I am not a huge boxing fan, but I have watched enough of the sweet science to know a little bit about the sport. Boxing, in the sports world, is the ultimate mano-a-mano physical endeavor. The sport in which there is nowhere to hide your failures; nowhere to escape the punishment when you face someone better than you.
There is maybe no modern superstar whose career has more closely resembled a pugilist than Kobe Bryant. He has turned so many possessions into a one-on-one battle where, like two men confined to the ring, there is nowhere to run from the onslaught he had prepared for his opponent. Maybe, for me, at least, that’s why his comments last night took on a familiar tone.
“I’m really wanting to let the young guys, especially D’Angelo, let him call the game,” Bryant said. “Let him call the game. Let him organize the game. Let him read the game. Let him read the flow. Let him make those decisions.
“Which is part of me taking a step back, which needs to be done. You have to let the young guys make those reads and you have to be able to help them and support them with those reads.”
After taking a shot right on the chin in the form of a bad, blowout loss to the Kings, Kobe is seemingly saying it is time for him to defer. That, in some ways, the writing is on the wall and that he must step back (or, aside) to let the young players grow and stride towards their best selves. This, to my ears, sounds eerily like a boxer towards the end of his career after taking a beating he did not expect to take. While there’s not a lot of self doubt in the words, it creeps in through the implication of them.
I do not know if Kobe can actually do what he says. Though I have championed him as a more selfless player who has, more times than given credit for, made the winning play over the selfish one, his career has still mostly been defined by his establishing his will in order to determine the outcome. If a basketball move were an analogy to his career, Kobe was much more a Shaq drop step with the elbows high than a James Harden Euro-step; Kobe would go through you, not around you.
Now, he is talking about retreating to the background to give others the opportunity to do what he used to do as naturally as breathe — take control of the game to try and leave their mark. Can he follow through on this? Again, I have my questions.
The interesting subplot here, though, is that when his full comments are put into context, he’s not really saying he can’t be that guy anymore, but rather that he’s choosing not to be. Again, from Holme’s piece:
Despite his advanced age and several recent season-ending injuries, the 37-year-old Bryant, now in his 20th season with the Lakers, still enjoys taking over games, or at least trying to, especially when his team is down big, as they have been many times in recent years.
Now, though, Bryant said he’s a changed man.
“Can’t do it,” he said after Friday’s 132-114 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. “Got to let them develop.”
The word “can’t” is a bit misleading there. He is not, seemingly, saying he is no longer capable, but rather that he recognizes he no longer should try. There is a distinct difference there, one which contributes to my questions about whether following through with these comments will actually happen or not. At some point, I wonder if his default position of running through that wall will resurface. A leopard does not change his spots.
In any event, Kobe has given us something new to gnaw on and after only two games. And like the pugilists who his career as often reminded me of, I wonder if the words after a tough loss end up not ringing as true once the wounds of the defeat heal.
I’m in the not so sure Kobe can make himself be in the beta club. Maybe for a game or two, but for the rest of the season–doubtful. First off, he really just needs to take less shots and LESS 3’s! Other from that, the team is going to be pretty bad regardless, so just let the young guys have a few more shots each to try and impact the game.
That being said, I think Kobe is one of the toughest people I have ever seen, in any sport. He’s one of those transcendant athletes that I could see being amazing at multiple sports if he had wanted to. His pain tolerance is insane, his mental toughness is right up there with Jordan as one of the grittiest and hypercompetitive guys I’ve ever seen. I loved Magic Johnson’s game more, but if Hoops was a fight, I would have to give it to young Kobe 100%. I prefer more efficient play, which Kobe just doesn’t seem able to do anymore. Honestly it would have been better for him and the Lakers if they had parted ways a few years ago, if he was willing to be a super 6thman on a contending club. But it is what it is, and he is probably getting as used to watching the Lakers lose as he can tolerate, especially since so much of it has been as a spectator. It’s why I for one, try to remember the Kobe I loved, who literally was the most mentally tough person on the court nearly everytime he laced them up. I like to remember the Kobe who posted up, did a spin move and posturized some unsuspecting big who attempted to rotate over to the hoop. MJ/KOBE to me just remind me of toughness, and players that at least in their prime played both ends of the court with heart…not all these new age guys who basically try and rest on defense (James Harden I’m talking about you bro).
