The NBA regular season is finally under way, and from the new-look-Cleveland Cavaliers to the great teams in the West, there are plenty of reasons to watch basketball this season. But, as a fan of the Lakers, there doesn’t seem to be much to be currently excited about. The Los Angeles Lakers are off to their worst start since 1957, when they were still playing in Minneapolis, and when their name actually made sense. Amidst this terrible start has been speculation that Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ franchise player, is to blame. Apparently, Bryant’s continued presence in the Lakers’ organization has been fending off potential free agents because of his salty attitude, which used to be one of the Lakers’ strong suits. Many people point to Dwight Howard’s decision to sign for less money somewhere else than to re-sign with the Lakers as an example of this. Along with the Lakers trading away all of their draft picks in trades for All-Star players, the Lakers are currently in dire straits. Bryant is entering his 19th season on the Lakers, and he is currently the highest-paid player in the league, even though some believe that his best days are behind him. Critics have pointed to his massive contract as yet another reason that Bryant has hamstrung the Lakers because the team’s payroll is largely swallowed up by him.
Regardless of whose fault it is that the Lakers are struggling, Bryant remains the Lakers’ only bright spot in a season that only seems to be getting darker. The Lakers prized first round pick, 19-year-old Kentucky standout Julius Randle broke his leg in the first regular season of his career. He scored two points in less than fourteen minutes, and it seems that those are the only stats that will be under his name for the season, because he is likely out for the remainder of the year. As one of the Lakers’ only young talents, it was even more devastating because he was supposed to develop into a cornerstone for the franchise in the coming years. The Lakers will have to wait and see how he heals and hope that he continues to develop into the player that they hope he will become.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum lies the Lakers’ future Hall of Fame point guard, Steve Nash. In his 19th year in the NBA he seemed to be set to struggle through another injury-plagued season, but no one would have expected that he would have injured his back carrying bags. Those pesky bags must have been quite heavy because they sadly knocked him out for what is looking to be his last season playing professionally. Upper management was hoping that Nash would have one last great season to herald his amazing career, but sadly, that will not happen. Now, the Lakers are led by Jeremy Lin at point guard. Lin has come a long way from his days of Linsanity on the Knicks, but the Lakers are hoping that he will show a glimmer of that exciting talent as he controls the ball this season.
Due to the lack of quality depth on the Lakers’ bench and the fact that the season is basically a wash, I can’t wait to see what numbers Bryant puts up in the twilight of his career. He’s on a team that is lottery bound in the draft, everyone is doubting his abilities and blaming him for the success of the Lakers and he just missed almost all of last season; this is perfect fuel for Bryant to put up video-game numbers. The doubts are completely understandable though. He’s 36 now, and he just came off of two serious surgeries on his Achilles tendon and on his leg, so there is ample reason to expect his numbers to drop off. People forget that this is Kobe though. He has always proved people wrong. So, with the Lakers’ playoff outlook in mind, and Bryant’s career winding down, I hope he hogs the ball every night, takes the most difficult shots possible and drains them. I want to be awed by Bryant while he remains playing, and the Lakers’ struggles provide the perfect environment for him to show us vintage Bryant. It would be a great send off as he nears the end of his exciting career. I don’t want to see Bryant floating around the league with sub-20 stat lines, and I doubt he would feel differently. One thing that we can trust about Bryant is that he’s going to make great plays, even if it hurts his team sometimes. Luckily for him, and for us, the Lakers are bad, so he might as well shoot as much as his heart desires.