In recent months the country has been pulled back and forth by members of all political persuasions over health care and the bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit (somehow Joe Dumars forgot to put the Pistons on the list). Despite your opinion about the moves made by Washington, if you are a Lakers fan, and have been one since 2000, you love bailouts.
It all started with Robert Horry (and to some extent, Dick Baveta) in the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the Kings. Big Shot Rob lined it up from deep with second remaining and the dynasty was allowed to continue. But this is more than Horry; he is old news (except to a Kings fan). This is about Kobe. He has been handing out bailouts like swag bags at the Oscars. (Wait, does this mean Kobe Bryant is socialist?) Most recently in a victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night he did it again to stop the Lakers three game skid. With 1.9 seconds left on the clock he, in his Kobe way, drained a 17 foot jump shot while moving towards the baseline avoiding Antoine Wright. It’s an age old story, Lakers in trouble or in one to close for comfort? Draw up the Kobe bailout. It worked in Miami on 4 December 2009 creating one of his most memorable bailouts of the season. Kobe no doubt loves being the one who is called upon in these situations saying, “That’s my responsibility here, to close things out,” but these situations are growing more and more frequent.
The bailout may have worked against the Raptors for a 109-107 victory but that isn’t making Kobe happy. When asked what good things had come out of the win he responded bluntly, “none.” He is still smarting over how poorly the Lakers have played in the past couple of weeks. “This thing tonight was garbage,” Kobe said referring to the play of his teammates. The Lakers point differential has begun to drift unfavorably for them recently too, a fact that no doubt will send John Hollinger and his team of math moneys scrambling for answers. But it is the Lakers who should be scrambling for answers. (Getting Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic back from injury is far from the answer as he went scoreless off the bench.)
Los Angeles needs to please Kobe. He is their elected, nay, anointed official. He, unlike all officials, does not pander to the whims of his constituents or a select group of donors and lobbyists. No, he plays for the smallest audience there is: himself. He knows what he wants and how to get it. His obvious displeasure at the Lakers play should be tangible throughout L.A. and all of southern California which is why Pau Gasol has started touting the party line, “we’ve got to start building on our confidence and really stepping it up. So far lately, we’ve been struggling…we’ve got to figure [our consistency issues] out.” It’s good that Gasol said this because he has been the biggest consistency issue on the Lakers on the defensive end frequently looking out of place and lackadaisical when his head isn’t on a swivel looking for calls.
If L.A. cannot find the answers, we may be in for a loud on court response from the honorable Mr. Bryant. Could he treat us to a performance on par with his game several years ago in the playoffs against the Suns where he did not attempt a field goal in the second half of the game? Should he put on a display of his scoring might and put the entire team on his back? It may simply be too late in the season for either message. When the message comes; however, rest assured it will be heard loud and clear. Kobe certainly will not sit around and hope for change. In the meantime, he will continue to be forced into bailing out the Lakers as they continue their soft play. L.A. is going to need a few more bailouts down the stretch if they hope to hold off the surging Mavericks and go deep into the playoffs.