Player of the Week: Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02: Andrew Bynum #17 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers stand on the court before taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

This pick was made prior to last night's loss against the Pacers, which will be factored into this week's award. The thoughts expressed here were also made prior to the game.

I really hate choosing a Player of the Week in uneventful weeks like this. Being a spoiled Lakers fan, just watching a guy play well while the team loses in horrific fashion doesn't sit well. Maybe if I were a Sacramento or Washington fan, looking for some light in what is usually a losing campaign would be easier to do. Seeing as this employs talents like Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol, any performance worthy of Player of the Week, be it Kobe, Metta World Peace, or even Darius Morris (far-fetched at this point) should translate to nice wins. That wasn't the case at all this past week. Even worse, it's beginning to feel like we'll have more of these weeks than we'd like to. The Lakers' "Big 3" just aren't enough to overcome the overall system and talent deficiencies the team has.

Enter Kobe Bryant...

Many of you around here probably consider me the resident conspiracy theorist (lakergirl, hush). If you follow my Twitter feed (shameless plug), then you'd be very familiar with my love/hate relationship with Kobe, concerns over Jim Buss' power, and NBA politics. The NBA isn't my favorite league just because of the game itself. I'm intrigued by the behind-the-scenes power plays that go on between players, their agents, owners, and management and the way they use the media to promote their agendas. There aren't many (if any) people in the NBA who use the media better than Kobe.

Right now, I feel Kobe is doing everything in his power to put the pressure on Jim Buss to get Dwight Howard here as soon as possible. The more the season progresses, the more it seems the Lakers need to do something quick.

Here's a timeline:

  • Bynum returns to action 12/31 against Denver and looks fantastic in four straight games. Meanwhile, Kobe's shot attempts, ability to carry the Lakers, and effort to get his big men involved are questioned.
  • Following a sub-par night against Golden State (against Kwame Brown!), Bynum is finally dubbed the #2 option by Kobe. Regarding Kobe's 2011 season-ending insistence on Bynum falling in line after himself and Pau, this was no small acknowledgement. Bynum is clearly Jim Buss' favorite son, and many of the moves the Lakers have made seem to be geared towards acquiescing to Bynum's increased role on the team.
  • Kobe then proceeds to scorch the Earth by scoring 40+ points in four straight games. Not only does he renew the media's belief that he still "has" it, but no one questions his shots so long as he made them, helping to prove that he can still dominate in stretches.
  • Then this on 1/12 (three games into his 40+ point run):


  • It seems that Kobe's go-to-guys in the media are Yahoo!'s Adrien Wojnarowski, ESPN's Rick Reilly, and ESPN's Ric Bucher. More likely than not, if I'm hearing a rumor regarding Kobe from them, I'm going to put more stock into it seeing as they probably got the information from Kobe or his camp. At this point, Kobe isn't even being shy about his overtures to Dwight. If he truly wanted to show Dwight what he has left, then it was a message sent loud and clear.
  • After Kobe's final 40-point barrage, then overall ugliness, against Dallas, he "dials" back the scoring as we watch Bynum completely fail against Miami. Kobe wasn't too good either, but if Bynum is going to be the #2 guy, and a leader on this team, he did a poor job of proving it. Bynum started out 1-7 from the floor and was unable to affect the game in any way that could stop Miami from complete domination over the Lakers. For a player we expect to be an All-Star, Bynum's yet to show he can carry a team with his play. Forget Kobe vs. LeBron, Andrew should have destroyed each and every big on Miami.
  • Bynum gets utterly embarrassed by Dwight Howard as the Lakers were run off the floor for the second straight game by an elite team, all while Kobe played the "facilitator", exposing his teammates to be worse than we thought. We knew the talent on this team was thin, but the games against Miami and Orlando proved that the Lakers are nowhere close to contending.

I now feel that there is no way Jim Buss can turn down a trade for Dwight if it's there to be made. Lakers fans are in complete panic mode by now. After Bynum's complete undressing by Dwight, it's no longer a question of making the right basketball decision. From a star standpoint, Dwight already won hands down. If there were still any questions of whether Bynum was in Dwight's class on the court, they were answered with resounding force. Kobe? He's the immovable object that just proved he ain't going anywhere yet. Something has to change.

We love our Lakers to win championships, but we hate not being in the discussion of contenders more than we love to win. If there was any thought Jim Buss had of keeping Bynum (like the failed Chris Paul trade), they should have evaporated in Orlando. Jimmy has to get it done now or he'll face a revolt from a fanbase not comfortable with having Bynum as the future. We're getting antsy and these past few weeks have played out in a such a way that Jim Buss will be forced into action, possibly giving up the one player he's been so reluctant to give up on.

This is nothing personal towards Andrew. I love his game and I count myself as one of those that believes in him, but it's clear that the Lakers have no present, never mind future. Bynum isn't a #1 guy. He isn't ready yet, and I'm not sure he will ever be what we've come to expect in Lakerland.

Kobe made his move, Dwight made his, and now it's Jimmy's turn. Get a deal done.

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