Team USA experience could be a turning point for Kobe Bryant

If this summer has taught us anything, it’s that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has one of the most complex and intriguing personalities in sports. He is at the same time relentlessly loyal, extremely impulsive, and very competitive, easily influenced, sometimes hardheartedly emotional and stubborn to a fault.

Bryant entered his tumultuous summer with a bitter loss to the Phoenix Suns in the fist round of the NBA playoffs for the second straight season, flip-flopped more than former presidential candidate John Kerry on his desire, or lack thereof, to stay with the Lakers, threw a couple of his teammates, most notably Andrew Bynum, under a double-decker bus, proceeded to take a vow of silence without coming to any sort of resolution on his trade demands, and revived Michael Jordan’s original Dream Team role on this year’s Team USA squad by showcasing suffocating defensive play and, shockingly enough, mature leadership. Having begun the summer on a low note and ending it with a seemingly cathartic run in the FIBA Americas Tournament, which finished on Sunday with a triumphant drubbing of Argentina 118-81, Kobe’s roller coaster summer hit the end of the line this week.

Given the positive vibes of the Team USA experience, what is Kobe’s current mindset? Does he remain stubborn and stick to his principles that he holds so dear, and continues to demand a trade out of LA? Or, has the team-first environment and camaraderie of the FIBA experience kindled his other strong personality traits like loyalty to his team?

The second redemption of Kobe Bryant

The key is that Kobe seems to be in a positive state of mind going into Lakers training camp in October, and we believe that he’ll be there, ready to make another run. Not only will he play for the Lakers next season, but the team-first attitude that he put on display at the FIBA Americas Tournament will carry over into the regular season with his NBA squad.

"[Kobe] tried to lobby all of us (to come to L.A.)," Team USA teammate Michael Redd said recently. "We all have tried to lobby everybody to come to our teams. I told Carmelo, there's going to be no tolerance for our teams when we get back to camp."

Wondering why Kobe would be lobbying other NBA stars to come to LA, if he so wants to leave town himself?

In the coming season, expect Kobe Bryant to take yet another step forward in the evolution of his game on the court and his leadership off it. Expect Kobe to trust his teammates on the floor and be more forgiving of their deficiencies.

Unlike last season, he will no longer be alone in shouldering the pressure of the storied Lakers organization and fans. Expect Kobe to lean heavily on his long-time pal Derek Fisher both on and off the court, to relieve some of that burden. Expect Kobe Bryant, just like he did coming off the adulterous debacle in Colorado, to redeem himself and rebuild his image in the upcoming season. He alienated many of his fans with his actions earlier this summer; expect him to erase that bitterness with his play on the court and his candor off it. The Team USA experience seems to have yielded a kindler, gentler Kobe Bryant. Expect him to translate that positive experience into a productive 2007-2008 season with the Lakers.

Lakers will need to reward Kobe’s loyalty

Of course, all of this doesn’t take the Lakers front office off the hook in the least bit. Kobe will continue to demand for added help. The Lakers will surely need to make some moves, because Kobe will keep the pressure on high (hopefully, behind closed doors). Whether it’s using Kwame Brown’s large expiring contract to yield another front-line starter in return, or orchestrating a creative trade for a player like Jermaine O’Neal, owner Jerry Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak will need to improve the talent on the Lakers roster. They owe it to their uber-competitive superstar and they owe it to Laker fans everywhere.

1 comment:

Juste said...

not sure if i agree. kobe seems to have burned a lot of bridges with his current teammates and the lakers front office. those wounds will take some time to heal.