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Kobe Bryant is the problem, not the solution for Lakers

He is locked in for two more seasons and would be nearly impossible to trade because of his salary, and his skills are clearly in decline, so expecting him to be the team's catalyst is wishful thinking.

June 23, 2012|T.J. Simers

Listen to yourselves, Lakers fans.

Reread your email and look in the mirror: You appear clueless and sound ridiculous.

The Lakers are doomed to fail over the next two seasons and you are only kidding yourself if you think something can be done to change it.

The guy who has played the hardest, giving it his all and who has been the best player on the court for the Lakers for the longest time is now the problem.

And deep down you know it because Kobe Bryant is not going anywhere, and he is not about to become a role-playing Tim Duncan or a pass-first LeBron James.

Like the fading MVP chants in Staples, try as he will, there's just not enough left to muster another championship run.

It really doesn't matter how good of a coach Mike Brown is, whether Jim Buss is allowed to discuss the team or whether Andrew Bynum should be traded.

As long as Kobe Bryant is here, the ball will be in his hands, and that's no longer a sure thing.

More than anyone else, Kobe controls the fortunes of the Lakers and yet most folks want Brown fired and the younger Buss' baseball cap knocked off his shaggy head.

I already know the rebuttal, but this has nothing to do with being a Kobe lover or hater. No one is denying his greatness, just questioning what he has left to offer.

Like so many superstars before him, the mind and competitive spirit are still at the highest level. But beginning season No. 17 after the Olympics, as he will, the body will no longer be as dependable as it was during the glory years.

We've already seen it.

A trip to Germany to regain a spring in his step bolstered his confidence, but there's no fooling passing time. So many superstars in so many different sports before him have tried.

Kobe hit 43% of his shots this season on bolstered confidence, his worst shooting performance since starting one game his second season in the league.

The best closer in the game, as he is so often described, really is no longer the best.

Begin with the final five minutes of a game or overtime and neither team ahead by more than five points as 82games.com has done in sorting the numbers.

And Kobe hit 32.7% of his shots down the stretch to place him 109th in the NBA in field-goal percentage. When Bynum was given the chance to shoot in the closing stages of a game, he was successful 82% of the time to place No. 1 in the NBA.

It was laughable to hear the NBA analysts on TV talk about Coach Brown's inability to draw up plays with options like Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers.

How many times does the ball just stop when Kobe calls for it, or he just takes over in the final minutes?

Kobe hit 21.4% of his three-pointers on what 82games.com calls its list of "clutch" stats in the final five minutes to place No. 73. Think about your own expectations and how you would swear Kobe is this amazing killer down the stretch and yet he's hitting two for 10 from long range.

He placed 12th in most points scored with the game on the line, but he also took the fourth most shots in the league.

No doubt Kobe would say he feeds off such doubt, and so he's going to continue to shoot to prove the naysayers wrong.

It's not going to change and the Lakers can do so little about it. They owe Kobe nearly $60 million over the next two seasons, which makes it impossible to even consider trading him.

He's here, he's Kobe and he's going to proceed as if sheer determination will make all the difference.

And when the Lakers fall short, there will be talk about firing Brown. What's that all about?

He took over a team swept by Dallas under the leadership of Phil Jackson, no training camp, limited practice and played without Lamar Odom, who had played his best a season earlier.

But people want him fired. What has he done wrong?

He came in emphasizing defense and Kobe bought into it. He came in believing the two big men gave the Lakers the edge over the league, and was he wrong?

We don't know because every time the game was on the line the ball was hogged by Kobe. Do you think that would be different under Brian Shaw or anyone else?

So much of this is just outright ridiculous, Lakers fans are insisting the team make a trade, any trade just so they feel better.

But who are you going to get in return for Bynum? Dwight Howard has told the Lakers he does not want to play with Kobe. If Howard's mind was changed, who gets the ball in the final five minutes?

You can trade Pau Gasol, who has won two titles playing with Kobe, but if you think Kobe struggled to trust him down the stretch, who does he come to trust more?

And was Kobe upset with Gasol, or upset with himself for misfiring but needing to blame someone else?

Whatever the answer, it's still all about Kobe. And while most folks would tell you that is the best thing going for the Lakers, is it really?

I'm telling you, it is so much easier to be a Clippers fan. No expectations, no crazy talk about getting better, not even a general manager on the payroll with the NBA draft and free agency set to begin this week.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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