Kobe Bryants achilles roles the final snake eyes on FO's gamble.
Posted by: SPQR on Apr 13, 2013 - 01:01 PM
In last nights game against Golden State, the iron body of Kobe Bryant finally did what all bodies do over time, bend and break to the ineluctable entropy of age and all that comes with it.
To see Kobes season and very possibly his career end because of injury was as shocking as seeing a mid July snowstorm because it is something that just doesnt happen, not an event you even consider nor plan for because years of experience tells you it just is a flat out impossibility.
This sad event and the repercussions it has on this team, not just now, but for the future was the final result of a very strange gamble played by the Lakerss FO in the offseason when they decided to throw the dice on making a team that was already too old to win a title even older.
By keeping Pau, Metta and adding Nash and Jamison to the roster the Lakers picked up the dice and threw them in the most precarious game of craps a front office has decided to play in years with a major sports franchise of the stature of the Los Angeles Lakers.
For this gamble to succeed, Team Geriatric had to somehow overcome two distinct problems: How does a team this old and unathletic possible shore up and Improve on the defensive deficiencies that eliminated them from the playoffs the last two years and how reliable will a team populated with so many older players hold up physically to the grind and torture test of the 82 game season?
And in the big gamble that we took the answer to both questions was not the hoped for result. By mid season it was apparent that the gamble on defense, really more of an unrequited, impossible prayer than gamble would not come to pass. The defense was paying a price for double down on age and any attempt at achieving a championship style on that end of the court was extinguished for good. At that point the question became could this old team play offense good enough to salvage some type of season that didnt end in abject humiliation?
That answer came too. The injuries mounted faster than a triage unit at a war front. Pau, Metta, Nash and Kobe all suffered injuries that kept them out of games, effecting our performance and standings in season where every game was life and death in the razor thin playoff race we found ourselves engaged in. It is no coincidence that all these players are in their mid thirties or over and received a lions share of the playing time. It is also no coincidence that the one older player who was relatively injury free was Jamison, a player who got limited playing time. On a team that had no defense to fall back on, losing these players for stretches of the season which not only hurt game to game performance but was a stopper for developing team chemistry was catastrophic. When the Lakers put together this team it seemed a blithe thing, an exercise in hopes and dreams, a desperate gamble more than smart foresight. They gambled that somehow we could play representative defense and they gambled that Team Geriatric could navigate the full season without suffering from any substantive injuries. They lost both gambles and now here we are.
The immediate concern of course is Kobe. You know he will work to rehabilitate his injury as hard as any athlete ever has in professional sports. Its just his nature. If he were 22 or 26 or 28 or 32 one could bet he would overcome this injury and return as the same force of nature he always has been. But at 35 next year, one wonders not what Kobe will allow but what his body can still give. It is these kinds of injuries to athletes of just that age that spell the final turning point in many great athletic careers.
The blame game will begin now. As I watched Kobe last night get physically pounded and mauled, first one leg then the other, I was wincing. My heart went out to this indefatigable, heroic warrior who never stopped battling no matter the pain or circumstance. You could almost see it coming. There he was, a 34 year old proud lion fighting like mad to keep his territory against his attackers who kept snapping and clawing at him, his body literally coming apart right in front of my eyes; yet nothing was done, no surcease asked by him nor offered to him. He fought like a beast, determined to keep his dominance, bloody, but giving it back in every measure in a war he not only fought, but welcomed with gusto and pride.
Should DAntoni given him more rest, not just last night, but all season long? Should he have had more faith in a team that actually played well in Kobes earlier absence? Should Kobe have asked for more rest all season long and should he have spelled himself in last nights games as his body started falling apart?
It is easy to cast blame now, on both men. But how does DAntoni pull or spell a legend like Bryant when he so obviously wants to keep playing, when he insists all is fine and DAntoni wants to win with his best player on the floor? And how can one blame Kobe when he, the ultimate warrior, the one who knows his body better than anyone else, tells the coach he can stay in the games, wants to stay in the games, keep playing the minutes; that he his fine?
Blame comes after the fact. Both men wanted to win, to try making this team and its finish something better than what had transpired for most of the season. Can you blame them for wanting that? Im sure many will, but if you ask Kobe, he will be the first to tell you that nobody is to blame for the fact that both he and his coach wanted him in games for all those minutes. Maybe in the individual case of Kobe Bryant and what happened last night, nobody really is to blame but Father Time.
I wont get into the blame game because I understand the mentality of both Kobe and DAntoni: We are in it to win it and the rest be damned. In my view there is no blame for that attitude or the attempt to achieve it. You throw the dice. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
If one is to cast blame on the season and what happened last night, I would go way back to summer when for some inexplicable reason, the front office rejected reality and decided that more age was the answer to what ailed this team in the first place. They put the team in a position where old, very old players would log large minutes. The result was not all that surprising. They should have seen it coming.
With Kobes injury the final denouement has been written on Team Geriatric in the most shocking, frightening and saddest of terms. It was chilling to see coming, it was ugly to watch and sad to take, especially with valiant effort of Kobe and this team to make the playoffs in the last week that for the first time all season really got ones blood pumping in the effort given.
That sound you heard last night was not just the snap of Kobes Achilles, but the final role of the FOs dice. That look of distress on Mitchs face was not just the loss of his best player, the lion of the Lakers, but the long, exhausted stare of a man who knows what he has rolled on his final throw of the dice. That he has crapped out: snake eyes. You lose, Mitch. You lose, Jim. You lost, Jerry. You lost the season and you lost Kobe because you put him in a situation that forced the events of last night. A win at all cost game on a team that never had a chance to cruise through games or the season.
Now we must hope the team can continue on, play with the same energy and enthusiasm it has shown in the last week. The end of Kobes season is not the end of the Lakers season. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, what they can make of this situation. Their leader and best player is gone, but they still have pride and talent, albeit aged, to make this ending and perhaps the playoffs at least an exciting finish far better than the desultory majority of the season we witnessed.
When this season ends, whether it be next week or sometime in the playoffs, the FO will be forced to pick up the hot dice again and begin making new throws. Because thats the situation now. This team will never compete for a title again. When it does, we will be watching and rooting and talking about a whole different group of players doing their thing. These new throws will begin to determine when and if the Lakers will someday be in championship contention again.