I agree that it's an outright shame to watch Kobe struggle. He's one of the most talented players in NBA history AND he's a winner. This guy should not be getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs. But I have one rather large criticism of Kobe one that somehow goes largely ignored:
He's totally incapable of making his teammates better.
When Jordan stepped on the court, he demanded perfection from the other four guys on the floor. They respected him SO much that they'd practically kill themselves every night trying to live up to his expectations. Jordan led by example, plain and simple. In all senses of the word, he got the most out of them.
By contrast, Kobe intimidates the crap out of his young teammates. He gets visibly flustered when someone else makes a mistake. He whines at the refs. He demonstrates poor sportsmanship towards other teams. Kobe's teammates don't play as well when he's on the court as when he's off because they're too damn scared of making mistakes.
He has no idea how to lead his team.
Kobe the individual is one of the greatest winners that I've ever seen. I doubt just about anyone in the history of basketball could outplay him or out-will him when something was on the line. But as a leader, Kobe leaves much to be desired. He needs to stop making excuses and start holding himself to a higher standard a higher principle in all walks of basketball.
If he does, his teammates will follow.
On Lamar Odom
My take on Odom: He's a great talent, but doesn't score well in the flow of an offense.
It also seems like he needs some sort of kick in the ass before he does anything. He just doesn't have enough of a will to win to make him anything more than a good player; he's not that motivated. That makes him a terrible fit for Kobe Bryant.
I would bring in a super-intense, super-aggressive, team-first guy to play next to Kobe.
On Jerry West and Phil Jackson as Saviors
I'm no expert here, but I suspect that Jerry West at 70 isn't the same GM he was at 63. I would be hesitant to put faith in his abilities to turn around a messy situation—especially when everyone under the sun is looking for him to do something drastic.
The odds of that working out in the Lakers favor are about zero.
This is the NBA we're talking about, where the GM's are ex-players...so anything's possible. By the way: How do owners let this happen? Hundred-million-dollar businesses entrusted to guys who've never taken a course in economics or finance? No way this still goes on 20 years from now.
The ever-emotional Phil Jackson as a GM scares me. He's got a bit of Dusty Baker in him these days—THE BIG EGO SYNDROME. I could see him getting taken to the cleaners...after which he'd hold some whiny retirement press conference to declare that basketball isn't very important.
On Mitch Kupchak's Performance
I really don't think Mitch Kupchak did a bad job.
He assembled a roster in 2007 that looked like it had a chance to win both in the now and far into the future. It had the makings of a successful experiment—blending future stars with proven players.
Of course, it didn't work out—and given all the fallout, it's clearly time to blow the whole thing up.
But let's not act like Kupchak is some incompetent fool. The Lakers could have just as easily stayed healthy and looked like one of the favorites to win it all in 2008. Mitch doesn't get to play the games.
(And no, for the record, I'm not related to him.)