Saturday, June 5, 2010

Last strike of the Mamba?

As ludicrous as it might sound, playing his best playoff basketball of his career, Kobe Bryant’s peak has reached its very most (if you will) peaking point. Take a good look, because this is it. This is the last time that we will see Kobe this good. Ever. Unless of course you pop in the highlight tape/reel, but that goes without saying. (By the way, why is the term ‘tape/reel’ still used when their tangible forms are outdated and not even used?)

I’m not saying he is done or he is washed up because that simply is not the case. This is only the start of the gradual fade that we will see over the next four seasons. It is just that, despite what our mind is telling us when we watch him smoothly drop in an impossible turn around fade away, Kobe is human and humans get old. Does that mean we will we see hints of it during the series with Boston? Doubt it. Will the Laker’s avenge ’08 and go back to back? Probably, I don’t think Game 1 was an anomaly. Everyone has been saying that this series is without question, going seven games. After what I saw last night I think six but wouldn’t be surprised if they wrapped it in five. Could Kobe even win another title after this year? Sure, and why not, especially if the rumors of the Lakers getting Bosh in a sign and trade are true. All in all, he has a couple of years left in him where he’ll be the premiere guy of the West Coast, but it will never be what it is right now ever again. I’m sorry that may not sit well with some of you. This is the final curtain call of Kobe as we’ve known him.

We saw shades of the gradual decline in the opening round one against the Thunder. Granted it was somewhat shaded because we had Kevin Durant showing everyone, “I’m Kevin Durant and I’m going to be doing what you’re now seeing but better, every season, for the next ten years.” But the scent of it crept in and before it had chance to linger the Kobe Bryant of the Suns/Jazz series emerged and the winds changed, wiping our senses of it. But it still happened.

Kobe’s locked in right now, no doubt, and he has that hunger that nobody else has right now in the series. Ron Artest might be a close second, but only because he doesn’t want to be remembered as this generations Rodman sans the titles. Until he gets a least one ring he is just someone that should have been born a dog fighter. Not the human pitting animals one against the other; I mean the actual dog that is fighting for its life. You can tell because of the leash (cheesy pun intended) he’s let Phil Jackson and Bryant put on him. Say what you will about his Tweeting, you can see it in him during games and that’s even when he hoisting some of those ‘what-the-hell-are-you-doing-jacking-up-that-three’ shots.

But back to Kobe and his inevitable decline, which again I’ll state: has begun. Now, if the Lakers win the series that will put him one shy of tying Jordan’s six and if that happens then we’ll likely see that decline trickle on down at a 176-179 degree angle. Be MJ, that’s his mantra. But, and I think it is an unlikely ‘but’, if the Lakes do not win the title because Boston gets the Cleveland series version of Rando to show up or Ray Allen decides to make 9,000 three pointers, than we are going to see that declining angle at a greater slope. Plus, we don’t even know if Phil Jackson is going to stay in L.A. or just retire. These are all things that need to be factored in. Especially the latter.

If I were Phil Jackson, I wouldn’t let Jerry Buss treat me this way and I wouldn’t stay with the Lakers just on principle. Jerry Buss is not making any sense to anyone. The man has brought you 4 titles and is three games away from a 5th in ten years! This is basically the conversation that transpired:

Buss: Hey, Phil howsit’ goin?

Jackson: Oh, you know just winning another championship. This one is going to go on a chain around my neck, and then after that I’ll have to start doubling up on my fingers.

Buss: That’s nice. It’s funny you brought that up. I’m gonna need you to keep on doing what you have been doing except I want you take a 30% pay cut. Mmmmmmkaaaayy?

Jackson: (Baffled. Right eye squinting, left eyebrow rising).

Maybe he should retire. Nobody would think any less. Greatest coach of all time and no person would argue that fact with you. Or maybe, instead of retiring, he should leave town and head back to Chicago, the town where it all began, and hook up with LeBron. Too bad after the Larry King interview any doubts/fingers-crossed-hopes that LeBron was leaving Cleveland (I just don’t like looking at their ugly uniforms) were put to bed. He is staying and now it is all about who is coming to Ohio. So why not Jackson? Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, has said repeatedly that he will do anything he can to keep LeBron (a.k.a. anything LeBron say he wants I will get it for him). If I were James that would be the first thing requested and second would be changing the previous mentioned ugly knits to go along with my new number six. That would give Phil the opportunity to have coached three of the Top-10 players ever in the NBA and if he could win a championship with James too it would make it that much sweeter. No coach would ever be able to say that he had that kind of opportunity, let alone being the person to accomplish the feat. If Cleveland puts a 5-year offer at $15 million a season he takes it. Even if the Nets decide to put something out there in the 18-20 range. Just wait and see. Barring that Buss figures that he does not want to shoot himself in the foot this is what will happen.

As it sits right now, L.A. will be looking for a new head coach in the off season, but if they win maybe their chances of keeping him increase. Either way Kobe needs him to stave off time and to get the record numbers he is gunning for. It had to happen sometime and it will be sad to one day watch NBA games and not see him on the court. I guess knowing that the decline has begun will make these Finals that much more enticing to watch and makes the next couple of his seasons special as we watch his final act and his attempts to eclipse the record books in such an illustrious career.

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