Here’s a little hypothetical scenario: Reverse the Los Angeles Lakers current record. Make them 43-22 which would sit them at fifth place in the Western Conference. Now ask yourself: Does Kobe Bryant come back?
Of course he does.
Which is why it’s hard to believe that his “knee hans’t healed” or that he can’t physically play. The Laker organization may be a bit divided, but no one in the basketball world believes for one second that Kobe Bean Bryant wouldn’t be talking about making his return by next month if it meant another shot at his sixth NBA title. L.A. wasn’t wrong for effectively ending Bryant’s 2014 season at six games. In fact, it might be the smarted thing the front office has done all season.
The Lakers also announced that 40-year-old Steve Nash, who’s suffering from old age ailments (bad back, bad knee; all bad everything) won’t play for the remainder of the season either. Nash, however, is so banged up, that there’s little evidence that he’d make it past March.
With old-man Nash barely able to blink on the court without needing a new hip and Bryant being “injured,” the Laker front office finally showed they have some sense. Here’s why benching them both for the rest of the season was a great move.
Shit Was All Good Just A Year Ago
OK, maybe it wasn’t. Bryant was on a tear, playing better than ever. But perhaps he pushed too hard, as his ruptured achilles he suffered against the Golden State Warriors suggested. He and Nash have barely shared any time on the floor together, as Nash went down to injury early last season (along with then Laker Steve Blake, leaving point guard duties to Bryant). But at least there was hope for Laker fans last season. Nash would get better, Bryant would heal, Dwight Howard or Mike D’Antoni would be gone and maybe even Phil Jackson would come back.
So much for that.
Now the only thing Lakers fans can count on is uncertainty.
Two of the three players from the historic 1996 NBA Draft class on the same team, in nearly the same situation: limbo. We know what drives Bryant, who will forever hunt for a championship like only the Black Mamba can. But for Nash, the motivation is different now. A few months ago, when Nash turned 40, he gave the Philadelphia 76ers 19 points and five assists. Those numbers were an indicator of someone after a title. Now? Nash is happy just finishing he season.
Tank For A Top Pick
Earlier this season, we asked Lakers forward Wesley Johnson which future NBA rookies he thought would fit with the team. Jabari Parker was his choice and he is very right. But honestly, the Lakers are in a position to do no wrong. That is, of course, if they get a top 5 pick in the draft. If not, that lottery pick becomes a phoenix suns pick (from the Nash deal). Benching Bean and Nash for these last 17 games puts them in a better position to win by losing. Get embarrassed in games this regular season, to draft high this offseason.
Money Is The Motivation
Steve NsAh made headlines when his latest episode with Grantland series documenting the end of his career hit the net, because he admitted he wouldn’t retire because he wanted the last bit of his guaranteed contract money. Applaud him for his honesty but surely Laker fans want to know all their players are motivated by championships—something Nash still doesn’t have.
And, to be fair, Nash has rehabbed hard (also shown in the documentary), but it was tough for fans to hear given the circumstances.
Kobe’s Fed Up, D’Antoni’s Time’s up
Historically, Kobe is never shy about making demands for the greater good. Hell, he ran a viable Shaq out of town. What made anyone think he’d have a problem getting rid of one of his favorite players from his childhood? The writings were on the wall that this would happen. The most notable premonition was Bryant’s defiant orders to Pau Gasol to ignore D’Antoni’s system and just play basketball. Gasol chose to take Bryant’s advice over the demands of D’Antoni. That showed who wore the pants in Lakerville.
With Bryant outwardly saying he has no interest in playing for D’Antoni again, sitting him this season allows him time to rest while D’Antoni finishes out his contract. The unspoken objective here is that with a new coach, the Lakers have a better shot at landing Carmelo Anthony this summer. A move their sure to explore.