The Kobe Conundrum

Darius Soriano —  January 2, 2012

Last night Kobe Bryant took and missed a lot of shots. Of his 28 attempts from the field, he made only 6 and many of them were of the forced, long range variety. This in and of itself is not news. Kobe’s had games similar to this before and unless he plans on retiring tomorrow, he’ll have games like this in the future. Kobe, after all, is a scorer at his core and he’ll shoot his way in and out of slumps. Such is his nature and going into his 16th season if you expect this to change, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.

However, even at this young stage of the season, it’s clear that the Lakers are beginning to change even if Bryant is not. And this creates a bit of a dilemma for a variety of reasons.

First is that the Lakers are now, clearly, an inside dominant team. It’s only been two games, I know, but Andrew Bynum is proving to be for real. The potential that’s been raved about for years has turned into actual production. Again, two games does not make a season, but his PER after these two contests is 36.7 and his shooting numbers are off the charts (67% FG, 66% TS). He’s carving out deep position in the post, attacking the offensive glass, and flashing improved footwork and finishing ability of the non-dunk variety.

And the, of course, there’s also Gasol. Many have been down on Pau this season but I see little reason for that to be the case. He’s not been the dominant player that he was at the start of last year, but he’s been much better than many are giving him credit for. He’s averaging 17 and 9, shooting 55%, and sporting a PER (21.9) just a shade below where he’s been the last few seasons. His mid-range shooting has been sublime and his post work has been extremely effective most of the time he’s worked the block. Pau is the type of player people always seem to want more from, but what he’s given so far has been right on par with what I’d want (though I’d like him to rebound a bit better).

These developments may not seem like they’re new and in a way, they’re not. The Lakers have had these players on their roster for years (and had Odom too) and the calls for this team to be an inside oriented team have been there for some time. That said, Bynum’s history of unavailability and Pau’s fluctuating production after taking a pounding in the post haven’t made executing that type of plan realistic. Yes, the Lakers could have worked the post more over the years  – I’ve called for it myself countless times – but these variables complicated that, to be sure.

What also complicated it was Kobe Bryant and his continued status as LA’s best player. Despite aging legs, all the questionable shots, and whatever other issues many have had with Mr. Bean, his effectiveness was always at least equal, and usually a notch ahead of his mates. This can be argued of course, but consider in every season (except 2009-10) since the Gasol trade, Kobe’s led the team in PER. Also consider that he’s been the primary leader of the team and the responsibility (both on the court as a shot creator and as the pulse of the team) that comes with that and I’d say that his ability to perform at the level he has meant he’s been the most important and best Laker. Add in the fact that he was the league’s MVP in 2008, led his team in every way to the championship in 2009, and then was the catalyst (with a huge help from Gasol) to winning again in 2010 and these assertions only become stronger.

This season, however, that’s starting to change. Kobe, after two horrid shooting nights, now trails both Gasol and Bynum in PER. His game has also been more perimeter oriented and the post up chances that we thought we’d see more of haven’t quite materialized. This has rendered Kobe more of a jump shooter (especially in the two games against Denver) and his ability to earn trips to the foul line is frequently dependent on how the ref views the defender guarding his jump shot, rather than how much contact at the basket there is when he aggressively drives.

The other dilemma, though, is that the way the Lakers’ roster is constructed doesn’t lend itself to Kobe’s role on the team changing in any real way. He’s the only perimeter shot creator the Lakers have and his ability to perform every aspect of Mike Brown’s offense means the ball will be in his hands frequently. The Laker PGs are more table setters and spot up shooters than shot creators and there’s not another wing on the roster who can create good looks for a teammate, save for MWP bulldozing his way into the paint from the shallow wing. Every other wing on the roster possesses limited skills and needs the action set up for them with little ability to create it for themselves.

And this is why Kobe’s walking a finer line than ever before. His big men are ready to take on the bulk of the load but Kobe has the ball in his hands so frequently that most of the action will still go through him. He’s more than willing to seek out his bigs and get them the ball, but that will always be countered by his instincts to score the ball himself (he didn’t get to 28,000 career points with an instinct to pass). His sore wrist and mangled digits mean he could be better served not having to initiate the offense as much as he does, but the limitations of the roster make it nearly impossible for him to get that type of reprieve.

I’m sure many will look at this as some sort of overdone response to Kobe’s game against the Nuggets. It’s not. Kobe’s still one of the premier perimeter players in the league and in a week these last two games will probably be long forgotten. I’m not trying to neuter Kobe’s game, nor am I saying he still can’t be one of the driving forces behind a championship team.

But the Lakers bigs – especially with an emerging Bynum – are in a position to carry this team now and that puts Kobe in a precarious position. The way the roster is built means that he’s depended on as much as ever but it’s more because of his ability to be a play maker than a shot maker. This is due to his decision making (even if it looked suspect on Sunday) still being better than any other guard or wing the Lakers have on their roster. It’s because he’s still an enormous threat with the ball in his hands and the defense must still tilt towards him when he has it going.

But the scoring load can be shifted and that presents a conundrum. That’s always been Kobe’s territory, but the combo of Pau and Bynum look ready to ask for some of that space. Is Kobe ready to cede some of it?

Darius Soriano

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82 responses to The Kobe Conundrum

  1. Read The Dude Abides @#50 of the last thread to see my opinion of the Kobe debacle last night.

  2. brought over from the last thread..

    you guys *know* there is an ongoing issue with posts getting moderated here, right? and yet you insist on “jacking up” posts replying to specific post numbers that are often inaccurate because of said moderation(s).

    please, reply to a name or (even better) provide a little context. anything less is lazy and/or selfish – the rest of us shouldn’t have to spend time trying to figure out what you’re on about!

