Even if produced before you were born, odds are good that you have seen the movie “Dirty Dancing,” at least once. This coming of age tale, set in the Catskill Mountains of New York, in the early sixties; has to be one of the largest selling video and DVD ever produced. Chances are also strong that you remember the catch-phrase of that movie; which was “Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner.”
Just in case the new bench boss of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D’Antoni is unaware; substitute Kobe Bryant’s name in the sentence and you have the operating philosophy of his new team. The “Black Mamba” is not only the “First Among Equals” of the Los Angeles roster; team management has proven time and again that Kobe is on a whole different level than anyone else employed by the franchise. Proof came last week, when the squad fired former head coach Mike Brown, just five games into the campaign; after coming out of the gates 1-4. Was Brown given an adequate time to turn the club around before firing him? Of course not, however rumors have it that Bryant gave his coach the “thumbs-down” which led the team to throw their bench boss to the lions.
Overall, the Lakers should be a far better fit for D’Antoni than his previous team, the New York Knicks ever really were. Number one, the West is far more suitable for his style of play, lots more running, far less slow-down half-court hoops. Number two, he has the PERFECT buffer in Steve Nash, the players already all love Nash and he will be the go-between if there are any crises that arrive. For those who want to make the comparison to D’Antoni having Amar’e Stoudemire in his corner in New York; the dynamics are far different in this situation. Nash is already perceived as a leader with the Lakers, even by Kobe. Stoudemire, while a great player is not an Alpha type, he was not going to take on any of his teammates;, or if he did, he would fail to convince other players to follow his direction.
If D’Antoni learned one lesson after he walked away from New York in defeat; resigning after losing his players and realizing they would never again be on his side; hopefully it was how to get along with a Diva. If Carmelo Anthony, never came to the Knicks, chances are D’Antoni could still be there. Those two butted heads from Day One and it doomed the team. You KNOW, Kobe is going to test him right away, if he can’t win over the Black Mamba, he might as well pack his suitcase up and head back home.
Bryant could be the “Poster Boy” for the phrase, the tail that wags the dog. Do you truly believe that former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson “HANDELED” Kobe Bryant? The first time yes; the second time they co-existed and got along great. Think of all the times that Bryant played through an injury that would have healed far quicker if he took some time off. Or all the times, that he took shots that totally disrupted the offense and the flow of the game. Do you truly think that Jackson would have tolerated that from any other player than possibly Jordan?
Many NBA long-time observers try to make comparisons between former Lakers super-star Magic Johnson and Bryant. The two have one thing in common; both are bigger than their teams. Keeping Earvin happy was the top priority in the eighties and keeping Kobe is the main job these days. Let’s remember, they let Phil go the first time, along with Shaq, Malone and Payton, due to Kobe. Phil and Kobe don’t make amends, there is no second go-round for Coach Zen. If the Busses and Kupchak have to make a choice, Kobe will win every time.
D’Antoni, is a bright guy and most certainly he should be able to make the proper adjustments about the care and feeding of an “NBA DIVA.” If he can the Lakers may be headed for another “Golden Era,” if not, his stint in Los Angeles will end rather quickly.