- Stephen A. Smith, ESPNNewYork.com columnist
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On the other side of the country, far away from a place called Gotham City -- where there are two players owed more than $83 million and not just one in Kobe Bryant -- the residual effects of what we witnessed from the Lakers on Friday night still resonate in such a fashion, it's a good thing games are being played away from the Staples Center right now. Folks here might decide to throw something at them, and it certainly wouldn't be confetti.
The final score read "Knicks 92, Lakers 85." And if you didn't see the game, you'd actually believe it was close. It was embarrassing instead. Not so much because the loss was to a sub-.500 squad, in a place Bryant treats as his second home. Nor was it because of the measly, disgustingly inept three-point outing that 7-foot, 285-pound Andrew Bynum managed to record in nearly 35 minutes of action.
It was because the Lakers, up against a Harvard graduate named Jeremy Lin moonlighting as a point guard for the New York Knicks, got schooled like a bunch of dropouts. So much so, it probably ruined Bryant's weekend.
"I don't have any suggestions, man," a visibly perturbed Bryant told reporters when asked what suggestions he'd give to the Knicks' new phenomenon. "I mean, the guy almost scored 40 points on us."
Yes, 40. As in 38 points on 13-of-23 shooting, to be exact. And Lin did this against Derek Fisher, against Matt Barnes, against Bryant and against Steve Blake, hitting 3-pointers, short jumpers and driving into lanes that were supposed to have been clogged by Bynum and another 7-footer named Pau Gasol.
That it didn't happen Friday should tell Lakers fans all they need to know.
One would surmise that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, along with his boss, Jim Buss, are diligently working the phones if, indeed, a championship is what's being pursued these days. Because it's clear that's just a pipe dream with the roster we're looking at now. When some no-name that the Lakers liked, according to coach Mike Brown, but didn't gumption up the nerve to acquire "almost drops 40" on you, as Bryant stated, and it's someone you passed on -- with this Lakers roster at your disposal -- somebody is seriously asleep at the proverbial wheel. And they need to be awakened quick, fast and in a hurry.
Allen Iverson, who sources indicated the Lakers had some interest in as long as he was willing to go to the NBA Developmental League for a few weeks first, is not the answer. He's simply not a point guard. The Lakers are also said to be interested in former Toronto Raptors point guard Rafer Alston, who helped the Orlando Magic reach the NBA Finals in 2009. But who knows if that will materialize into anything?
All we know for the moment is that the parts the Lakers have are not good enough. Initially, that thought process applied to them facing Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami or Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls.
The mere thought of having to add to that list Jeremy Lin, a D-Leaguer just weeks ago, is about as humiliating as it gets.
"It's like any other job," Brown continued about the Lakers' mistake for passing on Lin. "Everybody makes mistakes all of the time. I don't think it's a big one. Because the guy has been with a few teams (Golden State and Houston), and I'm sure those teams saw him in practice. But you take your hat off to him. He's in the right system. If he's on another team, he wouldn't have the success because he wouldn't have the freedom that he has [in New York] offensively."
Well, when will the Lakers get freed up? When will they find some help for Bryant? When will Gasol develop some consistency? How on earth could Bynum, playing against Tyson Chandler and not much else, appear so impotent offensively against the Knicks' depleted front line? Was he having flashbacks of going against Chandler in last year's Western Conference semifinals when Chandler was a member of the Dallas Mavs?
We could dissect the Lakers all week long because you know the problems won't subside so long as Bryant is shooting 24 shots per game, while Gasol is at 13 and Bynum is at 12 per game. But the fact that Bryant is begging for just "one piece" of help is revealing.
It means Bryant knows that the characters he has as a supporting cast are limited. He knows Buss should never have given up Lamar Odom for an $8.9 million trade exception, even if it did save the capped-out Lakers about $17 million.
If you owe Bryant $58.3 million over the next two seasons after this one, plus Gasol another $38.2 million, and you're either going to re-up Bynum's deal or luck-up, get Dwight Howard and sign him to a $100 million extension, is Bryant wrong in believing you should simply be going for broke?
Only a fool would say no!
Except the Lakers don't appear to be too smart these days, just content. A shade above mediocrity, for whom a playoff berth will seem to suffice.
Once upon a time the Lakers were better than that.
I guess SHOWTIME really is gone, huh!