  3. However, I do take issue with those posters who continually feel they know what Kobe is thinking.

    Kobe and Lebron are the most scrutinized figures in American sports and we all seem to think we have some sort of inside knowledge about how they think. This has been Kobe’s mantle for his entire NBA career because 1) of his driven and internal personality, 2) having to follow – and be compared to – Michael Jordan, and 3) having people like Shaq and Phil around him, who used his drive and personality for their own purposes.

    All this, however, doesn’t mean we actually know these people. That assumption by the “talking heads” and the fans alike really chafes me.

  4. BTW, my last post was directed specifically at nos. 24,26,29,30,44 and 50 in the last thread.
    :grin:

  5. Maybe Brown should challenge Kobe to get 8-9 assists a game–that would “show those mofos” a thing or two, for sure. ;-)

  6. Mindcrime,

    I disagree that Kobe is slowing down, at least based on the past 3 years. By all accounts, his knee and ankle issues have been resolved, and he is as healthy as he has been in years (aside from the wrist injury). His first step is quicker, he has more lift, and has better lateral movement compared to last season.

    If this was the Kobe from the Dallas series (who was dealing with a high ankle sprain and knee issues), than yeah, I would agree with you that Kobe should focus on a more secondary role, but based on the first several games, this is the same Kobe from 2 years ago (possibly 3 years ago)… the same Kobe that led the team to a title. It seems fans are focusing on last season, a season where Kobe was unable to practice all year following knee surgery, and concluding that this declining trend to his physical abilities will carry into this season……., but Kobe has clearly broken that trend. Based on his improved health, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  7. Good post from Darius.

    I know people are sick of “We need a PG”, but we need a PG, or at least Blake, who is more capable of driving the action than Fisher, needs a little more burn. Between the way the roster is constructed and Kobe’s hand injuries, a creator/ball handler is required (thank you again, David Stern).

  8. @ LT

    I agree in part. I have said for the last two years tha the hand injuries are a bigger issue than the knees. Strength, leverage, and footwork can compensate some for loss of lift. But the wrist/finger issues make it harder for him to control the basketball, and to shoot off the dribble. Therefore, he needs to play off the ball more and pass more. The first is tricky, for reason Darius explains. The second is in part up to Kobe himself.

  9. Robinred has given the best idea I’ve read on any post. Challenging Kobe to try and get more assist can prove to be valuable in helping this dreadful offense going.

  10. Take it from a guy who just retired due to a bad back: most injuries in your lower body will hinder your athletic ability but if you have skill and a high basketball IQ, you can still be very effective. However, injuries to your hands hinder your ability to shoot. I always had a bad thumb in my shooting hand and whenever the pain was higher, my shooting would be a little “off”.

    I’ve played with injuries in my hand not as severe as the ones that Kobe currently has, so I know there’s a physical reason for his poor shooting. However, for a person so aware of his own body (as Kobe seems to be), it puzzles me why he fails in adapting his game. Why is he hoisting contested threes and PUJITs? Why isn’t he working harder on defense and getting other stats that help the team win while our bigs carry the scoring load? Why doesn’t he shoot the three ball when we play the inside out game tht true shooters love? Why is he doing such things at his current age?

    Perhaps will see a better Kobe from now on but I just hope we don’t get to see the “game 7 vs. Phoenix” Kobe in the next few games…

  11. @LT

    (and robinred)

    LT, I agree that Kobe is “better” this year from a purely physical standpoint, but “better” at this point in his career will always be a relateive term. robinred’s point is a good one–Kobe’s hand/wrist injuries are compomising what was once Kobe’s “trump” on everyone else—his transcendent ball-handling skills (coupled with arguably the best footwork since–well–I would argue he’s got an argument for best footwork ever).

    LT, I am NOT saying Kobe needs to become second or third fiddle NOW (but time always wins, and that day is coming, unless he is going to retire early, a la Michael after ring number 6).

    Instead, he can complete his career arc, and be eternally remembered as Greatest Laker, and a great teammate, if he can start now the process of gradually ceding control and output to others on the roster. Again, I’m not talking about Kobe becoming option B or C–I’m talking about someone else becoming 1A. Right now, the best candidate for that position is probably Bynum, if for no other reason than the fact that Gasol is probably on the back side of his career arc as well.

  12. Robin,

    I think it’s much too early to draw any conclusions about Kobe’s demise at this stage. His wrist should not be an issue in a few weeks, and should be healed before the playoffs. Kobe has proven he can lead his team to a title with his mangled fingers. I had my doubts, like you, coming into the season about his declining athleticism and health….but after seeing how healthy his legs look thus far, those doubts have subsided. Some questions certainly remain — can Kobe find that balance between play maker and shot maker, and will he adjust his game to incorporate Bynum’s emergence? After watching Kobe adjust his game after Phil Jackson’s arrival, than adjust his game again after Shaq’s departure, than adjust his game again after Pau’s arrival, I have no doubt that he will continue to adjust his game with Bynum’s “arrival” this season. Will there be some growing pains playing for a new coach in a new system with a torn ligament? Sure, but Kobe has proven time and time again, that he will do whatever is necessary to win. If that means playing inside out ball with Kwame frickin Brown, like he did against the Suns, he will do it. If he can accept revolving the offense around Kwame, I have no doubt about his willingness to do the same with Bynum.

    Come playoff time, it will be about match ups. If defenses are going to crowd the paint and guard Kobe one on one, he will score. He will have to score for the team to be successful under these circumstances. If defenses double Kobe, and leave the inside open, he will make plays. He has been able to find that balance consistently for the past 7 years, and here we are, once again, wondering if Kobe can find that balance yet again. I don’t know about you, but I already know the answer.

