For over a month, the Lakers built an identity without Kobe. They finally had it figured out it seemed like, as they were 10-9 and had momentum.
The identity of the Lakers was forced to change once Kobe came back this week, though. The Lakers struggled – losing their first three games with Kobe in the lineup before finally winning last night in Charlotte.
It’s important to note that Kobe has not played with many of the new guys on the Lakers squad like Nick Young, Shawne Williams, Wesley Johnson, and Xavier Henry. Kobe didn’t have training camp with these guys and as a result, there may be a little bit of rust.
Kobe is averaging 65 touches per game. The league leader, John Wall, is averaging just over 100. One would think Kobe would be closer to that based on his history of taking control of a game. However, we haven’t seen that Kobe yet.
We’ve seen a combination of facilitator Kobe (13 assists in loss to Thunder), rusty Kobe (6.3 turnovers per game), and clutch Kobe (huge shot and free throws in fourth quarter in win at Charlotte).
But we haven’t seen dominant Kobe. It’s as if the Lakers have been trying to maintain their identity as a balanced scoring team with Kobe in the mix. This is a very new concept for Kobe and as a result, the chemistry just hasn’t been there yet and it will take time to develop.
For the next 20 games, expect the Lakers to be just as up and down as they were in the first 20. They’re going to be searching for an identity yet again and I have a hunch that we’re going to be seeing a more Kobe centric offense as the season progresses. The Lakers simply can’t win with Kobe getting only 65 touches per game. Kobe won’t allow it either. He’s an alpha male and he hates losing.
Finally, now is the time to rant on D’Antoni’s obsession with recency bias. His coaching decisions have been incredibly interesting this past season. One player has a great quarter? Oh, let’s start him. One player has a lousy stretch of six minutes of play? DNP. Coach’s decision.
Take Robert Sacre for instance. After a few solid efforts off the bench, all of a sudden he was in the starting lineup. However, after a poor nine minute effort in Sunday’s game. He was benched at home against the Suns.
I understand that the team is trying to develop an identity by trying out different lineup combinations. But how is a team supposed to develop continuity when there is constant change in the lineup.
We’ve seen the same thing happen with Jordan Hill and Jordan Farmar (when he was healthy). Their playing time would get significantly cut when they had a bad game and vice versa when they had a great game. These are two players that should be starting every game. The numbers show they have been two of the most effective Lakers this season. They should not having their playing time fluctuate so drastically.
We even saw it last year with the benching of Pau Gasol.
With Kobe back in the lineup, at least we’ll have one constant – Kobe will get his playing time and his touches.
The Lakers have another tough week ahead of them. Their road swing continues as they play Atlanta and Memphis back to back. Then they return home for a tilt against Minnesota before heading to the Bay to play Golden State.
It’ll be interesting to see if we see more of “Dominant Kobe” this week especially after his great play in the fourth quarter at Charlotte. We may have to if the Lakers are going to go above .500 again.