During the 2005-06 season, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant averaged a career best 35.4 points per game, an astounding number only slightly pumped up by his famous 81-point outburst midway through that very potent season. Though the Lakers were downed in the first round, the campaign should have served at the very least as a personal highlight for Kobe, especially as he was back to working with coach Phil Jackson after the head man was exiled from the team during the 2004-05 campaign.
Instead, Kobe's still a little chippy about the lineups that surrounded him during that 45-win season. Up to and including calling former starting point guard Smush Parker "the worst," just before Wednesday night's exhibition loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. From Janis Carr at the Orange County Register:
"I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team," Bryant said before Wednesday's 93-75 exhibition loss to Portland. "I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown?"
Bryant was referring to 2005-06 when the Lakers' roster included Brian Cook, Stanislav Medvedenko, Devean George and Parker, Mihm and Brown.
Bryant continued, taking aim at his favorite whipping boy, Parker, calling him "the worst. He shouldn't have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on."
Damn, dude. Daaaamn. Great players don't usually mind making indirect references to when their lives were tougher while working amongst less-heralded teammates -- "we've come a long way"-sort of nonsense. But rarely do you see players go on record with names like Kobe just did.
About the talent surrounding him, or having to shoot 45 times (27.2, actually) a game, Kobe is spot on. Though Jackson was back to employing the triangle offense, the mismatched parts acquired to run an isolation-heavy attack during Jackson's one year away made it so Bryant had to break away from the offense continually just to keep the Lakers in games. They may have featured the best player in the world that year, though eventual-champion Dwyane Wade might disagree, but 45 wins for that lot was, well, a lot. Bryant was masterful as he led that team back to the postseason.
Calling the guys out, though? Parker, we can understand — he's been taking shots at Kobe for years, now, and any sort of contentious back and forth between the two is entirely Parker's fault. Players like Luke Walton and Devean George may have contributed less and hamstrung Kobe's efforts more than Parker in that season; but when you combine Smush's petulance towards Kobe, lack of professionalism, and play he truly does come off as "the worst."
Kwame? His effort was lacking, per usual, and he turned the ball over on nearly 17 percent of the possessions he used up. Could have played better, had he cared more, so it's probably fine for Kobe to call him out. Especially when a still-active Brown, now a Philadelphia 76er, can lay a hard foul on Bryant the next time the Lakers come through Pennsylvania.
(Though he totally won't.)
Chris Mihm? We're not feeling that as much.
Mihm at least tried, and played through injuries. Didn't have the greatest hands in the world, but he was serviceable in the wake of the deal involving Shaquille O'Neal that Bryant nudged the Lakers into (and Vlade Divac's injury-plagued 2004-05 campaign). Over ten points and six boards with a block in 26 minutes for the Lakers in 2005-06 — not bad. And, unlike Parker and Brown, he didn't try to cross the king with anything save for the odd dropped pass or 12.
(And, as far as the Lakers being "too cheap to pay for a point guard," Kobe's a little off there, as well. Though Los Angeles didn't pay the luxury tax that season, the team was well over the cap during the offseason and could only legally bring in a guard with an exception or on a minimum contract. Kobe, as well as Lamar Odom and the expiring Brian Grant, all played for over eight figures a year in 2005-06, so it's not as if Los Angeles had a lot of wiggle room.)
Life is a lot easier, now, with Steve Nash handling point guard duties and Dwight Howard ready to throw down as many lobs as Kobe will give him, so you can't blame the man for giddily considering how far he's come. Even with those two championships won in the space between.
But names, Kobe? Their names?
Cold. It's going to be a fun season in Los Angeles. And a hell of a lot of fun as Kobe gets older, and grumpier.
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