During the first half of the season most of our conversations and FanPosts concentrated on the type of changes we all feel the Lakers organization needs to make in order to improve their chances of winning another title. These discussions have ranged from Bynum’s lack of effort, Fisher’s age and whether Kobe is or isn’t a selfish player. But these discussions go deeper than loyalty. It’s about truly expressing what you feel without fear of upsetting the herd. Personally, I don’t apologize for my point of views and I don’t sensor myself in fear that it might bother someone else or that my faith in the Lakers is questioned because I point out something negative. But, there have been some topics that have caused a devide amongst us, and the only questions that remain now is not only if you are willing to voice your opinion but if you can take a stance on these difficult topics.One of the most talked about and debated topics so far is Andrew Bynum. If you were to try to describe all of the reasons that he gets criticized for you could do it with just three words, lack of maturity. Before the season started he was asked what the Lakers' ultimate goal was for the season and he responded by saying that it was to beat the Bulls' 72 win season. But that is just one example, he has made comments about putting in more effort only when Pau was out on injury or that his main goal was to make the All Star team. Meanwhile Laker fans keep questioning his effort on the defensive end and why his goal isn’t to make the All Defense team instead.
But for those who support Bynum there is the belief that he should be given a pass due to his age and his unfortunate history of knee injuries. When you think in terms of physical talent, you have to admit that a player like Bynum is rare. At the same time, if you believe that he lacks maturity than you also have to consider that he is in his early 20’s. I have seen flashes of him in terms of his playing ability that are Duncan-esque. Prior to both of his injuries, when he started to show flashes of greatness, I remember thinking to myself, "its over for the rest of the league." I really do believe that if not for his knee injuries all this trade talk wouldn’t even be an issue.
But this became and issue and reason for debate when the Bynum for Bosh trade rumors first came out. There are those in Bynum's corner who thought more along the lines of the future and the idea that Bynum was and is destined to be the Lakers franchise player during the post Kobe-era. Not to mention that he has shown flashes of greatness and the idea that it was too much of a risk to gamble that away.
On the opposing side there is the idea that Bosh practically guaranteed a championship because he is better defensively which the Lakers need more of as opposed to an offensive minded Center. Ultimately, the main belief was that in terms of the future there wasn't and still isn't any guarantee that Bynum will be that "franchise player" so why gamble on that when you can bet on a sure thing which is Kobe's prime. But, the best description about how we feel about Bynum was best described by Darius over at Forum Blue & Gold when he said that we Lakerfans have had a "can't live with him, can't live without him" attitude. The only question that Lakers management has to answer now is whether they will try and get something good for him now or if they are going to bank on his future potential instead?
Surprisingly, that is the same attitude that we have had with Derek Fisher. Although it might have slightly changed, Fisher's
All of this proves what supporters of Farmar have been yelling for, which is the benching of Fisher and the insertion of Farmar in the starting line up. But just like Fisher, he is not much better or more reliable at hitting an open jump shot. He also leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end. But, he does bring one dynamic that Fisher doesn’t and that is the speed and ability to break defenses down with his quickness. But that alone is not the solution to the Lakers' point guard debate.
It is more complex than that and as some may have pointed out, this is definitely a conundrum. On the flip side, you have those saying that Fisher represents more than what appears on a stat sheet and that the
PER system doesn't take into account the intangibles that Fisher brings to the table. In other words, how do you calculate leadership and experience? For example, take Fisher's response to Kobe's absence due to his ankle injury, "when he's out, I know guys are going to look to me more than usual, so I just try to be even more vocal, more aggressive, stronger out there on the floor. They need to see me not worried about the fact that Kobe's not playing - and I don't think they'll worry much about it either." So, the question remains, is Farmar ready for that responsibility of being a leader? Even more important, what will Mitch and the Lakers organization do before the trade deadline?
But rather than drive myself crazy waiting for the answers to those questions I prefer to concern myself with the following events/facts. Only days after the Lakers won their last title, according to the LA Times, the Lakers proposed a trade that would have sent Farmar to the Rockets but they declined the offer. Several months later, the Lakers had the opportunity to offer Farmar an extension and didn't. But the final piece that makes this a dilemma not only for the fans but for the Lakers organization is Fisher's claim that he wasn't retiring after this season and that he wants to stay with the Lakers. If that doesn't frustrate you I don't know what will.
Well, maybe the following headline by Bill Plaschke from the LA Times will, which he wrote the day after Kobe became the Lakers’ All Time leading scorer, "Kobe Bryant is No. 1 in points, but that's all." If that doesn't get your blood boiling I don't know what will. If there was ever a sensitive topic amongst Laker fans it is that of Kobe Bean Bryant. The rare competitiveness that a player like Kobe is born with is really a cross to bare. Ultimately, all the criticism that he receives revolves around one question and that is if he is a selfish individual or just simply misunderstood?
Recently, when the Lakers acquired Artest, Kobe was asked if he was worried about how many touches he got on the offensive end. His response was that he wasn’t worried because his teammates knew that he got "fed" first and Pau second. Now, according to Phil Jackson, the triangle offense was an equal-opportunity type of offense and a ccording to him there wasn’t any hierarchy attached to it and that players each got touches within the flow of the offense. Although this is just recent, we can all admit that Kobe has a history of being selfish. As Ray Nostradamus Allen noted after Shaq got traded, he said that soon Kobe would be complaining about not having enough talent around him. Sure enough, Kobe was caught on tape bad mouthing Bynum which is the same thing we complained about Shaq doing to Kobe instead of being a mentor and a leader. Not long after that, he started demanding a trade preferably to the Chicago Bulls. Realistically, would you of defended him like you do now had he of ended up in Chicago? Would you of traded in your Lakers jersey for a Bulls jersey the way that many Laker fans traded in theirs for a Shaq Miami Heat Jersey?
It is those events and much others that have made it hard to defend him. But it those things that he has done on the court while wearing those beautiful purple and gold colors that doesn’t. If there was one word that comes to mind when thinking about Kobe it is redemption. As a fan, the biggest sense of enjoyment that I got from his 4th title came mostly from defending Kobe during those long 7 years in which he was chewed up and spit out by the media. No matter what anyone says about him, you can’t take away what he has done on the court. Since his rookie year (1996) Shaq started calling him a show-boat in the media and he took insult after insult and never said anything. He worked in the off-season harder than any other Laker including Shaq and was asked to tone his game down so that Shaq could get his touches and he said nothing. Phil wrote about him in his book and yet he welcomed him back as a coach with open arms. Even in his time of need after his Colorado court case his family abandoned him and he welcomed them back with open arms after it was all over. After all that, he has given us 4 championship banners, countless memories that no one could ever take away from us and I can only think of one other Laker player who has given me the same enjoyment. But, I can’t think of any other basketball player who has accomplished as much with so many people against him.
The only question that still remains to be answered, and only time will tell, is if he is really the Greatest Laker Of All Time (G.L.O.A.T)? The beauty of that question, as well as the numerous other topics we have debated about during the first half of the season, is that we all have the choice to decide for ourselves and there isn't a wrong answer. Whether you are more loyal to Bosh over Bynum, Farmar over Fisher or Kobe over Magic the right answer is whatever your purple and gold heart tells you it is.