Mark Jackson in Bryan Scott out
Kobe distancing himself after a blow out.Kobe….stop shooting 3’s and lead by example instead of leading the team in shots after 2 games…I would love to see Kobe with the second unit….And please break up Bass/Kelly……
Clay Bertrand says
If this is Kobe’s game now, Chucking/Missing 3s AND not defending AT ALL, he SHOULD take a step back. “Can’t do it.” Clearly he can’t do it anymore. And there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
I agree with Darius that his words sound, “eerily like a boxer towards the end of his career after taking a beating he did not expect to take.”
Kobe is in denial publicly by acting like he is making a conscious effort to defer to the young guys because its in the their and the TEAM’S best interests and that he, as a wise old Jedi is gonna step aside and let them “develop” instead of hogging the spot light.
The TRUTH, is that Kobe REALLY CAN’T DO IT…….he is not physically able to be the player he was. He HAS to yield. While he would have us believe he’s being gracious here, the tone is more like, “I could score 50 if I wanted to….But I CHOOSE to defer for the good of the team….I really COULD score 50….If I wanted to tho…..I just don’t WANT to……I’m no 93 ranked player!! But I will defer ON MY TERMS to give others a chance….”
He WANTS to, but he CAN’T is the reality. Kobe is just nearing the very end. That’s all. He’s had an amazing career but his pride makes him sound like a boxer who’s been knocked out telling the Ref after the count that he wants to have the fight stopped.
Mark Jackson is going to coach the Lakers, mark my words…
tankyou: “Honestly it would have been better for him and the Lakers if they had parted ways a few years ago” Well a few years ago I wrote a post called “My Nightmare”, the conclusion of which was the Lakers mutually agreeing with Kobe that they would amnesty him (this was during the Mike Brown year). Of course as you indicate – reality has turned out to be worse. Kobe is my favorite athlete of all time, but I gladly would have parted ways with him if it meant a chance at a ring for him, and for us to start pursuing a complete rebuild earlier. As it is, we are in this reality, and as I knew I would do once we signed the extension, I simply enjoy Kobe and wait. I have heard this step back thing before. We have also seen games where he gets 10 dimes, only to return to alpha mode quickly thereafter. Then again, much as I said in the last thread about Byron, perhaps it is best if Kobe does step back, and take away one more excuse. If Byron gets fired and Kobe steps back, then who will everyone blame things on?
Clay Bertrand says
Byron will never be canned with the same haste that Mike Brown was (D’Antoni resigned) and he will likely be given a legacy position or an analyst gig with TWC if he wants it. He may even be a sought after color or studio analyst for a National network so they can try to milk him on air of his most juicy of Laker experiences.
But when he DOES go, we need to have a viable coach who will be a program builder and development organizer. We need someone who can grow with the team and who would NOT be seen as transitional but as the guy who will be here in the end. Someone LIKE Brad Stevens but NOT Brad Stevens because we AIN’T gettin’ no Brad Stevens, we just AIN’T!!!!
My list of candidates is neither complete nor expansive and is very much from the hip, but as it was mentioned that no one is offering coaching options/alternatives to Byron here in our postings, here are a few names in no specific order to chew on:
Kevin Ollie – former NBA role player, coached w OKC, led UCONN to NCAA Champs, good reputation for young player mentorship, BONUS LONGSHOT: good relationship with Kevin Durant – Even without Durant I’d consider him.
Darren Erman – was with GState when Mark Jackson fired him for recording the coaching staff, GREAT defensive coach, currently Associate Head Coach under Alvin Gentry at New Orleans, highly thought of young coach.
Scott Brooks – former NBA role player, developed uber talented lottery picks in OKC, defensive mindset and schemes, been to the Finals, lives in SoCal so he KNOWS the Laker fan/media pressure, may do better on his second Head Coaching go around.
Jeff Hornacek – Could be on the way out in Phx, has innovative offense and defensive systems that have played to Phx’s strengths, player’s coach, not my first choice.
Luke Walton – Former Laker (shouldn’t be a prerequisite or a positive necessarily!!), former role player, good on-court basketball smarts, has been learning with Golden State, Currently getting some actual head coaching experience coaching talent rich defending champs, may still be too green to head up a rebuilding team.
Nick Van Exel – Former Laker, former Left Handed PG who had decent career, Has coached with Texas Southern, the Hawks, Bucks, Dallas Mavs organization, and currently a D-League Head Coach in Texas, could be a good developmental guy for the young backcourt, X’s and O’s acumen unknown (by this observer).
