I heard a long time ago not to treat a BMW 325i like a Ford F-150. You want performance from your 325i; you want heavy-duty production from your F-150, a pickup truck that will serve you well over rugged terrain but disappoint you when driving in the fast lane.
No lane is faster than the NBA, and no player is as much a 325i as Kobe Bryant. Even though he’s 34, Kobe has high mileage. Still, the man wasn’t ready for the scrapheap. Or, rather, Kobe wasn’t ready for it until Mike D’Antoni became the L.A. Lakers coach shortly after the season started.
D’Antoni was a curious choice, but the Buss family, which owns the Lakers, figured his high-octane approach would return “Showtime” to the Staples Center.
The family figured wrong.
It made a mess of things, and what happened to the 325i that D’Antoni drove into the ground is proof. In a game last Friday, Kobe, logging more NBA miles than a marathon runner, tore his Achilles tendon, an injury that will sideline him for this season and for most of next.
The injury could end Kobe’s career.
Maybe destiny played a part in all of this. Kobe could have shredded his Achilles coming off an escalator. Injuries happen in life, and athletes have had worse injuries than his. But no athlete had been pushed to an injury as hard as Kobe.
He had been playing around 45 minutes per game in recent weeks, a total that stars like LeBron James, ’Melo Anthony and Kevin Durant didn’t come close to matching. Their coaches would never display such recklessness.
For that reason alone, the Lakers must fire D’Antoni. It’s the only choice the team has.
Say what you will about how D’Antoni deserves a second season. Pardon him because he didn’t get the Lakers gig until after the Busses fired Mike Brown, a clueless coach himself. Yet even Brown knew not to drive a BMW off-road.
D’Antoni should have known, too. His abuse of Kobe’s talent was inexcusable. For not only did he put the current NBA season at risk, D’Antoni’s actions threatened to ruin whatever hopes people had of seeing Showtime revived.
Without Kobe in uniform, the Lakers are a mediocre team of no more interest to NBA fans than the Chicago Bulls are without Derrick Rose or the Minnesota Timberwolves are without Kevin Love.
But Love and Rose are young bloods. Whatever injuries they have shouldn’t lead them to retire. They can look at a future. Kobe’s future, however, was now. And so was D’Antoni’s.
The veteran coach came in with a mission: energize Lakers basketball. His assignment didn’t include destroying the engine that made Kobe & Co. prime-time favorites.
I can’t excuse D’Antoni for what he did. I also can’t see how the man can remain Lakers coach after wrecking the career of the best NBA player not named Michael Jordan.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski)