The Lakers had just lost their fourth game in a row after losing to the Knicks, 116-107, in Madison Square Garden. Kobe Bryant, after all this losing, still doesn’t seem worried but he does think that he and his old teammates have to take a lot more leadership responsibilities. Old teammates as in the ones that have won championships with him before.
Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports has the story:
In the Lakers’ moment of crisis, Bryant summoned the toughness and leadership and serious-mindedness of those who had raised banners with him. In his own way, he’s challenging Dwight Howard. Steve Nash. Even Mike D’Antoni.
“A lot of responsibility is going to fall on me and Pau [Gasol], but we need Metta [World Peace],” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “Metta has a big presence on this team. I really encourage him to take that role head on – and to be an enforcer with it. But Metta, he’s done it before. We’ve won before together.”
Bryant stopped in the hallway on the way out of a 116-107 loss to the Knicks, his eyes widening and his voice – scratchy, tired from a night, from a season, of screaming – became a little louder, a little surer when he said again, “It has to be the guys who have done it before.”
He let that hang there for a moment – who have done it before – and finally smirked and said, “Metta’s just as intense as I am, and he’s got a lot of that psychopath attitude that I do.
“That’s something Magic and me talked about, about how [Michael] Cooper and him did that a lot, how they played off each other.”
Kobe is basically summoning the heart of a champion to help the Lakers get out of this mess. Only Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace remain from the 2009 and/or 2010 title runs. But they know they can’t win this title without a full roster. Steve Nash should be returning soon to help them get out of this crisis and Pau Gasol has been out due to tendinitis but while he’s listed as indefinitely, he should be back soon as well. So right now, they’re trying to hold down the fort until both Pau and Nash come back.
It’s still mid-December so the Lakers still have plenty of time. Kobe Bryant insists they’ll be okay.
“We’re communicating,” Bryant said. “Me and Pau, Metta and Coach D’Antoni. Steve and Dwight. We’re communicating. We’re going to figure this out.”
And they still have a lot to figure out on the court. They’ve looked like a mess on both sides of the ball, especially defensively (the Lakers have now fallen to 16th in defensive efficiency this season and are now 29th in turnovers). Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have injuries. Dwight Howard still doesn’t look 100 percent. Steve Blake is still out and will be for a month or even two. It really seems like they’re banking on Nash’s return more than anything.
While, yes, it is still mid-December, time goes by fast and teams will continue to play well and pass them by if they continue to play like this. For their sake, they’d better figure it out fast because all of this talk about having the heart of a champion won’t mean much if it doesn’t translate to wins (something they haven’t done since December 5th) anytime soon.