players who signed contracts in the offseason can be traded away by their respective teams. This past Saturday could be considered the official start of trade season. Whether a player is unhappy with his current situation or a team is not satisfied with a player’s performance, it may be time to cut ties and...
Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum, whose been battling knee problems since his trade to Philadelphia, believes he's the best center in the NBA, and has some advice for his former team.
"I don't regret anything. Personally, they traded No. 1 for No. 2 and that is what happened," said Bynum, referring to the four team trade that sent him to Philly and Dwight...
“Pau Gasol has given the Lakers a lot and I don’t feel he’s getting enough in return, especially as far as confidence,” Rubio said in a conference call earlier today. “But he’s a pro. If he goes to another team, I think he would make a contender out of that team. Wherever he goes, he’s going to be fighting for the title.”
The Lakers are on the hook for about 30 million in luxury tax this season. Compared with what they may pay next season, that's almost nothing.
The league's new collective bargaining agreement includes a graduated tax that kicks in for the 2013-14 season. For every additional 5 million the team is over the tax threshold, the rate increases.
Naturally the team has every hope...
Photo Credit: ESPNThe start to the NBA season has not been kind to the Lakers and their fans. Injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Pau Gasol have hampered chemistry and the firing of Mike Brown hasn’t produced a whole lot of optimism. The Lakers have looked old, slow, and unorganized on both the offensive and defensive ends. Their new coach, Mike D’Antoni, talked during his...
For the first time this season, the Lakers won back-to-back games on the road beating Washington and Philadelphia over the weekend. And that was also the first time in a long time Laker fans saw their team put together consistent quarters in a span of 96 minutes.
While the Lakers is still far from becoming a team we can all fully assess, gathering wins is as important as progressing...
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonThe Lakers were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats and extend their winning streak to 3 games. With Pau back in the lineup the team was still not able to successfully run their half-court offense when both Pau and Dwight were in the game together. They got away with doing that tonight, but if the Lakers really want to win a championship they will need to find...