Kobe Season 17: Return of the Mamba

Kobe has been in the news the last couple of days. People are anxiously awaiting his return, especially now that he signed that big contract extension. Ever since Kobe was cleared to practice everyone has asked the same question, “When is Kobe going to play?”

My answer: be patient. Kobe just came out and said that he is “weeks away.” I predicted Kobe would return for the Christmas game which seems more likely now given Kobe’s recent statement. That boy likes to make an entrance, and we all know the stars and cameras will be watching. However, it is important that we do not rush him.

The Lakers have been mediocre thus far, but bringing him back early will only put unwanted pressure on him and lead to another injury. Kobe cannot carry this team on his own so we need to see the big picture. We have a 35 year old guard who just suffered a ruptured Achilles. Since we just gave him a $48.5 million extension, we probably should protect our asset.

We need to understand that most players do not return from this injury (just ask Charles Barkley). Therefore if Kobe is going to act like the Greek God he is then we need to help lift him up (both figuratively and literally).

Lakers fans, I understand you are anxious and want the man to return. I miss him too, but let’s call a spade a spade. Even if Kobe returns before 2014, the Lakers will not be a team that can contend for the title. The Lakers do not have the talent. Therefore lets let Kobe reach his maximum potential and rest those feet. This is the first break he has had in years.

Next summer we will have cap space and possibly a really good team. I want Kobe to be the best possible 36 year old he can be, but that won’t happen if we bring him back to early and let him re injure himself.

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The Lakers Silver Linings Playbook

There has not been a lot for Lakers fans to celebrate so far this season. We have a 6-7 record, Kobe is still on the mend, Pau has been mostly a non factor, and Steve Nash is showing his age (both through constant injury and telling long stories that put me to sleep while he is trying out being an analyst.) However, there is one positive note in this otherwise bleak season: the bench.

Our bench is hot, and I am not just talking about their physical appearance. The bench is the reason why the Lakers have won those 6 games. It is astounding how well they have played. When I look at this bench I think of the movie “The Replacements.” Like the movie, our bench is made up of pieces that no one really wanted or thought would accomplish anything, but they have managed to be the number 1 scoring bench in the league.

This bench has revitalized the Lakers and have given us fans something to be excited about. They are young, fast, and athletic. One thing we have learned this season is that it doesn’t matter how well Steve Nash or Pau Gasol play, instead the Lakers live and die by the bench.

What I find so fascinating about this bench’s success, is the fact that it is a true team effort. None of these players could win the “6th Man of the Year” Award, yet they are the most offensively successful bench in the league. This is a testament to a successful strategy that does not rely on a single individual. However, no plan is full proof.

As we have seen, these players are young and mostly inexperienced. While there are times when they are explosive, they can also let their immaturity and egos get in the way. This fact was blatantly obvious to me when I attended the Pelicans game 2 weeks ago. I only wish that the middle aged man repeatedly grabbing me anytime those birds scored was the worst thing I had to endure that game. The bench was incapable of passing the ball and instead played one on five and took stupid Kobe-esque shots. Unfortunately, none of these players are Kobe (I am looking at you Nick Young, get your ego in check).

The Lakers are by no means set to win the Championship this year. They are lacking guards and someone to take the shot at the end of the game (I don’t trust Jodie Meeks to consistently make game winners). However, I chose to take the Bradley Cooper approve and see the silver lining.

Lakers v Rockets: Let the Emotion Fest Commense

Tonight the Lakers face off against the man they once believed to be the future face of their franchise: Dwight Howard. This will be an interesting game simply because there is so much animosity spread out amongst both teams. The Lakers are embarrassed that Dwight walk away, Harden is presumably still upset about former Laker MWP giving him a concussion, and then there is always the legendary animosity between Rambis and McHale. All in all, this should be fun.

I grew up watching hockey, so I am not ashamed to admit that I love it when fights break out on the floor. Granted it is never in good in basketball as it is in hockey, but I will take what I can get. I don’t expect Rambis to charge at McHale and then have McHale take him out with a close line tonight, but I will admit that would be awesome.

Instead, I will be looking for more subtle jabs. First, the Lakers will implement Hack-a-Howard (by the way, every analyst always said Hack-a-Dwight and missed such an obvious alliteration, so I will be changing the term). The Lakers will take advantage of a tactic that hurt them so much last year that it put them in the bottom of the pack for free throw percentage.  I expect them to take some aggression out on Howard using this method. Pau of course won’t be aggressive, because that is not his style, but I expect major hits from Jordan Hill. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if Mike puts in a few scrubs just to teach D12 a lesson. I assume all this hacking will lead to technicals and maybe even a little scuffle.

The issues between the Lakers and Dwight are pretty obvious, however I don’t think it will take much to set Harden over the edge either. Harden can play dirty. We have seen this on multiple occasions, and if this game gets physical then I think it is very likely he can get into an altercation. A lot of this will depend on how competitive the game becomes. If it is a blowout on either end then I would expect a fight involving multiple techs near the end of the game. If it is a close game then it will be physical throughout and the refs will keep both teams on a tight leash leading to multiple techs through out the game.

I am most intrigued to see how the coaches behave throughout the game. Kevin McHale has been very public about his hatred for everything purple and gold. He may just be the fuel that turns this current spark into a fire. Mike on the other hand has continually put his foot in his mouth. He keeps saying stupid things regarded Dwight and is universally blamed for his departure. He has a lot to prove. He knows he is coaching on borrowed time and needs to try to extend it as far as he can before the Lakers inevitably fire him and bring back Phil. Being embarrassed by Dwight in the beginning of the season will not earn him any brownie points.

I hope this game brings entertainment from the court and not just from the off court drama. Here’s to hoping Steve Nash can play real minutes and make this game interesting, as opposed to games against the Mavs and Warriors. If not, at least we can all enjoy the commentary from the half time report. Always love Shaq making fun of Dwight, and Kenny making fun of Charles.