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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kobe Bryant's Parting Gift to the Lakers

could be resolving the awful intrasquad conflict that D'Angelo Russell created.  You can run a search engine and run down the story, but suffice it to say that Russell taped a conversation with a teammate, that tape got out, and that tape revealed some private behavior (not illegal) by the teammate that is less than flattering.  Right now, Lakers not named Russell are handling the issue by avoiding the very young and obviously immature point guard. 

It goes without saying that in addition to being a bad basketball team with a lame-duck coach and retiring megastar, the Lakers are a mess. 

Wounds like these, no, chasms like these, are hard to heal.  They could take years, and the problem is that careers are so short in the NBA that the Lakers do not have years.  They can try to peddle Russell, but right now he is damaged goods and it would be hard to determine what locker room, if any, would welcome him. 

Russell made a mistake.  He probably is hurting.  He did something that he cannot take back.  But how many young people have not made mistakes?   Okay, this is a big one, as it speaks to trust and integrity.  My guess is that Russell is learning a painful lesson and a mentor or two will guide him on how to behave in the future.  It stands to reason that Russell could so reform himself as a result of this behavior that he could transform himself into one of the best teammates a teammate could want -- if he gets the chance.

And that's where Kobe can come in, even if he only has eight more games as a Laker.  He can take Russell aside, talk with him about his own stellar and less-than-stellar moments as a teammate, and then review with Russell what happened.  He can work with Russell and others on an apology, and he can hold a players only meeting that he can mediate and where he can heal the problem once and for all, stress forgiveness, and clear the air.  Sure, it's risky for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Kobe Bryant won't be in that locker room next year.  But Kobe is a Laker, has always been a Laker, and certainly doesn't want to go out with the team in this much disarray.  True, it seems that Kobe has thought more about Kobe at times than the overall team, but he has shown a different side to himself this year.  He looks like an ambassador, an elder, a statesman, even, so perhaps he can play this important role, help heal the Lakers and put them on a course to improve in the upcoming seasons.

And, of course, give a helping hand to a young, misguided player desperately in need of one. 

The Lakers actually need Kobe now as much as they ever have.  The question is, will he jump in and try to resolve this or let it be someone else's problem?  I'm not sitting in judgment saying that he's a bad or selfish guy if he does nothing, as this is a very complicated situation.  But wouldn't it be something if he could help resolve this seemingly unsolvable problem?


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