Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Can Kobe channel the Phoenix?

         One has to wonder if Kobe Bryant was sitting somewhere watching the NBA Finals. Somewhere secluded, somewhere in the dark, somewhere fuming.  Indy said, "It ain't the years, it's the miles", both of which are starting to pile on for the superstar. Yet with Scoring titles, championships, a bum knuckle, a bum knee, and looking more like the mortal 32 year old that he is rather than an in his prime 28 year old, Bryant may still be the hungriest player in the league. And one has to wonder if he's sitting there, taking in a Dallas win, a new coach with a questionable resume, and facing his own NBA mortality, if Kobe Bryant is planning a comeback. A take no prison, hostile takeover of the NBA crown he once wore. If he is, he's going to need help.

          Phil Jackson is retired. Mike Brown is in. Umm, not the first thing you want to hear when trying to get back to the finals. That doesn't mean all is lost. This is an all hands on deck moment. Assess the needs on offense. Assess the needs on defense. Assess the current talent. Phil Jackson has long been a fan of the potent 6th man. The Lakers only have the 6th man of the year in Lamar Odom. But the truth is, Odom might be the most dangerous player on the Laker's roster. Nothing is more beautiful than watching Odom's long arms snare a rebound on one end and push the ball on the break, slowly seeing the lanes part as he takes the ball coast the coast and use those same long arms to lay the ball in before the defense has had the chance to react to this 6'10" swooping concord. The Lakers need more of this. The Lakers need this man in their starting lineup. And the Lakers need this man hungry.

          I've always wanted to see the greats practice. I would have loved to see Michael and Scottie go at each other, pushing each other, teaching each other. To see Magic gather Coop, and Scott, and Kareem, and the rest of the troops and get everyone on the same page. To see Bird running the steps of the Garden while McHale practiced one of his seemingly million low post moves. Lakers fans have to hope that sometime soon Kobe and Lamar will be hitting a gym somewhere, creating their own practice legend. Kobe wasn't able to practice that much this past season. His knee didn't allow him to. From written reports, the Laker training staff believes they can get him healthy enough. Allen Iverson may not have believed in (practice?), but the greats will tell you, that's where a team earns its edge. The Lakers lost theirs. It will be more than a two man show. The Lakers need to alter their defensive personality. They need to infuse athleticism. The triangle is gone. A system which protects aging stars and puts them in their optimal comfort zones to score is no more. Pau Gasol needs to regain his confidence. Andrew Bynum still has a ton of growing to do. The Lakers have a lot of work in front of them. But don't count this team out. They have pieces. They have Gasol. They have Odom. And they have a fuming, ready to be reborn Kobe.

Daniel Mazler
Twitter - @DMazzle

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