Kobe vs. the Lakers (Hegel Style)
Hegel sought to find not quite a middle path between two extremes but more a better-informed position that takes account of two opposed views. With one eye toward Hegel’s contributions to philosophy, I set the other eye on the conflict between the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. Can something be salvaged from this seemingly irreparable situation? Can that be anything other than one side simply losing tout court?
Thesis (Kobe Bryant): I am the greatest player now in the game. I am the MVP even if I don’t have the trophies lining my shelves. I am one of the greatest players ever to suit up for the NBA. I am the Los Angeles Lakers. But my plea doesn’t require that I cite all of my considerable achievements. In fact, I am asking simply as someone who has been told for several seasons now that I would receive help so we can make this team a winning team. I have been lied to. My plea is simple: give me some help.
I examine what the Lakers have done since the trade that sent Shaquille O’Neal to Miami (and here you, the Lakers, agree with me that that was the correct decision) and I am far from impressed. In exchange for Shaq came Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler. The dip in talent was considerable, but the thought was that two of the players were young and could be molded to fit the triangle. Of those three players, one is retired, one was traded, and one is still on the team but oft-injured. Chris Mihm and Chucky Atkins were acquired. Only the oft-injured Mihm remains. Atkins and Butler were traded for the oft-injured Kwame Brown. I see a pattern emerging.
Free Agency has seen multiple big name players go elsewhere. Our signings have included Shammond Williams (retired), Aaron McKie (retired), Vlade Divac (retired), and Vladimir Radmanovic (still in LA). Those four players combined to play in 124 of the 420 games they were cumulatively available to play. In short, you’re getting damaged goods because they’re available at relative bargain prices. Don’t make me talk about their redundant skill sets. It’s too painful.
Antithesis (Los Angeles Lakers): Kobe, the NBA is a business. We are trying to make money. In the NBA, you make money by winning games and giving fans something to see. In fact, you make money by winning in the playoffs, not just in the regular season. We want to win. We are trying to build a team around you. We are just unwilling to be duped in a deal in order to make that happen. God knows we’ve tried. Everyone’s name has been dropped in trades. At times, everyone has been made available.
One glaring oversight in your list of our efforts was the NBA draft. This is intriguing because LA has quietly put together an impressive draft list over the past few seasons. Andrew Bynum, Ronny Turiaf, Jordan Farmar, and Javaris Crittenton have all been drafted over the past three seasons. Two of those players will start significant games this season. One of them has a good chance of being the starting PG by next season. That’s three starters over three years, with only one pick being in the top 20. I think you’re overlooking the forest for the trees. That is how we have improved this team significantly.
We readily admit that some moves have not worked out. Vlad Radmanovic’s injury was huge last season. Significant injuries to Odom, Luke Walton, Kwame Brown, and Chris Mihm have all affected us terribly. This is not what we wanted, but we have been building toward something that is undeniable.
Our starters two seasons ago had a total of (711 minutes) of playoff experience outside you. This season we put out a starting unit with nearly 5000 such minutes and our bench is much deeper and much more experienced. Yes, getting here has taken time, but it is a truism that winning takes time.
Synthesis (Me): I believe that the crux of disagreement has already been presented and the solution is already on the table. The disagreement: Kobe does not want to waste any more years with a team that cannot win the title. What do I say to that? Kobe, my favorite player in the game, is spoiled. He is the best player in the game, but plenty of fantastic players have never won one title, much less three. He is competitive to the extreme, he is amazing, but his early success made him come to expect championships. Only one team wins the title each season. That is something Kobe has to come to terms with. There are no guaranteed championships in the NBA. You cannot simply acquire a championship team (Boston didn't do it this year either; just watch).
What about the Lakers? They are content to pray that Bryant will stick with them as they build a new team from the bottom up via draft. I have to say that I am impressed with what they have done, but their quirky commitments to players like Luke Walton, (ex-Laker) Devean George, and Brian Cook make me wonder what their real plan is because there is obviously something at work that none of us sees. That is the dilemma, then: (hopefully) win now with Kobe and some star he desires or (hopefully) win later with Kobe (again, hopefully).
The solution was within reach. Bryant had ceased his banter. All was at least acceptable in Lakersville. And then people on the management side had to open their mouths. The only solution now is for management to apologize (at least privately; this way they save face publicly), pray for good health, pray for the young players to step up this season (as they have for several seasons consecutively now), be on the lookout for a quick fix, and pray that Kobe can grit it out. Interestingly, that is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves now. And it’s unbearable. Sometimes, unfortunately, the best situation is unbearable.