Against Spain on Tuesday, or when Team USA opens Olympic play against France Sunday, watch Kobe Bryant work in the offense.
He often starts on the weak side, or certainly off the ball, as Chris Paul comes off a high pick and tries to dissect the defense. LeBron James will do some shot creation for himself or others as well. Kobe will work hard off the ball, pop out off screens and when he gets the rock he attacks if the mismatch is there, or he finds an open teammate.
It’s not the ball-dominating guy dribbling a hole in the floor Lakers fans recognize. Because he doesn’t have to be.
That could be what we see more of with Kobe and the Lakers next season now that Steve Nash is there to handle the ball and they still will have Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (or some combo of All-Star big men) in the paint. The brilliant Kevin Ding paints the picture at the Orange County Register.
Actually, (Lakers coach Mike) Brown’s aspiration in taking the job a year ago was that Bryant would score more efficiently by playing more from the backside of the Lakers’ offense after an initial thrust via Bynum or Gasol in the post. That can actually work next season, because Nash is an absolute innovator in the concepts of space and time.
Besides being a uniting force as a team leader, Nash will bring the Lakers’ offense back to Bryant’s irrefutable truth learned from Jackson: You should first take what the defense gives you (even if scoring against what the defense doesn’t give you is rather more satisfying).
Last season, the Lakers needed Kobe to create from the perimeter because nobody else really could. And when Kobe creates, it’s usually for Kobe. But Nash changes that equation. At his introductory press conference, Nash talked about was getting Kobe easier baskets and cleaner looks. Kobe still scores, but becomes more efficient doing it.
If you think Kobe wouldn’t do that, I think you don’t know Kobe. He’ll do whatever he thinks helps the team win. On Team USA that is defend and play off the ball. On the Lakers last season that didn’t really work well.
Next season might be a different story.