Ettore Messina – been w/ Lakers, been w/ Spurs, very good/legendary history in Europe, David Blatt has done pretty good (WITH LEBRON of course!!!!! 😉 ), could be too old to build with, a longshot for LA but shouldn’t be quickly dismissed. He is a quality coach and a lifer.
Tom Izzo – Obligatory Big Name College coach who will never leave his school (and who isn’t named Coach K or Calipari), always looks pissed off enough to let you know he’s working hard and cares, his teams do have talent but also seem to overachieve, he coaches D, doubt he leaves Spartans for LA.
I REALLY DO NOT like Mark Jackson for us. Very much like Byron, I find him way too ego driven and controlish to be able to empower his assistants and I don’t think he can go the distance as the head coach. His ceiling is too low and he thinks he’s a little bit holier than thou IMHO. I don’t see him gambling with Jim Buss or going to the Love Ranch with Johnny Buss either. He’s a preacher who loves to hear himself preach!!!! MAMA, KEEP THAT MAN OUTTA THE HOUSE!!!! NO THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don’t think Mark Madsen has had enough coaching influences beyond BAD COACHES (i.e. Byron etc) to have developed his own philosophy to be able be a head coach at this point.
I don’t know if the FO has the Charisma to get half of these guys on board but the next hire will be vitally important.
Just some names I’m throwing out there.
I personally believe he will step back, and not totally for the future of the team, but because he is as well realizing, that he can no longer physically sustain the rigors.
We will not improve by much if Lakers fire Scott and hire Jackson. Lakers would then have to fire Jackson soon after and then Lakers would have gone through 4 coaches in 5 years.
Kobe should have left but he’s too loyal to the Lakers. Lakers also offered him that huge 48 million dollar contract. Nobody could resist that.
Clay Bertrand says
KevTheBold, his not even trying to jump against 7 footer Cousins was very telling. Old Kobe (meaning of course, YOUNGER Kobe) would have gone after Manute Bol in a jump ball!!!!! This was Kobe’s non injury mortal moment. He isn’t coming back next year for more of this…..
Kobe can still do “it”…Unfortunately, the net “it” produced from Kobe’s indomitable will, veteran guile and textbook footwork is 33% shooting, 20% from three-point range, mediocre defense, and little else in rebounding, steals, etc.
I’m pretty sure the Lakers could get a D-leaguer to generate those same numbers. The difference is a D-leaguer would cost the Lakers a veteran minimum salary, not the salaries of 2-3 solid NBA contributors.
Kobe said many years ago he would never do the aging-veteran savvy-role-player-off-the-bench phase of the typical NBA career (Vince Carter and David West, among others, are prime current examples). Unfortunately, when it came time to put up (retire) or shut up (and take the money), Kobe took the money. And rather than admit he’s effectively a D-league callup, Kobe still wants to be The Man.
I don’t buy Kobe’s comments about deferring. Nothing significant happened in the two games to date which should have changed Kobe’s attitude. I don’t think anything will change until someone in the Laker organization says “No” to him.
J C says
If Kobe is having an awakening it would be great.
But it sounds to me more like the same old rhetoric.
Kobe has always known what to say to make himself look good.
Can a leopard change its spots?
And Kobe’s contract makes him virtually untradable.
We are stuck with a long year of circling the drain, unless…
We are able to make a coaching change before the season gets away from us.
Sure, right now, wins don’t matter.
Cultivating a Winning Culture does.
Agree that if replaced, Byron will get a cushy job upstairs.
Like rr says, we knew who the guy was when we hired him, so it’s kinda not his fault.
But I sincerely doubt Jim Buss is gonna fall on his sword for Byron Scott.
I’d add Thibideau to your list.
In fact, I’d put him on the top.
I don’t care if Thibs plays guys heavy minutes as long as they play hard and understand the importance of playing good solid team DEFENSE.
Bryon biggest problem is he knows after 4 interviews he owes the job to Kobe. Now he is his ballboy. He ckearly knows he can’t defend or shoot 3 pointers. Pop or other top coaches would have benched him far before the 3 for 18. Instead Scott blames team. Look at plus minus Scott. Kobe is worst on team and bottem of league.
Clay, I agree, a younger Kobe could have carried this team. He did so with much worse.
However today, I really believe he understands that he will damage his legacy going out in a futile struggle, which also so clearly hurts the team as a whole.
While on the other hand, to step back gracefully, and mentor adds to his laker historical resume.
