Pappas: Old Kobe means new problems for Lakers

By By Nick Pappas and By Nick Pappas

By Nick Pappas

Kobe Bryant twisted his back, and with it, the series. He was walking like an old man with war stories to tell after Game 4, unable to stop the Jazz from deadlocking the series 2-2 with a 123-115 overtime victory in the hostile confines of EnergySolutions Arena. After Game 1 and 2, Lakers fans were looking for a sweep.
The bandwagon is looking a little dusty now.
Game 5 is tonight at the Staples Center. The Jazz are guaranteed one more trip to their Rocky Mountain home Friday for Game 6. The series hinges now not only on Bryant’s physical health, but his mental health as well.
While attempting a 15-foot turnaround jumper early, he felt a “catch” in his back. It was apparent. Bryant spent the rest of the game reminding the audience just how much pain he was in. Imagine Jordan with the flu in the NBA finals, tongue wagging like a thirsty puppy. An MVP isn’t enough for Bryant–it never was. He wants to be immortal.
He ended up with 33 points against the resilient Jazz, and led a fourth quarter comeback that sent the game to overtime. There is no way to deny it was heroic.
Still, there are more numbers to consider. Bryant made only one shot in overtime. Of the 10 shots the Lakers took, he took seven. It was the Bryant Jazz fans know and love, the one who would rather throw 3 pointers at the air than passes to his teammates.
The Jazz might have gained more than just victories during this homestand–they might be deep in the Lakers’ heads. Instead of reveling in a hard fought game they could have won, the team took off their No. 1 foam hands and started pointing real fingers.
Coach Phil Jackson sat in the press conference with his high, bony shoulders and shrugged.
“I was angry at his teammates for dropping the ball in his lap,” Jackson said of his players not named Kobe. “I felt guys just bailed out on him.”
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom seemed to score at will in the paint, but barely touched the ball in the extra period. Yet, it was their fault?
One reporter mentioned this to the hot shooting Sasha Vujacic. He shrugged himself.
“I don’t know what to stay to that,” he said. “I know sometimes Kobe just likes to take the game in his hands. It’s normal.” What he meant to say was the Lakers are use to it. It’s Kobe being Kobe. Forget the documentaries talking about the unselfishness of the MVP. Kobe will be Kobe. He can wear the mask of leader, but he’s selfish to the core.
He is still the best player in the league. Even after taking fifty shots a game, the diva can carry a team on his back. The problem is that his back could barely carry him.
The world will see what happens tonight. If the Lakers win, the music starts again and the coronation ceremony proceeds.
If the Jazz win, though, the kingdom could come crumbling down. And Bryant, as usual, will be looking for teammates to shield himself from the falling debris.
It’s the same, old story. As Bryant goes, so go the Lakers. It doesn’t matter what shape his back is in, his mind is twisted enough.
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