An Open Letter to Kobe Bryant from a Fed-Up Lakers Fan
In a few minutes, you'll wake up from this really terrible nightmare that is the Lakers season of 2012-13 and realize it was all a dream.
What? It's not a dream? The Lakers really are 18-25 and languishing near the bottom of the Western Conference, on a course to miss the playoffs for only the sixth time in their 60-year history? Ouch.
Let me tell you how frustrating this season has been, Kobe. And, why I sincerely believe that management needs to step in now and shake things up once again.
First, I have nothing really bad to say about your play. At 34, you are having the kind of season you would have taken at 24. You're 29 points on 47 percent shooting is almost the same as when you were 24 and averaged 30 points on 45 percent from the floor. Pretty good for an old guy.
You've carried this team through much of the season, when other players just weren't hitting their shots or were simply afraid to take them. In early December you became the youngest in NBA history to score 30,000 points, a feat only four other players have experienced. For one night, in New Orleans, that was special.
But, Kobe, you have to admit this has been one of the most trying seasons in your 17-year career. And, I think I speak for a lot of Lakers fans when I say that this team just doesn't seem to have that special something that championship clubs have.
Can Kobe Bryant be the catalyst to turn around Lakers season?
There was so much promise before the season started. How could there not be, with a starting unit that included four future Hall of Fame superstars in Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and you? My goodness, you felt like you could have just skipped right to the playoffs. That's how good the Lakers looked...on paper.
But, something was amiss. The pressure was overwhelming before preseason had even begun. But, that's nothing new in Laker Nation. No, there was the feeling that this team just may not be all that it was cracked up to be.
Do you know when the last time a head coach was fired just five games into the regular season? The answer is never. Dolph Schayes of the old Buffalo Braves franchise (now L.A. Clippers) resigned after just one game in 1971, but he wasn't fired.
Mike Brown was let go because management felt the team was headed in the wrong direction. Upon learning of his dismissal, the good-natured Brown headed directly to the Chick-Fil-A in Costa Mesa where posed for pictures with Lakers fans.
Kobe, you really seem to be putting team and wins above individual achievements this year and when the Lakers signed Mike D'Antoni as the new coach in November you were very supportive, even if you were surprised it wasn't Phil.
But, as November turned into December and January brought more losses, you seemed to lose some faith in your coach and teammates. You managed to reel off 30 or more points in 10 consecutive games, which was a great accomplishment. But you really longed for wins, which just weren't coming.
Did you realize the Lakers are just 6-22 when you take 20 or more shots and 12-3 when you attempt 19 or fewer?
In fact, you may have played your best game of the year last night in that 18-point route of Utah, Fourteen points on 7-10 shooting, 14 assists, nine rebounds and three steals - now, that was impressive.
So, where do the Lakers go from here, Kobe? How do you manage to get your teammates to buy into Coach D'Antoni's up tempo offense when they clearly want to slow things down?
In what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting in Memphis this week, you asked Dwight Howard if he was okay playing with you and the big guy never really gave you an answer.
There's a lot of white noise coming your way of late - that's what losing will do to you. Fans want to fire the coach, trade D12, trade Gasol, "blow up the team", play Meeks and Morris more, move Gasol to center, do whatever it takes...but do something.
Even you said recently, when asked what was wrong with the team following another road loss in Chicago: "we're going to have to change something..probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more,"
In an L.A. Times poll that asked if you could turn the Lakers around, 68 percent of your normally optimistic fan base said no.
I've been a fan of the Lakers for many years. I have never seen such negative energy surrounding the purple and gold before. Well, maybe I have, but this is current and it feels like the club is imploding and can't be saved.
To a man, most of the former Lakers (Kurt Rambis, Robert Horry, James Worthy, Magic Johnson) now doing commentary are in agreement that change needs to happen. The 102-84 win over the Jazz was nice to see, but what's going to happen Sunday when you take on Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant?
I shudder to think how Russell Westbrook manages to shred the defense every time you meet and how Durant can shoot and score from wherever and whenever he wants. The Lakers have not beaten any truly elite teams (The Knicks? Get serious.) this year.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, Kobe. Maybe there is something to that crazy statistic about you shooting less and the team winning more. But, I also believe that if your teammates are hitting shots off of your passes, that you're satisfied with 14 points and a victory.
My suggestion, Kobe, would be for the team to examine itself at the All-Star break and act accordingly. If the slide downward has become acute by then, the Lakers may want to think about replacing Mike D'Antoni with assistant Bernie Bickerstaff and letting him coach the rest of the season. After all, he was 4-1 as interim head coach prior to D'Antoni.
Winning cures most ills in sports, so if Friday night's convincing win over Utah translates to a long winning streak for L.A., then I think the team could right its listless ship. But, that's a big if.
The Lakers have been consistently inconsistent all year so why should that change now? It changes if D'Antoni gives a little, Dwight gives a little and if the rest of the team makes a concerted effort to actually play together.
Losing so many players to injury over the course of the year (Gasol, Howard, Nash, Hill) has been a nightmare. But, it's also allowed Earl Clark to emerge as one of the bright spots during an otherwise dull season.
In spite of all that has happened, the Lakers still have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. It will depend on the degree of chemistry the team can generate between now and April.
The talent has always been there, Kobe. Chemistry is the intangible that's been missing.
Here's hoping you find it.
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