And now, a little story...

Back in the days of my youth, we used to get into these super competitive pick-up games at a friends’ house. It was usually 3-on-3 and it was in a space that was more wide than long, so that alot of shots were taken from the baselines and almost every play involved a foul or three. Fun games, but more than a little dangerous.

Anyway, the guy who lived there was older than us, and hyper-competitive, to put it mildly. The dude wanted to win. Needed to, even. It wasn’t beyond him to (literally) give his young son a kick in the ass  while screaming “cut out the hero shit!” at him whenever he took an ill-adivsed shot or tried to do too much in general. As funny as we thought it was, we always did our best to suppress our laughter, lest he do it to us.

Anyway, have you been watching Laker games lately?

I have. I’ve seen Kobe Bryant chucking shots like there’s no tomorrow and shit. 376 of them in the last 16 games, to be precise. 237 of them didn’t go in the hoop. 37% of them did.

Now, forgive me if I don’t feel like researching this right now, but I’d say it’s a safe bet that this is the worst month of his career, shooting-wise.

That’s right, at a time when Andrew Bynum is playing the best basketball of his life and dominating the low-post on a almost-nightly basis, when Pau Gasol is looking like he’s finally snapped out of the funk he’s been in since late last season, when Ramon Sessions has breathed new life into the Lakers’ stagnant offense and leaky perimeter defense, Kobe still feels the need to jack up 25 shots a game and bogart the offense with the same “I have to score 40 every night or we won’t win” mentality that might have been neccessary in the days of Chris Mihm and Smush Parker, but really isn’t the smart thing to do now.

The numbers have my back on this one. Worst shooting percentage since his rookie year. Second most shot-attempts per game in his career, trailing only 2006 when he averaged an ungodly 35.4 points per. Almost 4 turnovers a game. All of it adds up to a likely conclusion: Thirty-three year old Kobe is losing a step, only nobody appears to have the balls to tell him. If you saw him miss 15 shots in a row against the Hornets the other night, you’ll probably agree it was both a strange, almost unfathomable occurrence and a possible sign of things to come.

Hey, it pains me to say all this, truly. I mean, on the list of all-time Kobe apologists, I rank pretty fucking high. I had his back when the Shaq stuff was going down, and I totally understood his trade request in 2007 . Fuck, I was ready to switch allegiances to Chicago or Detroit or wherever he went.

I’m only half-kidding on that last one, by the way.

Point is, with all of that said, sooner or later father time catches up with everyone, and I do mean everyone. Talent-wise, I’ve never felt better about the 2012 Lakers championship chances than I do right now, but it isn’t gonna mean shit if Kobe doesn’t hurry up and remember all the lessons about trusting his teammates that he learned the hard way over 16 seasons of trials and tribs. There is enough around him to get this thing done, if only he’ll back up a bit and let the rest of the team carry some of the burden.

Seriously Kobe, cut out the hero shit already.

-John Hathwell



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