Kobe will always be Kobe. Whether Phil Jackson likes it or not, Kobe is always going to hoist up shots when he decides that the win is slipping from the Lakers’ grasp.
Which is why Sunday’s 19-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was no surprise. Rather, it was a throwback to the 2006/2007 debacle when Kobe had no choice but to shoot lights out every night in order for the Lakers to even have a chance. I mean, with a backcourt led by a guy named Smush, along with All-Stars Maurice Evans, Brian Cook and everyone’s favorite Eeyore — Kwame Brown — did he have any other option?
However, this 2010 team is not that team. As two-time defending champions with most of the personnel from their winning years, the Lakers have no excuse to put all their eggs in Kobe’s basket nor play so poorly against mediocre opponents.
Putting Kobe aside, the Lakers’ most glaring problem is their sad excuse for defense. The old mantra says that defense wins championships, but really, defense wins games that will get a team to a championship. It makes no sense to put it in hibernation until the end of April. At this rate, Lamar is more likely to be starting his spin-off reality show with Khloe than to defend the pick-and-roll. Ron-Ron has seemingly run-run from his duties as defensive stopper, as the likes of Rudy Gay, Dwayne Wade and Richard Jefferson have simply strong-armed him out of their way. This season, he is way behind in steals, which is usually his forte. But the most obvious, and perhaps saddest, is D-Fish’s inability to keep up with the army of young, quick and crafty point guards that have become commonplace in the league today.
Fisher is a smart, clutch veteran who knows how to play the game right, but the game is always evolving and it has become increasingly apparent that the Lakers may need to part ways with one of their fearless leaders.
I know that it is easy to pick a team apart when they are down, but this season’s poor play is more serious than just another slump for the Lakers. It looks like the equivalent of a roller coaster ride with too many drops and not enough climbs. Heck, at this point Phil Jackson would probably pay his Zen gods just to cruise at a steady altitude for a few games.
Maybe the Lakers will be able to reinvent themselves with the personnel they have as the league-leading San Antonio Spurs have done. I can’t even count how many times they have dug Manu, Tony and Timmy from the grave to get into the playoffs and give much younger, better-equipped team runs for their money. What is clear is that the Lakers need to do some major tweaking in order to get back to the top, starting with defense. Then maybe order can be restored and people can go back to hating on Kobe for throwing up 60 shots a game.
Daily Nexus columnist Julia Speace is on the Lakers’ roller coaster ride, and is about to toss her cookies.