Immediately after the sweep, analysts and fans rushed to condemn the Lakers’ aging roster, lack of motivation and immaturity.
Because of the team’s failure, the expectation to win a title next season seems impossible to meet.
The fact that the Lakers’ best player and savior, Kobe Bryant, may play for Italy’s Virtus Bologna basketball club only decreases the Lakers’ chances.
However, Bryant must understand that his Italian dream is drastically less important than the Los Angeles Lakers’ dream for a 2012 NBA title.
By playing in Italy, Bryant is putting himself on a pedestal—he will be the best player on the court at all times.
In order for opposing players to stop him from dominating the game, they’ll have to foul him. Hard.
According to Daniel Hackett, a former USC guard who plays for the Pesaro Italian club, the “only way to stop a player” of Bryant’s caliber “is with a hard foul,” and that if he has five fouls to commit on Bryant, they will the “hardest five fouls [he has] ever committed.”
Bryant already has numerous injuries, including a recently surgically repaired knee and a bum index finger. Clearly, if he plays in Italy, the aging NBA veteran will only expose himself to further harm in games that don’t even matter.
If he does become injured, the Los Angeles Lakers’ season will be doomed. Their dreams of winning a title will diminish without their leading scorer, playmaker, defender and motivator.
Therefore, Bryant must get over what seems to be an indifferent perspective of his real team’s title hopes. Right now, the Lakers need him—possibly more than he needs the Lakers.
In the end, however, the choice is Bryant’s and Bryant’s only.
He must decide which is more important: to play in Italy, his former home, or to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that believed in him when he began his NBA career in 1996 and the team that now believes that only he can carry it to an NBA championship.