  13. Coffee is For Closers January 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    This couldn’t be any fairer to Kobe. Whether this is the start of the inevitable decline in his game (as it is for every player), its going to be tough for the team. Kobe’s attitude (iron will inner belief in self) has made him the great player he is, but its also at his detriment in acknowledging someone else might provide a more optimal opportunity for scoring.

  14. It’s not a question of who the Lakers best player is, it’s a question of where they have the most favorable mismatch(es). In most games for the past 2-3 years, that has not been Kobe. Unfortunately, most of the time he has been unwilling to acknowledge that with the consistency that he should.

  15. There is an easy solution to this.

    Kobe never takes more than 15 shots a game – unless he’s made at least 10 of those. What people don;t realize is that missing 22 shots like he did last night (outside of killing morale, trust and hopes for a win), is that that’s 22 lost possessions; essentially 22 turnovers.

    To keep his legs fresh for this freakishly hectic season and his wrist calm for the playoffs, dial is back to 4th gear. After 16 years, Kobe hardly needs practice to feel like he’s in the groove. If anything he’ll just “shoot” his way back into it.

    Give it to the bigs down low. Get their confidence up in this new system. Make them all-stars. Make them like you. Trust you. Want to rebound for you. Want to keep playing even when everything is going to Hell. And even make them want to pass it back out to you when you’re hot.

    Kobe recently said Kareem’s scoring record is out of reach because he doubts he can play that long. So it seems his mentality is to fire every shot available while he still has time. But that thought process is counter-intuitive. By forcing things, you’re pushing your body even harder and shortening your own time span. While he’s injured during this shortened season, he should chill and let the game come to him… instead of “shooting” his way to it.

    Kobe’s my favorite player and has been since ’98. But if his stubbornness derails the entire team during this fragile year with a new coach and system and emerging big men, he may not be anymore.

    Please Kobe. Play within your greatness and let others play within theirs. Rings are more important than points.

  16. Ex,

    Huh? With Bynum rarely being healthy in the playoffs the past 2-3 years, how can you possibly conclude that Kobe did not have the most favorable mismatches during that span? Phoenix, Denver, Utah, Orlando, Boston? If he was so unwilling to acknowledge the mismatches, how could he possibly lead his team to two titles?

    I get it. Kobe shoots too much at times, more so in the regular season….. but during the playoffs, his “over shooting” has not been an issue since the Detroit finals (almost 8 years ago). Think about it – when was the last time Kobe “shot too much” in a playoff series?

  17. If we are busy discussing how many shots Kobe should cede to Bynum and Gasol, then the Lakers really don’t have major problems. Think of how many other clubs would like to be having this arguement.

  18. 16) The way the defenses key on Kobe, Gasol or Odom, and Bynum when healthy, usually would have been able to get a more favorable shot. Kobe has a tendency to use up too much of the clock going one-on-one, and then that doesn’t leave enough time to run the offense.
    The Lakers were the better team the last two times they won the title. That’s why they won, not because Kobe optimized their offense.

  19. @15 – Well said!

  20. If history is any indicator, this will be a continuing topic here, and around the country.

    Reading this post, two things were at the forefront of my thoughts. Renato covered one of them quite well – the hand/wrist situation. In the past, Kobe’s usually found ways to adjust and compensate for injuries. Now however, the wrist seems to be compounding the messed-up fingers – Kobe just doesn’t seem to have much right-hand strength. He’s having real problems hanging onto the ball and if we can see this, then opposing players can see it and know it way more clearly. Expect his right arm to be a prime target this season.

    I’m not that worried about Kobe’s habits affecting Bynum or other longtime teammates, regardless of a new coach. What does concern me, if how his inclination to take over, affects the new guys. McRoberts, Murphy and Kapono, have formed a very healthy pack mentality – as brand-new players in L.A., they seem to be investing in each other and in the team philosophy. This seems to be carrying over to some of the others as well. I don’t expect that Murphy and Kapono will see a lot of time on the floor with Kobe but there’s bound to be some crossover effect.

    The majority of so-called hero shots are taken by heros. Period. Stars can get away with it because of who they are, and then it becomes a case of people assigning that label to ridiculous shots that never should have been taken by hero-style players. If a role player tries a hero shot, he’ll usually be sat right down. If it’s a player who’s singular talent is outside shooting then he’ll be given a green light in certain situations. Miss enough questionable shots however, and you become the Machine, sitting on the bench.

    I’m starting to forget my own point but it’s basically that I can usually live with Kobe’s bad shots because his numbers and actions overall, prove him out a a winner. What I’ll have a hard time with, is him messing up a new and exciting team energy.

  21. exhelodrvr,
    I’d argue in 2009 it was Kobe’s play that elevated the team. In 2010, winning was much more the product of the entire team stepping up for each other. From Artest’s crazy putback vs. the Suns to Pau’s against the Thunder and the total team effort to take out Boston. But 2009 may have been Kobe’s best effort of all the championship years based off what he carried as the leader and how he performed on the court for all the playoff series.

  22. It’s a b2b game and it hurts the Lakers who played two games of that sort. Nuggets are the younger team so they’re more active in transition offense while Lakers as an old team were late on transition defense and those drive & kick penetration of Lawson and Miller.

    Let’s give credit to Blake for making the Lakers competitive in the 3rd. Normally, in the last years team after a miserable first half, it would be a blow out in the 2nd as well. Kobe is a gamble, you never know what will you get from Kobe. We all question those long 3 pointers but to him, those are routine plays. Given another day rest we’ll see another Kobe. Undoubtedly, It’s really noticeable that he has slowed down considerably say five years ago, so the coach has to manage these issues and design some plays to maximize Kobe’s presence or attraction to the opposing teams. Aside from Blake, Lakers as a whole have been out of sync in the perimeter lately. This can be cured by constant honing and more practice on off days.

