Pundits argue. Kobe gripes. But numbers don't lie.
When Kobe Bryant was asked earlier this month to pinpoint the cause of the Lakers' struggles, his response was to the point. "We're old as shit," he told reporters.
Bryant clearly does not think that the Lakers are too old to win basketball games. He is, however, facing the reality that their abundance of seasoning requires some sort of contingency plan to remain competitive on those increasingly frequent nights when their bones display some inevitable weariness.
To judge by the punditocracy, however, it's hardly that simple. The team's splashy off-season acquisitions—which included the planet's best center, Dwight Howard, and future Hall-of-Fame point guard Steve Nash—were supposed to push Los Angeles into the rarified air of LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Instead, even despite Bryant's best season since 2008-09, the Lakers are, at 19-25, the third-best team in California. The explanations people have come up with are varied:
- ESPN's Chris Broussard said that "Bryant's offensive blitzkrieg is actually hurting ... more than helping," pointing out that the Lakers were, at the time he wrote it, 4-11 when Bryant topped 20 shots in a game, but 8-3 when he didn't.
- The Los Angeles Times cited chemistry, saying that this is not a team "that plays together."
- Bill Simmons called out inappropriate play-calling, writing for Grantland that if "your system is telling you, 'I should play Earl Clark more than Pau Gasol,' you need a new system."