The Los Angeles Lakers, who in their halcyon days of yore might have been compared to the Good Ship Lollipop now resemble Mutiny on the Bounty, with Kobe Bryant as Captain Bligh and Dwight Howard as Fletcher Christian. After their loss to the new juggernaut Los Angeles Clippers 107-102 on Friday, the second this season, Howard had a succinct explanation for his team’s inability to climb over the Clipper hump:
Look at the difference between our team and theirs. They just play together. They share the ball. Everybody's excited when something happens. We have to be like that to be a great team.
And Howard’s Fletcher Christian was joined by Pau Gasol’s Roger Byam in his rebellion against the team’s nominal leader:
It's difficult sometimes because it's not up to me to get involved. I'm trying, but the times that I am at the elbows are the times that I get more involved and can make more plays from there, but it's not consistent.
Neither of the independent sailors named who was responsible, but it seemed fairly clear which teammate they viewed as the impediment. By process of elimination it would be Bryant, because Steve Nash is famous for sharing the ball, and Metta World Peace ( I can’t believe I’m typing that name) hardly figures in the offensive set.
To quote the Mouseketeers, “Who’s the guy who takes more shots that anyone can see? K-O–B, E-B-R, Y-A-N-Tee-Hee. Uses more possessions than you’d ever hope to see? K-O–B, E-B-R, Y-A-N-Tee-Hee.”
Bryant takes more shots than anyone in the league and is numero uno in the NBA in possessions used. Can you imagine Bryant cutting his shot total so he’d drop out of the scoring race?
The Lakers are 19th in the league in assists. This indicates somebody is dribbling and launching. Who could that be?
There is an interesting parallel here: In 1969, the Lakers, having acquired Wilt Chamberlain to join Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, were generally conceded the NBA title before the season started. They had their big three just as the Lakers do with Gasol, Howard and Bryant. In the end, they lost in the seventh game of the Finals to an aging Boston Celtics team in Bill Russell’s last year, and there was a fascinating subplot to the game. Chamberlain hurt his leg in the second half and took himself out of the game. Bill Van Breda Kolff, the Lakers’ coach, was so furious at Chamberlain that he refused to put him back into the game until late in the fourth quarter. The Lakers lost by two.
It’s worth noting how many players complain about the offense in basketball. Offense can often devolve into one-on-one match-ups, while defense is much more a team concept. When Howard and Gasol decry the lack of a team mentality on the Lakers, you’ll never hear them speak of defense, which ultimately wins championships.
Teams reflect the attitude of their leaders, from Bill Russell’s legendary ability to lead with defense to Michael Jordan’s efforts at both ends of the floor. Bryant, Howard and the Lakers still haven’t realized that teams win championships by forgetting every number but one: W’s.