  23. Common, its just 1 game, you’re already acting like that… give the guy a break!

  24. Due to this article, Bynum, now, injures himself… #reversejinx.

  25. 21) Darius,
    I’ve never said that Kobe isn’t the best player on the team, or that they could have won the titles without him. But his play kept the team, and himself, from reaching their ceiling, and that is still the case. He has been good enough, and the team has been good enough in the past, to win despite that. This year they won’t be able to – they can’t afford to give away games or possessions anymore.

  26. Nice post, and it hit pretty much everything needed to be talked about. Time will tell how this new Lakers team and defense and offense will click against the other teams. Kobe has very high BBIQ, and that is his strongpoint now. Who better to give advice to the other players than him, who is out there on the floor and feeling the opponent directly.

  27. The subject has certainly shifted from “The Lakers” to “Kobe”. To somewhat link the two, I would be interested to hear from some of you on this: We lost Phil, LO, Shannon, and we have a new system. We are one of the slowest and worst 3 pt shooting teams in the league. Are we now saying that we can afford to have Kobe re-invent himself on top of all that, and still win a title? Or are we content with being competitive again?

  28. Keep in mind – I have already said that Kobe was horrible last night, however it is what it is, and he is what he is.

  29. #27. Robert, I’ve always been content with this team being “competitive” and thus having a “chance” to compete for the title. For many, that’s not good enough as they’d prefer the team be the favorites, but that’s far from possible every season. LA made a marvelous run in 2008 when no one thought they were favorites to win until overzealous media types picked LA to beat the Celtics. That was one of my favorite teams despite the loss to the dreaded C’s.

    My two cents is that this team has that chance this year. A lot of things would have to go right for them to win, but that’s true every season for any team capable of winning the whole thing. But, that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Still a lot of season to play (though in relatively short amount of time).

  30. Darius: Thanks for the response and for your hard work on this board.

    from your post: “the way the Lakers’ roster is constructed doesn’t lend itself to Kobe’s role on the team changing in any real way”

    I agree and my way of saying that was: It is what it is and he is what he is.

  31. @15 Everclear: Your “easy solution” is not a realistic option. You don’t really expect the coaches and Kobe to be monitoring his makes and misses to determine if he is allowed to shoot late in games? And holding him to a 67% standard on his first 15 shots is pretty absurd. I don’t think that you believve there is much logic to shot counting as opposed to reading and reacting to the defense to choose the most advantageous opportunity to score, which many times will be Kobe, even when has missed many shots. Would you prefer Kobe to swing the ball late in the game, in a slump, if he has an iso on the wing against someone like Kyle Lowry? I think that Kobe’s teammates are professionals, who know Kobe’s game well. Meaning I doubt their psyches are as fragile as you suggest, and they will continue to work hard and be professionals, regardless if Kobe shoots them out of a game every now and then.

  32. But his play kept the team, and himself, from reaching their ceiling, and that is still the case
    _____

    I usually agree with you, but I never have bought this line of reasoning. Three 57-win seasons, one 65-win season, two titles, three conference titles–given Fisher’s limitations, the issues at small forward, and Bynum’s inability to stay on the floor, I find it hard to believe that the Lakers would have done better if Kobe had played differently.

    Last night, however, was different, for a variety of reasons–one being that Kobe SAID that Bynum would need to “fall in line.” Adding that to Bynum’s blowing up in his first game back and other factors, I think it is fair in this particular case to ask the ugly questions.

    But as Darius points out, part of the reason for Kobe’s performance is the team’s roster construction problems. There are always things other than Kobe going on–Henry Abbott and Bill Simmons don’t remember that; we need to.

    Robert-

    Fair points, but since you remain concerned about Howard, ask yourself this: is this a team Howard would be itching to join, if indeed the Lakers would have to part with Bynum and Gasol to get him? Buss has said publicly he’s not doing a deal that involves doing that, of course, but things can change. How Kobe moves forward, dealing with the fine line he and the team are walking, will affect the Lakers on both the micro and macro levels.

  33. Loss of team chemistry is far more important than the 28 shots that Kobe took in the last game. Moreover, had the Lakers been down by 20 points in the 4th quarter, then sure Kobe could shoot the ball non-stop and go 6-28 with the thought that he could shoot his way back into rhythm. Alas, the game was within reach had the Lakers gone to some of the players with higher shooting percentages; such as, Blake, Bynum and Gasol.

    Lastly, Kobe’s propensity to shoot the ball when he was having an off night, does not bode well with luring Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Though, I am more than happy that we retain Pau and Gasol as the price to give up two 7-footers is too high.

    Kobe is my favorite active Laker and is second to Magic as my all time favorite. I would like to see him pass Jordan’s championship record and become solidified as the greatest Laker ever. Kobe has worked his entire career for these two things to occur.

  34. Darius,

    That is a good attitude, but I would suggest that the reasons Robert and I and some others do not share it revolve around the team’s age, thin core, payroll, and future salary commitments. The 2008 team had several young players, and Kobe was 29 and Pau was 27. The situation now is different.

  35. D. Howard played this all wrong. He should have told Otis Smith the following:

    1) enjoyed my time in Orlando, gave you guys 7 years, but I need to go to a different direction

    2) trade me to the Lakers, any other team I will not resign right away with (makes it to risky for other teams to bid)

    3) if you don’t, Ill walk out in FA and sign with the Nets. Which is better than being traded there, what is a few million when I can sign for less and allow the Nets to trade Lopez for a 3rd star.

    4) the balls is in your court Otis, I apologize, but I have to do this.

