WARNING: If you are a Lakers fan, stop reading.
The 2009 Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe, Gasol, Bynum: championship style basketball, right? Wrong.
This team is pathetic. That is right, pathetic.
The Lakers have done it again, losing to Houston without Yao Ming in a blowout, reassuring that this team has absolutely no heart.
Now before I get into this, I would like to state that as a huge Jazz fan, I saw the team get destroyed by the Lakers. They killed us, plain and simple. And after that series I expected Kobe and Co. to get their act together and take down a possible championship.
Well, I was wrong.
This team has finally proved to me that they are not just lacking teamwork, but more importantly heart.
Why? I will let the stats, recent play, and intensity throughout games speak for themselves.
Kobe Bryant, arguably the most talented player in the game, let his team lose tonight.
Now, I will get 100 comments telling me this is absurd and stupid because Kobe had 32 points and was the only thing positive about the Lakers' performance last night.
My response? If you think 11-27 shooting with absolutely horrendous leadership qualities is beneficial to a team then you are delusional. How many shots did Lamar Odom take? Five. Vujacic? Three.
I am not even close to being done.
A key component to the Lakers' problems? Phil Jackson. The Zen Master is the one who should be most ashamed of where this team is headed.
And it was not always this way.
The Lakers teams that won championships with Shaq and Kobe were filled with energy and emotion. That team wanted to win. Jackson is a coach who thrives when his teams have the necessary components to win titles, not just talent-wise, but leadership-wise also.
You see, Phil cannot deal with a team that does not thrive on heart, because as great a coach as he is, this is not a quality that he imposes on his teams.
Jackson is a phenomenal coach, but when it comes to creating a team from top to bottom and from being a leader in the locker room he is as useful as a towel boy.
Look at every one of the teams and coaches in the playoffs this year. Did Jerry Sloan ever stop coaching for a second in the first series? Look, the Jazz lost miserably, and did not even deserve to get past the first round, but they played every second of each game like it was their last and final minute on the court.
Or how the entire city of Cleveland, as well as Delonte West, have trusted LeBron with everything because they know he will deliver, not just because of his talent, but because of his desire to win for his teammates, his organization, and his city.
Every team left right now is playing each game to win, with heart, emotion, and energy.
The Lakers? They are playing for salaries and Nike deals.
And this did not just start now.
Last season during the Finals, did Kobe ever show a sense of urgency against Boston? A feeling that drove his teammates around him to win? No, he did not. What he did was let a Celtics team without anyone more talented than himself stroll over the Lakers like a bunch of fourth graders.
Would Michael Jordan ever have let an opposing team run over him? Ever? Of course not, and that is what made the Bulls great and MJ the greatest player of all time.
I would never question Kobe Bryant's basketball ability, however, while his talent is incredible enough to compete for a title, his heart is not.
It is not like Kobe is not trying to get his team to win; he is always motivated by winning and doing things the hard way. (Personally, I believe his work ethic is superior to almost anyone's in the league.)
But when his teammates need a push, a spark, or anything to get them going, Kobe just fires up another jumper, looking up at the scoreboard to check his points.
Look, this is not the anti-Kobe show, and on an even more important note, has Pau Gasol ever shown any type of emotion? How about Bynum?
The Lakers thought this series was over and it is not. Not even close. They are in a world of hurt right now, and have the talent to kill any team in the league. Will they?
I do not think so.
And it is not because they are selfish, greedy, or immature on the court; it is because they are lacking what makes teams like the Rockets great: heart and emotion.
Urgency to win a game, to keep the crowd in it for one more time. Intensity to stick around for one more game, for one last play.
The Lakers have ability. They can succeed against any team, but what kills them are opponents who just have more desire to win than they do. Look at the way they have started the last two games in Houston. They have come out firing jump shots and inevitably met their demise after the first five minutes.
They have no real game plan, no fired up play makers, and no person to stand up and tell them what they need to do to get back in a game. All they have is talent.
Talent can go a long way in this league, but when talking about championships and dynasties, you need much more than a better scorer or ball handler. You need heart.