If you follow the soap opera episodes of the National Basketball Association, then you may remember the reports that several phone calls were held between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard before and after Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.
With the recent "disintegration of the team" (as so passionately put by ESPN's articulate and animated barbershop debate legend Stephan A. Smith), I have discovered some inside information about the content of one of those phone calls between Bryant and Howard. Below is a word for word transcription of some of the call.
Kobe: "Dwight, what's up man?"
Dwight: "Kobe Bean! Nothin' much brother, happy to be joining the team man. I can't believe I get to be a part of such an amazing legacy. There have been so many great-"
Kobe cuts-off Dwight.
Kobe: "Yea yea man. Right. Ok. So we have to discuss the plan for the upcoming season."
Dwight: "True! I'm looking forward to being coached under Mike Brown. I think he's the coach I need to get my defensive-"
Another Kobe cut-off.
Kobe: "Look. Has there ever been an 8th seed make it all the way to the NBA Finals and win?"
Dwight: "Of course not! You know that!"
Kobe: "The question was kind of rhetorical, but whatever. That's my point!"
Kobe: "Don't worry about it man. Here's the plan: we're going to play horrible until around late January/early February. That will set us up in a race for the 8th seed. We'll "squeak" into the playoffs and then run the table. The first 8th seed in NBA history to win a championship! We'll go through some "drama" the whole season that will involve some injuries and a coaching change or two, but it will all come together in the end."
Dwight attempts to interject but Kobe continues, now imagining he is NBA Finals announcer Mike Breen talking to Jeff Van Gundy after a Lakers championship win.
Kobe: "Through all the injuries, the coaching changes, the drama, Bryant was able to lead this team to glory! Who would have thought this team would be here in January? Bryant turned it around and led his team to the promise land! What a story! Look at him hold that Larry O'Brien trophy! This is by far his greatest championship yet! Jeff, can we say this one was tougher than each of [Michael] Jordan's? Does this championship solidify him as the greatest player of all time?"
Kobe begins to create a crowd of cheers and goes on for a few seconds until Dwight, after saying "Black Mamba" several times, wakes him out of his "dream."
Kobe: "Ah, my bad. But uh, yea, so what do you think?"
Dwight: "I mean, to be honest, this sounds a little crazy man. How do you know this will work? How do you know we'll be able to make it to the playoffs and win it all?"
Kobe: "... How many championships have I won? And how many have you won?
"Don't worry this question is rhetorical too. Just keep working on getting your back healthy and let me handle the rest."
Kobe and Dwight continued the conversation for a few more minutes arguing which one of them is a better actor and discussing how weird it will be to let the Clippers be the "better" team in LA for a period of time.
While members of the ever-growing NBA Conspiracy Theorists Party may think there is some potential validity in that phone conversation I just created, the truth is that the Lakers are just bad and full of problems.
With losses in 9 of their last 11 games and the league's lowest win percentage since the beginning of 2013, their odds of even making the playoffs are now quite slim.
If the Lakers want to have any chance of winning that end of the year trophy they so greatly desire, Mitch Kupchak will have to rework some of that magic he supposedly made last off-season.
What do the Lakers lack that each of the top teams in the NBA possess? A decent selection of bench players. Besides Earl Clark, who I, the rest of the basketball world and now apparently head coach Mike D'Antoni have sort of fallen in love with, the Lakers bench is dismal. Their lack of energy, talent, and athleticism from their bench is a horrible complement to their already large collection of problems.
While the articulate and animated barbershop legend suggests that the Lakers should trade Dwight Howard, I disagree. He is still Dwight Howard.
The Lakers success lies in acquiring young and athletic players who can stretch the floor and create a better environment for Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard to thrive. A nucleus of these two with Steve Nash is certainly enough to be a title contender, as long as the right complementary pieces are put around them.
To do this, they must deal players like Pau Gasol and Ron Artest (I refuse to refer to him as 'Metta World Peace'). Trading them for four to five younger and more athletic players would create a better overall atmosphere in Los Angeles, on and off the court.
As the February 21st trade deadline approaches, the Lakers must make these decisions very quickly; for if they do not, they put the five to ten year fate of the franchise in jeopardy.
Below are the three possible scenarios the Lakers will find themselves in at the end of the season:
Scenario #1: Lakers make no trades and try to win with the team they have now. Don't make the playoffs and Dwight Howard signs with another team in the off-season.
Scenario #2: Lakers make trades and become a better overall team. Despite being better, they barely miss the playoffs. Strong finish increases likelihood that Dwight Howard will sign long-term contract with the team and come back to try to win a title next season.
Scenario #3: Lakers make trades and become a better overall team. Make it into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed. Make some noise and potentially contend for and/or win a title.
So, how will this season of "The Old and the Win-less" end?
Below are some players the Lakers should explore trades for.