    5) leak this to the lakers allowing them to keep gasol and only send Bynum and the trade exeption (and allowing dwight to join championship calliber team)

  36. Great (perhaps overly kind) analysis, Darius,

    If only Kobe had your BBIQ when he looks in the mirror.

  37. Great piece Darius. Spot on but the problem is the giant Kobe ego! Clearly we need him to score, especially on this team where the two best 3 point shootersvwho also could create tgeir own shots, LO and Brown are gone. Mitch replaced them with 3 new guys who played almost zero minutes last year with bad teams.

    Management put Kobe in this spot and I don’t see him changing to let the bigs who shoot over 60%, to trump his forced shots.

    As for Howard? How will that help?

  38. Robert – 3-pt shooting’s definitely an issue at present… Kobe, Metta and Fish in particular, are shooting horribly from long range. I don’t think it will be as big a problem as the season goes on. Blake is starting to get his shot back and Kapono’s a legit 3-pt specialist. Murphy also has the ability. I’d say that we’ve improved a notch from last year, at least as far as potential to make them. As far as being a title team – I think we have a puncher’s chance. Teams on whole are seriously inconsistent so far. Plus, hate to say this, but I get the feeling there’s going to be a boatload of injuries across the league. Just part of shortened training camp and guys playing into shape during a compressed schedule.

  39. Ginobli broke his hand and out for couple of games. Kobe has no more ligament on his pinkie, second finger, aching wrist still playing and responsible for the 3 W’s.

    It is time to count our blessings and wish for better condition in the succeeding games. There should be a game plan if you want to reduce Kobe’s activity. If the Coach leaves the decision to Kobe, then he will do the same thing over and over again. His objective is to win and he trusts his shooting repertoire. It’s the gambler’s mentality which is also known as a game of probabilities that “the more you lose (or in the case of Kobe missed consecutive shots), the closer he is in getting a winning hand ” (or making those cheapy, cheapy shots.)

  40. Sooo… I’m really not looking to add fuel to the flames and totally recognize that Kobe enjoys talking to the media pack about as much as a trip to the dentist. Still, his chat at practice today about shooting, etc., kinda fits this thread. From the LAT site. http://tinyurl.com/7ofr5dt

  41. Until the FO is able to acquire a PG that will allow Mr. Bean to relinquish some of his ballhandling responsibilities. This post will unfortunately be on repeat until that day comes. Kobe is a scorer first, not facilitator, he will resort to option number 1(himself) 90% of the time during crunch time. Will he ever change, doubt it, this mentality has made him who he is since coming into the league. I hold out hope that the powers that be are still hard at work making calls around the association.

  42. The simple solution is for the LA media to focus on Kobe’s defense and passing and make sure that Kobe knows that everyone else appreciates them.

    Kobe had no problem taking a DIFFERENT role in the 2008 Olympics, as long as he’s recognized and respected. Thus the sooner the media and bloggers start giving him props while recognizing that he hasn’t quite lost his scoring touch, he’ll comply.

    I am not sure if Brown can tease Kobe into this, and having no other creator on the team certainly does not help this cause at all.

    Luckily, the front office seems to realize this to a certain extent judging from their eagerness to rid both Gasol and Odom to get CP3.

  43. 32) robinred,
    Certainly no guarantee of additional titles if Kobe played slightly differently.

  44. 39) DaveM

    These Kobe and Brown interviews, feared and (sadly) expected, were my worst nightmare for this season’s Laker team.

    Kobe is obviously deeply troubled, and Brown (a la Cleveland) is an enabler.

  45. Kobe lost this game for the Lakers.

    He has to change his game.

    He is the only one capable of being a reliable point guard for the Lakers.

    He has to set up plays and set up his teammates. He is more than capable of this. When he does this, the Lakers win.

  46. As Michael Jordan got older, Michael changed his game to the benefit of the team.

    Kobe also has to change his game for the benefit of the team.

  47. Totally agree with Sanchez. The problem is the abysmal lack of ability and athleticism in the back court excluding Kobe.

    Mitch knows that. That’s why he aggressively pursued Chris Paul right from the jump. This team is going nowhere in terms of a championship season unless this gets addressed and soon.

    The presence of Dwight Howard would change nothing right now unless the FO is dumb enough to include Gasol in that deal in which case the team would quickly become much worse.

    We don’t need Dwight Howard. We need back court help. PERIOD!

  48. Kobe had one bad game and every lakers writer is already saying he ball hogs and already talking about he showed Mike Brown who’s boss. Lakers fans overreact to everything. Kobe shot lakers out the game he has before and i’m sure he’ll do it again but w/o Kobe we wouldn’t be in games.

    I feel bad for Kobe because as a Lakers fan I know how much he’s meant to the lakers and me. he seems to be in lose-lose situations in everything he does. if we lose kobe shoots too much if we win we won in spite of Kobe. if we lose and kobe trys to feed the bigs we lost and kobe tried to prove a point doing it. lose-lose situation.

    I will say this Kobe messes up plenty so does everyone else who’s put on a Lakers uniform but I get the sense Lakers fan don’t truly appreciate KOBE LIKE TOP 10 PLAYERS COME ALONG EVERY YEAR. and I do know w/o Kobe we would’ve been miserable for the past 10 years. let kobe be kobe it’s worked in the past it’ll work again

  49. The comments made in that article are ominous — what about when Kobe is NOT “open” and launches anyway? He is missing the point.

  50. @ 46 jameskatt: Please provide some proof that MJ changed his game when he got older. He didn’t, just as Kobe won’t. The greatest scorers of all time don’t stop shooting just because they have occasional off nights. Their perserverance and unwavering confidence is why they are the greatest.

