You know, Andrew...I like what I'm seeing from you lately. It's no secret that I've often questioned if the Lakers would be making the right move should they keep you over the rumored trade for Dwight Howard. I mean, Dwight's awesome and all, and some kind of mega superstar, so it just seems to make sense.
It's not that I don't like you. I think you're a hell of a player. I remember how good the Lakers looked in your breakout but injury-shortened 2007-08 season. I haven't forgotten your flashes of brilliance before injuries killed your momentum twice more. I've never doubted your talent.
What I have doubted about you, like just about everyone else in Lakers Nation, is your ability to stay healthy (of course) and your maturity. There's nothing you can do about injuries. You haven't been all fat and lazy like Shaq was. You've just been unlucky, no hard feelings there.
The main issue is/was/is your maturity level. I'm not gonna go all Shaq and call you the best center in the NBA, but your talent level doesn't make his statements a stretch. I'd definitely say your post game, and overall offense skill set is superior to Dwight's, and your defense could be damn-near as good, when you decide to stay focused. You used to get all kinds of uninspired when you didn't get the ball on offense, commit lazy fouls, or (nasty ones when you're frustrated). To top it off, you've never had to be a leader for the Lakers. You've never had to dig deep and try to carry the team. I know it's tough being able to with Kobe, but when you had your chances, you didn't seem ready for the role.
So far, to start what I feel is the most important two week stretch of your career, you're slowly changing my mind. Even with all the trade speculation involving you and Pau, and Kobe's volume shooting, you've just been plugging away, making the most of your chances, not whining when you don't get the ball as much as you should, anchoring the defense, and improving your passing. I still hate the way you hit the front rim so much on your jump hooks, but when you play like you've been playing lately, I'll deal with it. Recently, you've shown a confidence in your athleticism and skill that should make the NBA shudder. Those post moves and quick spin and dunks you threw down on Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic? I had a flashbacks of Shaq. Almost made me understand why Jim Buss is reportedly so in love with you. Your combination of size, strength, and quickness is usually unfuckwitable when all put together.
But back to your maturity. Finally, in front of a national audience, when it mattered, you stood tall in a must-win for the Lakers against Miami. You even took blame for the loss against Washington. As a guy who had never been needed to lead before, whether or not it was your fault was beside the point. It proved you're willing to carry the burden of being a guy worthy to start an All-Star Game.
Besides your great play, something has shifted my opinion of you. Peyton Manning's release by the Colts drove home my appreciation for Kobe's time as a Laker. I've declared myself all-in with Kobe. I'm willing to go wherever Kobe's seemingly ever-last greatness will take the Lakers until it's gone. Being a kid who was robbed of Magic Johnson too early, I know how Colts fans feel. How could they know Peyton's last snap in 2010 would be his last in Indy? What does this have to do with you? Well, like Kobe's tenure in Los Angeles, there's something fulfilling in having a homegrown Laker ride out his greatness in one uniform. Should you really step up and help lead Kobe and the Lakers to another title, there would be some great sense of satisfaction knowing it happen organically. You're a true (forum) blue Laker, and I'll accept that.
I'm not 100% if you'll be around by the next time I write the POTW post, but if you are, you've started to show me that just maybe we have nothing to worry about. I want to believe in you, kid. Keep showing us what you got.
Here are your stats for the week:
In four games: 22.75 points, 10.75 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 3.5 turnovers in 39.5 minutes per game. He shot 36-of-52 from the floor for 69.2 FG%, and 19-of-26 free throws for 73.1 FT%.