It used to be you could put Kobe Bryant in any scheme and he would excel. Triangle offense? Sure. Spread pick and roll? You got it. Flex? Princeton? Whatever Del Harris or Rudy T ran? He’d still get his because, well, when you are that good at scoring the basketball, it does not matter.
At its most simplest level, Kobe would have the ball, the guy in front of him (and the guy behind that guy) would have to try and stop him from scoring, and they couldn’t. Check-mate.
Those days are gone. And if you didn’t know they were gone from simply watching Kobe play in his 20th season, you should know now that he’s telling you himself.
Kobe: "I’ve got to do a better job of demanding some help off the ball to get some easier chances, pin downs, picks, catch & shoots"
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 25, 2015
Mark Medina of the LA Daily News took this to mean Kobe (among others) may be hinting at the need to change the system the Lakers run:
That explains why Bryant wished out loud that he could get “easier shots” off pindowns, off-ball screens and catch-and-shoot opportunities. He said he will “work with the bigs and get some movements off the ball.” But Bryant also suggested the need for Scott to change his Princeton-based system.
“My shooting is better and will be better. But I could’ve scored 80 tonight. It wouldn’t have made a damn difference,” Bryant said. “You have bigger problems. I could be out there averaging 35 points per game. We’ll be what, 3-11? We have to figure out how to play systematically in a position that’s going to keep us in ball games.”
Perhaps easier said than done.
I’m all for the Lakers trying new things and incorporating different actions into their offensive scheme. Some of the actions they run now are just filler in order to set up another wing isolation. All the players could benefit from shifting things some, creating more ball and player movement, and trying to put players in better positions to attack against defenses which aren’t set. Kobe could certainly benefit from it.
That said, the Lakers should be moving beyond doing any one specific thing to make Kobe’s life easier. Catering too much to what Kobe is good at or how to maximize him specifically should not be any more of a priority than trying to do the same for Randle, Clarkson, or Russell. Not just because those guys are the future, but because they have shown to be just as important (if not more important) to the team’s success than Kobe.
Yes, Kobe is the team’s elder-statesmen and deserves to be respected for all he’s accomplished in a storied, Hall of Fame career. But this game is still performance based. Players of Kobe’s status have earned a level of trust, but that trust must be rewarded with actions which reinforce it otherwise it becomes enabling of the worst kind. Byron Scott does himself no favors with Kobe or with the rest of the team by implying it should be different. It creates a double-standard few, if any, find palatable.
So, while Kobe talks about getting himself easier shots and hoping for more to be done for him, I’m hoping the coach listens, nods his head, and then understands that any changes enacted need to be more about maximizing the entire team. After all, there used to be a time where he’d get his regardless. If he’s just like everyone else now, then let everyone else be part of the focus too.