  51. That LA Time’s article with the videos was very interesting, indeed. If his shooting hand and wrist were even 75 percent good to go, I think it would be OK for him to always take the shot if he feels like it will go in, but they are probably not. Of course, I am not a Doctor and certainly have no medical knowledge about all of his shooting hand and wrist ailments, but IMO he has had to have lost at least a quarter of the use of it.
    Hopefully, the shots will start to fall, back to the mean.

  52. it’s always a problem when kobe plays bad. 16 years of greatness and we (lakers fans) are still questioning this guy. give me a break. it’s going to be real funny when these people who just put up with kobe start begging for his fire and drive when he retires and we SUCK. because trust lakers WILL suck when kobe retires i don’t care who is on the team

  53. “The comments made in that article are ominous — what about when Kobe is NOT “open” and launches anyway? He is missing the point.”

    I can only relate the one comment to the article by a Martin Miller:

    “There are lines between confidence, denial, selfishness, and arrogance. Kobe’s crossed all of them to the last stage – Narcissism.”

    Lastly, for the one other soul who spoke to critique of Kobe’s “bad game”, it isn’t bad game that is being critiqued but instead his bad attitude. 6-18 was hardly a good game shooting (“wretched” would be the word for 6-18), but it wasn’t so bad because it was only 18 shots and he did other things to help the team, like pull down 10 boards and dish out 9 assists. Game 2, he took the wretched 6-18 and made it an abominable 6-28 and since he was so obsessed with jacking up long range bombs he never found the time to rebound or assist and so wound up with 2 and 4, respectively. In short and ugly sum, Sunday had 2004 Finals written all over it. So the demon isn’t dead but lives still.

    Almost forgot, but for the other soul who spoke to Kobe solidifying his spot as greatest Laker ever, sorry if you were born out of time, but the greatest Laker ever was E. Johnson. 19.5, 7.2, 11.2. For how incredible he was, 2 seasons, 81-82 and 82-83, Magic led the team in rebounding (751 and 683)(Kobe’s highest total is 564 in 02-03). Not bad for your PG. Then there was that magical ’85 playoffs, when Magic put up a 17.5, 7.1, 15.2 line (the 7.1 RPG was 2nd on the team, behind Kareem’s 8.1). Now back to the career line, the 19.5 PPG was efficient, on 52% shooting (Kobe is at 45.4%). And to round it out, if I might borrow a word from Darius, one can fairly say that Magic well and truly “elevated” the players on his team(s).

    For yet one more, while I’m on the subject of greatest ever, the Jordan comparisons should be over now. 4 of the times that Jordan led the league in FGA, he also shot greater than 50% (.539, .535, .526, and .519). Kobe has never shot better than .469. So everyone gets the point:

    Jordan
    FGA/FG%
    2279/.482
    2003/.495
    1998/.535
    1964/.526
    1893/.465 (his Kobe-esque year, 97-98)
    1892/.486
    1850/.495
    1837/.539
    1818/.519

    Those are the 9 years that Jordan led the league in FGA.

    Kobe
    FGA/FG%
    2173/.450
    1757/.463
    1690/.459
    1639/.451

    Those are the 4 years that Kobe led the league in FGA. You can add 08-09s, 1712 at .467 to round it out.

    And so you know, if we take 1900 FGA, well, the difference between shooting 49% and 45% is 4%, which works out to 1900 x .04 = 76 additional baskets made (close enough to 1 per game for all but quibblers).

  54. anti Dwyer Abbott January 3, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Come on people,are you aware you are talking about a guy averaging nearly 25-5-5 for 16 years including the first 2 when he was on the bench?Oh and he happens to have 5 rings?Oh he happens to be a shooting guard ?

    Criticism is great when it is not a disguise for color prose hidden hate.

  55. blah, blah, blah.

    it’s a loss. tough.

    next game.

  56. Something is just not right. I agree, Kobe isn’t meshing with this team. Is it really the offense? Did getting away from the triangle affect Kobe’s game? Or is Mike Brown’s coaching to blame? Is Kobe’s ego to blame?

    Maybe it’s a combination of the aforementioned… toss in Kobe’s injury, his ongoing divorce (c’mon, they were together TEN years).

    To be honest, I think mentally Kobe isn’t all right. Maybe the divorce has nothing to do with it, but for the first time as a Laker fan I sensed a troubled Kobe last game. Maybe he was just having an off night, or maybe he truly is starting to feel old.

    41) Sanchez, and others:

    Even though I am somewhat confident that Blake/Fisher at the 1 will somehow pan out, I agree that there’s work to be done on the lakers’ back court.

    If we really need a point guard that bad, and maybe also a backup 2, are we going to have to settle for a ‘Smush Parker’ at the 1? Someone who at least looks like they can contribute? And at the 2, we’d need someone who’s at least halfway decent.

    Where’s Marcus Banks? I know we looked at him and also, McCants in early December.

  57. Kobe is shooting 19% on threes – maybe there is a reason that shot is always ‘open’ for him…

  58. Looking in these highlights (at the top, after 21 seconds) I think the shots Kobe is taking are OK: http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/25486/kobe-bryant-i-play-my-game#more

    Do we agree on that?

  59. Rusty Shackleford January 3, 2012 at 6:29 am

    I’m not putting that loss on Kobe. The entire team shot poorly. If they could have gotten back on defense to keep Gallo from getting easy buckets they win that game. I guarantee that’s what the coach was most concerned about following that loss.

  60. Kobe’s shooting aside, it was Karl who made an adjustment, matching Galinari on Kobe on the perimeter. When Kobe obliged the sinking Galinari defense with a jumper, Galinari leaked (frickin’ cherry picked) for easy lay ups.

    This was genius in crucial moments as Kobe was trying to carry the team and led to big nugget buckets.

