Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two Thoughts on the Lakers

As someone who is neither a Los Angeles Lakers fan nor hater, I rarely find myself with an opinion about them that would be worth sharing...and especially not two. But there are a number of things happening with the Lakers right now that have caught my attention and seem worthy of a few moments of my time.

The first is regarding Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest). Artest has a troubled past in the NBA, culminated by the 'Palace Brawl,' where he went into the crowd to attack and assault a fan who had thrown a beer on him. For the past few years, however, he has been well-behaved and simply strange, rather than dangerous. That is until the other night. In a recent game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Artest dunked over Kevin Durant and was overcome with emotion and passion, began beating his chest in celebration, and then proceeded to elbow James Harden in the head with the kind of force and ferocity normally reserved for the MMA octagon. Harden hit the floor in an instant and was removed from the game with a concussion.

The strangest part of the story, in my opinion, was Artest's response a few days later (after receiving a 7-game suspension). He spoke with the media after practice and portrayed a strange, indecipherable mix of emotions. On the one hand, he was seemingly trying to show some remorse for his actions. He said he had re-watched the play and obviously was too aggressive after his dunk. At the same time, however, he never actually apologized to Harden for this grievous offense. No 'I'm sorry.' No 'I hope he is okay.' No 'I was wrong and won't do it again.' Sports analysts have commented that he seemed contrite, that he was viscerally bothered by what he had done, but I am not convinced. This kind of thing happens all the time. People make it seem like they are sorry by making an emotional and impassioned speech, but they do not actually apologize and are really just inventing excuses for why their actions weren't that bad or weren't their fault. I'm not sure why we can't just own our faults and apologize for our mistakes, without skirting around the issue and trying to justify ourselves.

The second issue of current importance to the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant is in a dogfight with Kevin Durant for this year's NBA scoring title. Durant finished his season last night by scoring 32, while the Lakers still have one game to play tonight. The Lakers have locked up 3rd place in the West, so they are resting most of their starters to get them healthy for the playoffs, but they have not decided whether Kobe will play tonight or not. He would need to score 38 tonight in order to overtake Durant for the lead, so it would take a good game, a lot of effort, and a lot of minutes to get this done, but it is definitely not outside of Kobe's skill-set. He says that the scoring title is not that important to him, but it seems like it must be if he is considering playing even though there is nothing to be gained. So the Lakers and Kobe are in an interesting predicament. I think records are meant to be broken and striving for individual and team statistics is just part of the game, so I wouldn't fault Kobe and the Lakers for going for the scoring title. But it would be unfortunate if Kobe were to get injured tonight in a game that didn't matter. If I were making the decision for him, I'd sit him out tonight and let him rest...but I can understand both sides. I'll be interested to see what the Lakers and Kobe decide, and whether they risk Kobe's health for an individual statistic about which they all claim to not care.

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