Every player, almost every new season, has something to prove. But that something? It differs from subject to subject, and maybe the two most important players this season for the Los Angeles Lakers, Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant, have a different set of goals going into the 2014-2015 NBA season.
Lin is entering a contract year, after being overpaid, as most view it, by the Houston Rockets. It doesn’t matter to most that he was used in the wrong way, treated unfairly by the head coach and put in a situation that didn’t really give him a chance to succeed. Even when he did shine under the circumstances with great games that were about numbers, which is the bottom line for too many people, he was often overlooked.
Kobe Bryant? He’s here to prove he is still relevant. Despite being an MVP and a five-time NBA champions with two Finals’ MVP awards, there is a drive that keeps pushing him. A few drives, actually. There’s the hunt for that sixth ring, so he can feel like he matches Michael Jordan, his idol and rival in too many ways. This team won’t win a championship and isn’t set up to maybe for another year or two, partially because of Bryant’s contract. But that doesn’t stop Bryant from wanting, from dreaming of being good enough to carry this weird group despite everyone saying that he’s too old, coming off an injury and simply not good enough again.
Maybe that’s the biggest driving force in Bryant’s arsenal this season. The feeling that he’s been counted out. With fingers pointing at him as the reason for the Lakers falling from grace and not being able to get up. He played only six games last season before being shut down. He obviously believes that he can still play like Bryant from years past, but that motivation might blind him to another obvious thing: Bryant trying too hard to play like a superstar comes at the cost of too many things.
Lin is a team player so obviously he’d love for the Lakers to win as many games as possible and maybe even sneak into the playoffs somehow, although that seems unlikely right now with their roster and especially terrible defense, in theory. However, Lin needs to think about himself as well. He’ll be getting the starting point guard role if Byron Scott still remembers what it is to be a good NBA coach. Even if Nash starts at the point, his body won’t last for long, and Lin should be getting plenty of minutes.
Lin is special not just because of how he broke out into awareness, but also for what he is as a player: A guy who makes the team better by being on the floor, completely unselfish and always looking to make others better. He has been compared to Steve Nash more than once, but he needs more than just to improve his shooting to fit the mold – he needs to be given that kind of chance without fearing the bench punishment for every little mistake.
At some point, their goals collide and merge. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, to succeed. But it comes from a different place for every player, blended in with their personality. The problem for Lin going into this season just might be the drive behind Bryant’s comeback attempt: With Bryant being the way he is, it might come at the expense of Lin’s importance, making it another frustrating season for a point guard who can’t catch a break.