  61. Why don’t we wait until at least the Houston game before we jump to conclusions. I’m more disturbed with his 1) not playing much defense; and 2) statement that he’s going to continue chucking shots up. I guess I’m less perturbed by the latter concern because Kobe is a scorer at heart, but great players know when to adjust their games. Bynum and Gasol definitely deserved more touches and shots. If Bynum averaged 15-18 shots per game, it would really lessen Kobe’s need to score off of more difficult possessions.

    I await with baited breath to see the outcome of the battle between Kobe’s genius of a basketball mind and his relentless ego/drive.

  62. Also, any word about whether Kobe and Gallinari were trash talking to each other in Italian?

  63. Slappy,

    You’re using the much maligned FG% over the much more accurate TS% which accounts for FT and 3-pt percentage. The difference between the two greats’ offensive efficiency is negated in large part when taking those into account. But that’s for mere quibblers. More to the point, who cares? Kobe has one bad game and you and a few others jump on the opportunity to attack his career. Pretty silly, slappy.

    Kobe is a once in a decade talent, as were the two MJs. They were one of a kind in their respective decades. They’re all great. Get over comparisons. That stuff is for ESPN neophytes. Watch and love the game.

    Speaking of the practice interviews, I don’t see what the issue is. Kobe has the green light to shoot. This game he shot bad, most others, he shoots great. I wish that he would try to find his touch from a little closer in than launching triples. But that’s mere quibbles. The issue was the Nuggets game planned to push transition buckets hard, and the Lakers didn’t respond. Watching the game, those transition buckets were what sparked several Nugget runs, and the Lakers as a TEAM broke down there. The next game kobe shoots the lights out and Bynum struggles, I’m going to rant and rave about how Kobe needs the ball in his hands, no more inside out. That would be annoying and stupid, wouldn’t it?

  64. Namotuman,

    You make a great point. Sometimes Kobe makes it easy for the other team. Kobe has a torn ligament in his wrist to go along with two mangled fingers on that same hand, his shooting hand. If I am coaching on the other bench I WANT Kobe taking long range contested jumpers. I would also want him handling the ball in traffic. These actions pay dividends for the other team. Kobe posting up, working off the ball, or setting up Gasol and Bynum are the things I wouldn’t want. We also have to remember that when Kobe is bombing (and often missing) from long range the defense doesn’t have to double him. They can stay home on the shooters and even send a second player at Bynum or Gasol. That is what Dallas did in the playoffs last year. They did not double Kobe. They doubled Bynum and at other times Gasol. It worked to perfection.

  65. I’ve got to agree with Kevin (52). A couple of bad shooting games, including a very bad one (on the 6th game in 8 nights, the first 4 of which were without the starting center, with torn ligaments in his shooting hand) and you’re all ready to dump on the guy who’s hung 5 banners on the wall?

    Can Kobe have better, and smarter games, than the Denver loss? Yes, and he will. But: This Laker team has a chance to win a championship, if lots of things go right (like every year). One of those things going right is Kobe Bryant being KOBE BRYANT. They’re not going to win it all if Kobe neuters his game and plays like Rip Hamilton.

    “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

  66. I’m also thinking that this was more an anomaly than the new norm. I didn’t like some of the shots where he settled instead of calling for another screen and at least having the defense have to make another decision and move some players around. The way he put some of those shots up makes it very easy to rebound defensively by staying home on the other four Lakers, as somebody mentioned above.

    For what it’s worth, via Hoopshype.com and TMZ, apparently even more shots for Kobe:

    http://www.tmz.com/2012/01/03/kobe-bryant-wrist-injection-lakers/#.TwM2W1bkato

  67. “Speaking of the practice interviews, I don’t see what the issue is. Kobe has the green light to shoot. This game he shot bad, most others, he shoots great. I wish that he would try to find his touch from a little closer in than launching triples. But that’s mere quibbles.” [#63 - Kareem]

    I guess I wish his quotes had said something like: “When I’m open, I’m Kobe Bryant and I’m going to shoot all day. But I need to get better at assessing what is an open shot, and how to best find it in this team’s offense. It’s early still, and I’ll work with Mike Brown, and also keep an eye out for the mismatches our big men have.”

    But he didn’t.

  68. I think drrayeye #44 got it right. here’s the problem, Kobe shot the team out of the game, we all can agree on that. So, how does he respond? and more importantly, how does Coach Brown respond? in both cases, they said this is OK, normal, we’ll sort it out. in Kobe’s response, he said he wouldn’t change.
    I know Brown can’t call Kobe out on this, (publicly) but as drrayeye said, this does kind of show Brown as not strong enough to challenge Kobe in times like this.

  69. I wish Kobe would stop for a while and TRY to rest his wrist and see if the team can hang in without him for a while. He said that his number one goal coming into the season was to “get healthy”. It seems to me that he needs to do that. The older he gets, the more he needs every physical advantage available to take advantage of his mental talent.

  70. Slappy:

    I am the guy who suggested KB can be greatest Laker ever. You suggested that I was born “out of time.” I started watching LA before Ervin won his national championship with Sparty, so I think I am entitled to my opinion. I said Kobe CAN be the greatest Laker ever, I didn’t say he WOULD be.

    He can do something that neither MJ (because he chose to retire) nor Magic (because he had to retire) did–he can help this Laker “team” (i.e. core group) transition to the next phase, after he is gone–that transition, however, will require his being willing to gradually cede control to his fellows, and move from 1, to 1A to B. We’ll see if he can do it.

    Re Kobe’s interview–I’m not worried yet. Kobe always responds to questions by saying things are “fine–no problem.” I’m not troubled by his indifference there. Kobe is never going to admit there is a problem publicly.

  71. The entire team shot poorly
    _______________________
    Bynum 7-12
    Gasol 8-15
    Blake 6-9

    I have defended Kobe a lot over the years; the Denver game was different for several, uh, basketball reasons.

    On top of the basketball reasons, when Kobe said, “Drew is going to have to fall in line” I blew it off–was waiting to see what he DID. Now we have some evidence about that.

    So, let’s see what he does tonight. Houston, also dinged very badly (worse than the Lakers) by The Veto, is playing Luis Scola at the 4 and Jordan Hill at the 5. Kobe has favorable matchups as well (Martin and Budinger) but Gasol and Bynum should be able to convert inside at a high rate. Let’s see if Kobe agrees with that and gives them the ball.

    Also, I don’t mind Kobe shooting all the time–but there is no reason for him jack up a ton of 3s. He needs to put them up occasionally, when open, to keep the defense honest. But at age 33 with a bad wrist and a career 3P% in the low 30s, he should only be jacking up contested 3s off the dribble as a last resort.

  72. Everyone is freaking out for no reason at all. Last year when Kobe barley could get off his own shot without getting blocked I was freaked out. Last game he got off a lot of good looks and just didn’t make them. The reason he is Kobe is because he will never be afraid to keep attacking.

    As far as Kobe’s usage as many have already pointed out its simply do to persenell in this traditional offense. Kobe literally does not have a PG with him in the starting lineup. Derek Fisher has played SG his entire career except when he was the back up PG to Speedy Claxton in Golden State for a stretch. Kobe will have the ball in his hands to initiate the offense frequently until the Lakers bring in a starting PG.

    Unfortunately as Kobe declines for the first time since Shaq left he is playing with a dominant player in Bynum. Before today, it really could never be argued that Gasol had more of a matchup advantage than Kobe for an entire game. Due to Bynum’s size, skill, athletisism, and hunger along with the fact there is only one other Center in the league that isnt on the floor just because they are big… You could start making the argument Bynum is now the Lakers biggest match up advantage on any given night. Kobe is not comfortable with this fact. Even last year after Bynum dominated the paint the fans, media, and Drew himself asked for more touches only for Kobe to announce to the world “Bynum has to fall in line.”.

    It’s not easy to give up power… Leaders though out time have died before relinquishing it. And Kobe is the kind of warrior who won’t go down without a fight. I for one think this is exactly what this team needs to take it to another level. In house competition is mostly a good thing that carried the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to three consecutive titles playing alongside three scrubs. The Bynum/Kobe dynamic will surely be worth following this season.

  73. The “Kobe conundrum” presented thoghtfully by Darius is not primarily about Kobe’s shot selection, shooting percentages, shooting frequency, shooting effeciency, or even about his wrist.

    It’s about attitude and judgement.

    Kobe’s attitude and judgement may well determine the fate of the LA Lakers this season.

  74. drrayeye,
    It’s also about roster construction and how this team is built to still be reliant on Kobe not only to score but to be the primary playmaker. That’s not too different from season’s past, but w/o the Triangle the role of intitiator/facilitator is different. And with the departure of Odom, there are fewer players that can do it effectively.

  75. Darius,
    With the departure of Odom, there is NO ONE ELSE, who can other than #24. Period.

  76. 75)
    And this years flabby and old Odom would rank behind even Steve Blake. The bottom line is we can’t judge what this team is until the FO brings in a starting PG. Eventually we will have a new starting PG whether that will be Morris :( or a legitimate PG :) will likely decide this teams title chances.

  77. Good that Darius repeated that point. As I said earlier, we need to remember, as thinking Lakers fans, that this is not ALL about Kobe. It never is; it never has been, no matter what the Haters may say.

  78. @Jameskatt- Michael Jordan did not alter his game, he refined it. Moreover, MJ was not afflicted with the injuries that plague Kobe. Thus Kobe must realize his own physical mortality and change his game. If he does not he will be incapable of playing at a level that is acceptable to him in the next two years.

    @BobF- The problem with Kobe sitting down is that during this truncated year, it is very difficult to incorporate a new offense and defense on the fly. Every game is important as the game pool is reduced, thus every game makes a paramount difference as to where the team will be seeded. Not to mention team continuity and chemistry.

    Kobe must make adjustments on the fly, and I am certain that he will. When Kobe played with the likes of Smush, Kwame, Luke and Cook. I wanted Kobe to shoot every shot in the game whether double or tripled teamed. Because at least I knew that a shot from Kobe would be superior to any shot from the likes of his team mates.

    Now, Kobe is older and injured to paraphrase his own words, “I pass the ball to the guys when they are open” (Kobe must not realize that he is double and triple teamed and still shoots) “I’m going to do what I do.” So Kobe is not going to pass the ball in these situations. Not only did Kobe shoot excessively, he stood and watched his shot instead of getting back on defense. Not once or twice but several times in the waning minutes of the 4th quarter.

    Every player in sports whether in high school, or college, or the D-League or the NBA, must realize that the name on the back of the jersey is never more important than the name on the front of the jersey. There has never been an exception. Not even Michael Jordan, as he played his last game in a Washington Wizard uniform.

    Tonight the Lakers are going to play aggressively on defense, and play far smarter on offense.

    Go Lakers!

  79. Bynum has the highest PER in the league.

    Kobe has the highest usage rate in the league.

    Something is not right here.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/statistics

  80. If, (and this is a big if because we’ve seen about 7 different versions of him) this is the player Andrew Bynum is moving forward then he HAS to be either option 1 or 1A, theres no way around that even for Kobe Bryant.

    I think Kobe probably wants a larger sample size out of Bynum before he really transitions his game but I would be shocked if we saw another game like that Denver game this year.

  81. @ Archon – I agree, totally.