Saturday, April 13, 2013

Snake Bitten

Last night was a sad moment. To see Kobe Bryant, on the ground, rubbing his ruined Achilles after another "gangsta game" was heartbreaking. But what happened to Kobe last night's been coming since November.

Sometimes the writing’s on the wall. This year’s Lakers team was snake bitten from the jump. Kobe and Dwight HATE each other. Total dysfunctional mess with a weakling in the head coach's office, a non-confrontational Euro. You need to be confrontational as hell when you got that job. Phil Jackson: He's confrontational. He made Kobe and Shaq work. They DESPISED each other.

The marquee trades that prompted talk of a championship parade this June crumbled instantly when the season started. Dwight Howard? Get real. LA's the land of Jabbar and Chamberlain and Shaq-Diesel. Steve Nash is ten years past his prime. The guy looks like that weird-haired dude at the YMCA now. LeBron would shatter Nash on a breakaway. I think he would actually kill him. I'm not being figurative. Then Jerry Buss dies. Dr. B was a great owner and knowledgeable basketball mind. His son Jim isn't yet. Sometimes a team is just doomed. Kobe’s injury? How else would this train wreck end?

Five days into the season, they fire then-coach Mike Brown way too fast. He had two years left on his deal. Miraculously, Phil Jackson, like a prophet sent from God, sweeps in and says he'll rescue this trigger-finger owner, save his rep and his PR backside, and take the Lakers all the way. Every fan in LA wants Phil. Every fan in LA hates Buss Jr. It's like a hand-delivered blessing from the Heavens. Kobe publically politicked for him. It was a no-brainer.

Here's the catch: Not only is Phil the greatest NBA coach ever, he’s also the boyfriend of Jeannie Buss, Jim’s sister. And, by all accounts, Jimmy Boy didn’t like Phil’s star power or his place at the Buss family table. So, to the collective rage of every Laker ticket holder and the astonishment of every NBA expert, Jim Buss disses Phil and hires Mike D’Antonio, even though Mike hasn't recovered from a knee surgery and can't walk. I'm sorry, you don't get a European dude to coach the Lakers. You get Phil Jackson.

Eighty mil in total salary plus luxury tax off the charts, and it was over before Dr. Buss's grave was even dug.

Despite the Lakers working themselves back into the playoff picture (barely), it was clear that D’Antonio was the wrong coach. His demeanor wasn’t right. His style wasn’t right. And on top of it all, Buss Jr. gave Mike D. a four-year deal. He sent the message: "Screw you, Phil, this is my team."

The season was a corpse. The Hollywood Drama was in high gear. And the injuries were piling up. Pau Gasol was out for like two months for a foot injury. Same injury: Eli Manning didn't miss a SINGLE start. Steve Nash got broken in half the sixth game of the year. But thank God for Kobe. 34 years old, and he's the third-leading scorer in the NBA. He's in his 17th season and he's putting up 30 points a game through the all-star break.

He played well enough to somehow reverse what this owner had created. He is having the best year of his epic NBA run. He puts four scrubs on his back every night and manages to lead them to slightly more than fifty percent victory rate. He gets injured every night then just plays the next game on it.

He's your whole franchise, your whole world, and you hire NOT the guy he wanted, even though together they brought the Lakers to the heights? You hire the guy Carmelo Anthony called a joke three months before?

With less than a week left in the season, and the Lakers clinging to their post-season lives, Kobe put together three of the biggest "are-you-kidding-me" games of his career. Against New Orleans, he scores 23 points in the fourth-quarter, after scoring only 3 in the first three. He took the game over. By the way, Kobe has played 17 seasons + another two seasons with the Olympics and all the playoff runs. He practices for three hours BEFORE practice. Do you know how much it would suck to be his wife?

The VERY next night he plays ALL 48 minutes and drops 47 against Portland in a titanic performance. This coach didn't give Kobe a single rest on the back end of a double-nighter. Then, back in LA, Kobe scores 34 against Golden State to keep the Lakers alive for the playoffs. With just a few minutes left in the game, he makes a simple move to the basket, is fouled, and his whole career goes up in smoke. Fully-torn Achilles Tendon. Not kinda torn, fully torn, gone. Out 6-9 months. The same injury that ended Barkley and Shaq. The other injury he suffered this season happened with only seconds left in the game too. Snake bitten.

I don’t know if this is the end of Kobe. I've watched his entire career. Kobe will rip your heart out and eat it right in front of you. He's a killer. Kobe's in his 17th season and is abusing people. Jordan was shot by year 15. And Jordan didn't have to cart around this bag of clowns at 34 years old. It saddens me that Kobe's legacy and the ticking clock of his incredible career was put in the hands of an owner whose daddy made the money. Kobe deserves better than what happened to him last night.

He’ll be 35 in August, dealing with an injury of this magnitude, on the books for $30-million in salary next year. It’s a tricky thing to figure out from all sides.

A good coach manages his team and his star players. He thinks bigger picture. This coach, to save his job and push this sorry team into a certain first-round playoff exit, ran Kobe Bryant's career into the ground.

After blowing out his Achilles, Kobe hobbled on one leg to the free-throw line and sank both shots. A few minutes later, the Lakers won by two points. Legend.

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Brian Huba

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