Less is Better for Bryant, Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have had a roller coaster ride so far in the season. If there was such a thing as the panic button, it’s broken by now. If the Lakers were a ship people would be jumping off and on constantly. Okay that’s enough analogies.
The Lakers are currently 23-16. Good enough for 5th in the Western Conference, 2nd in their division and in their own city. Their scoring is 21st and point differential is 2.3, which is their worst since 06-07. Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring at 28.7 ppg but it’s taking him more shots to do it.
Former Lakers great Magic Johnson recently pleaded via Twitter for the front office to make some moves. At the surface, this looks to be the only solution because they only have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum scoring in double digits. While a trade seems like a legitimate option, the Lakers don’t have many people to offer anyone. Other than those three players, you have Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Metta World Peace. World Peace is only averaging 5.5 ppg and the other two just aren’t very appetizing players for any team.
But the problem doesn’t lie with the contributing players. Even their new coach, Mike Brown, can’t shoulder the blame. The problem lies with who it’s always been with, number 24.
When the game is on the line, everyone in the world knows the ball is going to Bryant. That has always been known. As great of a scorer as Bryant is, he’s enjoyes the most success when he has another scoring threat along side him. He won his first three championships when he teamed up with Shaq. When Shaq left, Bryant enjoyed individual success but his team struggled because of it. Granted he had Smush Parker as one of his best scoring options and Luke Walton was starting.
It wasn’t until Pau Gasol came to the Lakers at the end of 07-08 season that they became that championship contender again. With Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Bynum, Bryant didn’t need 30 plus a night and won two championships in three appearances to the finals.
Fast forward to right now and the Lakers are looking just like they did before Gasol arrived. Kobe is taking over 23 shots a game, Gasol and Bynum combined are shooting 25.5 shots per game. His teammates just aren’t getting enough looks. The fact that Bryant is also shooting just 43 percent from the field and a career low 27.7 percent from three doesn’t help their cause either.
The condensed season has certainly brought down scoring overall from everyone this year. Teams finish a game in the Northeast one night and then the next night they’re in a completely different time zone facing off against another team. With that in mind, you’d assume Bryant, who has been hampered by injuries in the past few seasons, would shoot less on nights he has less rest to conserve some energy. Wrong.
In games when he plays back to back, he’s averaging 30 points on almost 26 shots. While with one day’s rest he’s averaging just 23 shots. With even more rest, he’s averaging even less shots. During these stretches, the Lakers are 4-9 on no rest, 13-5 on one day’s rest and 5-2 on two or more day’s rest. To put it simply, when Kobe shoots less the Lakers win.
A big reason for this could be the transition from Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and Mike Brown’s offense. The loss of sixth man of the year last year, Lamar Odom, also didn’t help. There have been reports that many players want to switch back to the triangle. At this point, it’s more important to get their 7-footers involved. Gasol is still scoring the same he always has with the Lakers and Bynum has career highs in both points and rebounds.
With scoring threats like these two in the post, why aren’t they getting the rock more? Bynum was quoted today as saying in last night’s game against the Wizards, he was goofing around and not taking it seriously. The big man might not be a work-aholic, but if he sees the ball more maybe he’d be more interested.
Look at the stats, they were blowing the Wizards out in the first half 64-49. The Lakers only scored 37 points in the second as Bryant went 3-18 from the field. Bynum and Gasol only had 11 shots in that second half meltdown.
Bryant needs to get back to being unselfish (I use that term very loosely). When he trusts his team, his team will do better.
But for all of those people concerned about the Lakers, just last week they beat the Miami Heat 93-83. To me, beating arguably the best team in the league doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern.