“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”- Saint Benard of Clairvaux. An alternative form of the proverb is “hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works”.
The 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers season reached critical mass at approximately 1:15 AM, Eastern Standard Time, on April 13th, 2013. That is when the news broke that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had torn his Achilles tendon, and was done for the season. As bad as things had been going for the Lakers all year, if you were a Lakers fan, this was truly the backbreaker. The final nail in the coffin. Like Kano ripping your heart out in Mortal Kombat, this was the final blow, a true fatality. When I was scrolling down my twitter feed and I saw the official statement from the Los Angeles Lakers that “Guard Kobe Bryant has a torn Achilles tendon and is out for the season”, my heart dropped and a cold chill ran down my spine. Even though the Lakers season had failed to deliver on the promise that had been borne during the off-season, the Kobe Bryant injury was a bridge too far. Nothing went according to plan for a myriad of reasons, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Kobe Bryant killed himself to get the star-studded Lakers into the playoffs and in the 80th game of the season, his body finally gave out, succumbing to the physical strain and mental burden that comes with a 34 year old shooting guard in his 17th season, trying to will his grossly underachieving team into the playoffs.
Kobe Bryant. Steve Nash. Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol. Wow, that’s a stellar collection of talent, a great haul for Lakers management, but “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Those four superstars are great players for a reason, they’re driven, intelligent, gifted and most importantly perfectionists. Studies show of the effect of intention upon task completion by professors Peter Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran and Sheina Orbell indicate that there is some truth in the proverb. Perfectionists are especially prone to have their intentions backfire in this way. Because, when judging intentions, people are more likely to interpret good intentions as their own actions, rather than they are for those of others.(Justin Kruger) Meaning, no one was willing to sacrifice, especially the two principals, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. When things got tough for the Lakers it seemed that everyone retreated to their own corners and wanted to do what had worked best for them over the course of their careers, instead of coming together as a unit. Howard felt he knew the right path to success, even though he had never won a championship. Bryant felt he knew what it was going to take for the 2013 Lakers to win a title because he had charted the course to a championship 5 times in the past, even though at his advanced age he no longer possessed the ability to be the Alpha-dog on a championship team. Steve Nash seemed lost all year playing next to Kobe, and breaking his leg in the 2nd game of the season didn’t allow him to assimilate to playing with his new team. Pau Gasol, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, was mistreated and disrespected all season long by everyone from pundits, to fans, and all the way down to his head coach Mike D’Antoni. It was as if everyone forgot where the Lakers were as a franchise before Gasol arrived from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008? Or didn’t remember how he dominated Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics in game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals to the tune of 19 points and 18 rebounds. The Lakers were a collection of talent, never a team.
It never felt right. Dwight Howard never really wanted to be a Laker and Kobe Bryant never really wanted him there. Then there was the 0-8 pre-season, followed by an opening night loss to an undermanned Dallas Mavericks skeleton crew that raised a lot of red flags. Then there was the Princeton offense, which was accompanied by a 1-4 start, which led to the “death stare”, which in turn led to coach Mike Brown receiving the pink slip. There was the flirtation with Phil Jackson, the 11-time world champion coach, which somehow led to Jim Buss hiring Mike D’Antoni? Because anytime you can hire a coach that flamed out with Knicks instead of the coach that brought your organization 5 championships you have to pull the trigger right? Then there was rock bottom, or so we thought, at 17 and 25. There was Kobe the facilitator, that didn’t last long. Then there was Dwight’s constant bellyaching about his surgically repaired back and then he tore his Labrum. Then there was progress, then Gasol got hurt, so did Steve Blake, which meant that Chris Duhon was playing actual NBA minutes instead of in the 30 and over Rec. League he belonged in. There was “offensive genius” Mike D’Antoni playing his 34 year old shooting guard 48 minutes a game, which led to some offensive explosions, before Kobe’s Achilles eventually exploded. Then there was nothing. Oh wait there was something else. The “future of the franchise” getting ejected in the 3rd quarter of Game 4 of a 1st round series that the Lakers were getting obliterated in. What a sendoff. With Kobe on crutches, Nash in a suit, Gasol hobbled, Dwight Howard showed his true colors by getting thrown out of a game where he was his team’s only hope of being somewhat competitive. The biggest, strongest, and most talented player on the court showed the greatest amount of cowardice. “Everything you need to know about someone’s mental toughness comes out when the pressure is on, there’s nowhere else to turn and the focus is solely on them.”- Tim Grover
Where do the Lakers go from here? Resign Dwight to a $117 million dollar contract? Let him walk in free agency to Houston or Dallas? Trade Gasol and his bloated $19 million dollar and expiring contract for younger pieces? Amnesty the ball stopping and aging Metta World Peace? Fire Coach Mike D’Antoni and bring back Uncle Phil? Amnesty the great Kobe Bryant and his $30 million dollar salary, which would save the team $85 million dollars once the luxury and repeater taxes are factored in? These questions hang over this proud franchise like an anvil. History shows that the Los Angeles Lakers will bounce back and relatively quickly. The Lakers have always had and attracted top talent. From Mikan, Baylor, West, Wilt, Goodrich, Wilkes, Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Shaq and Kobe the history is there. The only question that looms for the Lakers is who’s next?