The Los Angeles Lakers have been really struggling in recent years and have been completely unable to turn it around. But is Kobe Bryant the real problem?
Henry Abbott of ESPN today published a long-form feature on Bryant that lays into the star shooting guard. Abbott's piece is a comprehensive roundup from agents, league insiders, front office executives and others around the NBA, who all lay the blame at the feet of Kobe.
Bryant is blamed for absolutely everything in Abbott's piece, ranging from being the reason that Dwight Howard left, why the Lakers don't attract any star names in free agency and why some teammates don't re-sign with the team.
Let's take a look through the accusations against the Black Mamba:
Turning off Free Agents
First, here’s one of the first instances of an agent blaming Bryant for LA’s inability to attract a sure-fire star in free agency over the last couple of summers:
“I’ve had a lot of clients in the last five years, good players, who didn’t want to play with Kobe,” says an agent who has had numerous NBA stars.
“They see that his teammates become the chronic public whipping boys. Anyone who could possibly challenge Kobe for the spotlight ends up becoming a pincushion for the media. Even Shaq.”
Pushed Bynum and Howard Out
Two former Lakers players are mentioned in the piece with regards to leaving because of Bryant's personality. The first is Andrew Bynum, the former All-Star, who before his string of injuries was a dominating big man. When Bynum was in contract extension talks he was let down by the Lakers refusing to punish Bryant for anything.
“Andrew’s question in contract talks was: ‘How are you going to rein in Kobe?’ We couldn’t give direct answers. My immediate thought was, Well, he doesn’t want to play with Kobe if we can’t answer that question.”
“It’s horrendous. It’s evil. It’s a hard drug to quit when you’re winning,” says a front office executive from a rival team who knows everyone involved well. “Kobe has cost the Lakers dearly in human capital. Kobe has hurt a lot of people. In some cases jeopardized careers.”
And then there was the case of Howard. The former Orlando star moved to the Lakers and had to sit out the whole pre-season after back surgery. The Lakers struggled and all the blame in the media was put on Howard's back despite him averaging 17 and 12 on the season.
When Howard raised the point to the team, Steve Nash stepped up and said he would address it in the media. Kobe, on the other hand, went off on a rant about having what it takes to win and toughening up.
What do you think Lakers fans, is old and injured Kobe the reason for your struggles, or is it something else? Tell us in the comments below...