Before I get to Kobe, let’s compare Charles Barkley and Mahatma Gandhi. On the surface one might not see any similarity. But if you peel the onion you just might. (Especially if you have a column deadline.)
At 6’5 and 300 pounds, Barkley was labeled the “Round Mound of Rebound.”Gandhi, on the other hand, at 5’5 weighed 110 soaking wet. (There’s nothing on the Internet about his rebounding skills.)
Gandhi’s non-violent revolution won independence for India after centuries of British rule. Barkley, the 11-time All Star, with his immense butt could bump opponents to the ground with a simple hip shake. (You could say Barkley gave new meaning to “the butt of the joke.”)
So where’s the Barkley-Gandhi connection?On November 6, Sir Charles told a nationwide TV audience, “I’m not going to eat another meal until the Lakers win a game.”And, were it not for a surprising Laker victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, by now Barkley could well be on his way to a Gandhi physique.That’s an admittedly long intro to simply say it pains me that the Lakers stink. Really bad. And may for the rest of this year and even next.
So, as Sir Charles is likely now wolfing down Happy Meals by the handful, he must be grateful for the Bobcats. As are the Lakers for the 76ers, the only team in the league worse than they are.
I hate to say I told you say, but I did. In January, in this very space, I wrote “Dr. Buss Must Be Spinning in his Grave.” By now, forget spinning, he must be in orbit. And there’s plenty of blame to go around, including Kobe, despite all the thrills he’s given us over the years. But first, retrace where the bottom started to drop out. (I’m not making another Barkley derriere reference lest this turn into a Kim Kardashian column.)
As for finger pointing, at the top of my list is a self-righteous pompous individual whom I’ve always thought got way too much credit and definitely way too much money. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m referring to the diminutive David Stern, the former Commissioner of the NBA. (Who for some reason always reminded me of the President of my Temple collecting for the building fund.)
In December 2011, Stern voided the trade between the New Orleans Hornets and the Lakers that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Talk about a conflict of interest! At the time the league owned the Hornets, which made Stern’s decision probably illegal. Had stumpy Stern not interfered it’s very likely the Lakers would be atop the NBA’s upper echelon instead of one notch above the winless Sixers.
And to think Stern made $20-$23 million a year to make rulings like that. So in pointing at him, you can probably guess which finger I have in mind. But since this is a family paper, let’s just say it’s the index finger.
Next is the inexplicable 2012 hiring of Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. The Lakers had two premier 7-footers in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, and the million dollar question is why would they ever pick D’Antoni the run and gun coach.
Actually it might have been an $8 million dollar question, the difference between D’Antoni’s $4 mil yearly salary and the $12 mil Jackson would have insisted upon. But if Jackson had been hired it’s likely Howard and Gasol would have stayed and with Kobe’s seemingly amazing return to form this year, the Lakers could have been formidable.
Why did Buss Sr. hire D’Antoni? My theory is he knew he was ill and in hiring Jackson, Jeanie’s fianc√© (when is that bum ever going to marry her?), it would have diminished son Jimmy’s power. So he split the baby and the Lakers are now the joke of the NBA.
Finally, that brings me to Kobe. Whereas Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and many other star players have taken salary cuts for the good of the team, Kobe signed a $48.5 million contract for two years dooming the team to irrelevancy. If he had signed for $12 million a year, his market value, the Lakers could have signed the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Lance Stephenson, and there would have been hope.
It’s sad to watch the great Kobe end his career as the best player on a hapless team. He lamented the other day he’s “jealous of the Spurs who stuck together.”Yes, partially because Tim Duncan cut his salary in half.
So now the Spurs have a chance for another ring and Lakers have a chance for another lottery pick. Kobe’s going to be miserable this year and so am I. That’s why I had to write this column.
Jack also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. When he isn’t too busy kvetching about the Lakers he can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.