Yep, there’s no doubt about it the Lakers have hit a definite pothole on the road to success. Suddenly the yellow in their uniforms isn’t as bright, the purple not as deep – teams seem not to fear seeing them on the schedule. Forget the NBA and nevermind the Western Conference; it appears that the Lakers are no longer even the best team in their own zip code. And all of this has transpired while under the watchful eye of Kobe Bean Bryant. For the moment at, the Black Mamba appears to have been snake charmed.
The rough start to the season could be just what we need to see one of the league’s all-time great players reemerge with a vengeance of sorts. A last hoorah so to speak. Wouldn’t that be a story for the books, the battle ravaged warrior with more past behind him than future in front of him rallying the troops to victory? Stories that good are normally reserved for the etchings of pyramid walls. If any man could do it, Kobe can. But the odds are indeed stacked against him. His team at this point lacks focus and cohesion. Newcomers struggle to find purpose and veterans grow anxious of the location of the guillotine’s next plummet. Throw the fans longing for Phil Jackson into the mix and you have what may resemble a hopeless situation.
New head coach Mike D’Antoni has inherited the best job in sports and staying above water will consist of more than just staying above .500. He has to summon the energies of Lakers past to control his L.A. future. D’Antoni must be able to ignite their passion for play like Riley and calm their minds like Jackson all while maintaining a sense of self and make his own mark. But it can’t be done without Kobe. The 14-time All- Star has to buy into D’Antoni’s system, as well as, his personality 100 percent. As the Mamba goes, so go the Lakers. That purple and gold bravado is all hinged on Bryant believing in his coach. Gasol’s fear that he would be shipped off to some distant land before the trade deadline will diminish. Nash’s pace will steady and he will perfect his role. Howard will again become a force to be reckoned with instead of GM Mitch Kupchak’s most expensive Christmas ornament and Metta Wold Peace will out rebound the rest of the league. Unfortunately, they are a long way from believing.
Upcoming games against the practice squads of the NBA (Cavs, Wizards, Sixers) should give them just what they need to gel and rebuild their confidence win-by-win – either that or this tidal wave of calamity will wash them so far out to sea that they will have drifted past the horizon never to be seen again. It inevitably comes down to decisions. Who will D’Antoni be in the locker room? Will they choose to trust each other?
A foolish gambler would count them out magnify their shortcomings and dismiss their advantages – a large one being a leader who has amassed 30,000 points and counting, five World Championships and has an insatiable hunger to win. Beaten, battered, but not broken and shaken, startled, but not sunk. The Lakers should heed this as an S.O.S. moment (Save Our Season) sound the alarm and awaken the survival instincts within or risk being dragged down to the depths below by a Kraken of their own creation and find themselves in Davy Jones’ locker of lost seasons.