While Chris Paul would be a nice fit for the Lakers in the long run, until then they’re going to have to deal with an aging superstar who is facing the back end of his career.
“I still think (Kobe Bryant) may be the best closer. LeBron is the better physical talent. LeBron is very complete, and physically can bring it three out of four nights. Kobe’s at the point in his career where on back to back nights he needs a little rest. He wears down. He has to make more tough shots than ever, he’s not separating from people. But, he’s a little like Orel Hershiser after surgery – he can occasionally bring it. He gets about 12 good fastballs tonight, but his location needs to be better.”
While all the baseball fans will appreciate the Dodgers reference, Cowherd’s point is undoubtedly true. Bryant is not going to be able to elevate the team to a high level every night like he has in the past. Even the difference from one year ago, when he bailed them out of countless predicaments with his super-hero like abilities. This season is different, and so is Bryant. But Cowherd says not to worry, because it happens to everybody.
“It’s okay. LeBron will be the same thing Kobe is this year. Give LeBron seven years, or six years, and he’s going to be Kobe. He’s a human being in his mid-thirties, that’s the way it is. He’s like a wide receiver at 35 or a power hitter at 33, unless you’re taking steroids you’re eroding.”
As we shifted from discussing Bryant and the Lakers we began to discuss big market teams as a whole. Cowherd is notorious for rooting for the big guy. He has said repeatedly he wants to see the biggest teams on the biggest stage. His allegiances lie with the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the large colleges that make up the biggest conferences. While many people appreciate a good underdog story, Cowherd has to disagree.
“I’ve always been a guy, like in the college basketball tournament, what if the Big East puts in ten teams? So? If they’re better than anybody from the Atlantic 10 Conference what do I care? I’ve always been a quality guy over a quantity guy. The big markets attract the best stars, and I like to watch the best stars. I don’t want to see Memphis win the championship, I want to see the Lakers. I like to see the big, traditional powers.”
There aren’t any teams in the NBA more powerful than the Lakers and Celtics, and that’s who Cowherd sees reaching the NBA Finals again this year, with a potential rubber match for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
“I think the Lakers will ultimately be put in a situation where they’re facing a Game 7 on the road. I thought they could have lost last year if they didn’t have Game 7 at home. It’s not going to be artistic basketball, but they’re still smart enough, artistic enough, cagey enough, to beat all the other young guys. In the NBA, veteran players at home get the calls. This is a Boston-L.A. league for about four more months.”
There is no doubt that another match-up in June between the Lakers and Boston Celtics would be one of the most highly anticipated series in league history, and will be another defining moment in the legacies of all involved. As we prepared to part ways Cowherd put on a sly smile and said, ‘I love L.A,’ which is something we can all agree on.
Special thanks to Cowherd and all the people over at SportsNation for helping us out with this interview. Be sure to tune in to SportsNation, which airs in the afternoon Monday through Friday on ESPN 2.
If you would like to hear more from Colin Cowherd, listen to the complete interview below.