I’ll admit that I bought into it — the conventional wisdom that with Shaq gone this year’s Laker squad would be all Kobe all the time. He was going to take all the shots, covered or not, and everyone else was a glorified caddie.
Nine games in, while sometimes it feels that way, the statistics don’t really bear that scenario out. Kobe’s numbers are not dramatically different than last year, outside of how often he gets to the free throw line. Lets break this myth down, Snopes style.
So far this year, Kobe is taking just one more shot a game this season than he did last year (19.2 to 18.1). He is averaging just 3.7 more points per game so far compared to last season. However, with the team scoring down slightly and Kobe’s free throws up, he is accounting for 29% of the Lakers’ scoring this season compared to 24% last season.
It’s not that he’s passing much more either, Kobe is currently averaging just .2 assists more per game than last season. His much-discussed field goal average is up to 40.5%, down from 43.8% last season (but up from 37% a few games ago).
As has been noted before by many, the big difference is that last season Kobe shot 8.2 free throws per game. This year it is 12.3.
Maybe the the feeling that this is an “all Kobe all the time” show is in our perception. In past years Kobe had high shot/points totals, but Shaq also had gaudy numbers. Everyone else really was along for the ride. This season, the lights are all on Kobe and we are given the perception it is he is the only show in town. His numbers stick out even more.
All of that said, when the Lakers as a team — and Kobe in particular — are sharing the ball the Lakers are a far better squad. How consistently they do that over the course of the season, and in the coming weeks as players start coming off the injured list, will determine how successful this season becomes.
On a side note: Maybe my favorite play of the season so far took place against the Clippers Thursday. Near the end of the first half (as I remember it, although maybe it was the first quarter), Kobe dribbled the ball up court and slowed down near the Laker bench, as if he was talking to Rudy T., who was standing right there. Marco Juric took the bait and relaxed his defense while the conversation took place, and the second he did Kobe turned it on and sprinted right past him, down the lane for the layup and the foul. It was pure playground.