Kobe is DONE and D’Angelo Russell was over drafted (I hate the word BUST) has the look of a late early 2nd Round Draft Pick
Sure Kobe can’t do what he did as YOUNG Kobe consistently anymore. But here’s the thing. KOBE still can contribute enough to a championship team. He can still go out and get 30! It just looks bad when you’re surrounded by KIDS. And I pay Leauge Pass to see Kobe not Randle, and that’s the $48 million difference.
So when Kobe scores 40 points, many of you will still have something to say negative. You just want a ring and you don’t care how it comes, but you want it soon.
2006 Kobe would have brought this team to the playoffs. Odom was good but Randle could probably fill in, Kwame and Hibbert are probably a wash, Russel/Clarkson is probably better than Smush, etc…
Oh well. I don’t think Kobe means what he says, but if Scott is smart (not a given) he will manage Kobe’s minutes such that he has no choice.
Clay, that coach list was amazing ! Especially enjoyed the one about Mark Jackson, and agree totally. He’d do better as a preacher than a coach. I get annoyed with the dude even as a commentator.
Re: Mark Jackson, I’d bitterly resent somebody trying to impose their religious beliefs on me at work, which seems to have been the situation with Jackson and the Warriors. Maybe pro athletes don’t mind this, who knows?
However, common sense and basic decency suggests this is only appropriate if one works for a – you know – religious organization.
I wonder if Brian Scalabrine could be lured back into coaching? While a Warriors assistant, he clashed with M Jackson, a point in his favor, IMO.
I think he was well thought of by the Warriors FO. At least, the word was they didn’t let Jackson fire him …
There is a role for Kobe that we aren’t discussing. That is to just integrate into the offense, and use his knowledge and footwork to create plays. Taking over or shooting 3’s arent the only options.
He said something like “I can get to those spots (elbow & mid post) anytime but wants Russell to call plays.” Well…get to the spots if the play calls for it, and be a playmaker.
He can easily average 15 points with good %, 6-7 assists, 5 rebounds. And be a leader out there. That will not deter their development. It will teach them how to play properly.
I honestly think that Kobe is taking on the ” Big Brother ” role for D’Angelo Russell, he is the new rising star and leader of this team so he has to let this kid lead or D’Angelo can’t develop into the great star he is destined to be, Kobe can definitely play beyond his contract but i think Kobe should be taking on the boss role anyway which is the back seat role, Kobe has put in enough work so rings should be easy so to speak get another star and let them do all the work and Kobe get his 15-20 ppg win games and possibly get easy chips, Kobe knows that his body can’t do what his body did at 25 but when it comes to being a genius Kobe knows basketball and his footwork is astronomical. Its nothing wrong with Kobe taking 3’s but too much of something can be like smoking too much weed you just look stuck and can’t really function. I think Kobe can’t just work from the post that would make him a one trick pony but i think if he let others get going first like Clarkson who is a proven scorer and Randle then he gets going and create a balance this team will be great. People compare Kobe to Jordan in Washington but those days and now days 15-20ppg are a difference because role players are making multimillions to score those type of ppg, so why pay them when you have Kobe.
– Nice piece, logical responses.
Kobe’s post-game interview ” I’m like the 200th ranked player in the league ” and ” i suck right now ” ….do you think kobe is making this year all about going out with a bang, and he’s trying so hard it’s hurting his game.
@Matt, I think Kobe always tries hard on OFFENSE. He used to try and defense but its been years since he put much consistent effort into D, plus his body just won’t allow him to play D at a high level regardless. But Yeah, I think Kobe is trying to move up the all time points board, and I think he was mostly trying to do that last year as well. He always shot a lot, but last year he was relentless in his shooting even when he was shooting horrible. Kobe knows the team isn’t going to be any good, so may as well score a lot of points–regardless of percentages. Last year at least he had the shoulder injury as an excuse, although with the types of horrible shots he was taking–he wasn’t going to shoot that well period.
I blame this on Byron Scott. Basically Let Kobe do his thing, but don’t play him more than 20mins in a game unless he happens to be “on”. This gives more time for the kids, lets him jack up shots relentlessly and maybe helps him limp through the season without another serious injury. Also I would definitely rest him every single back-to-back game, unless it a special game for some reason–Holiday game etc. Especially rest him back-to back whenever its NOT A HOME GAME. Let the Kobe fans that pay crazy cash for a ticket watch him one last time, but the away games where Kobe is tired, just play the youth more.