“Umm, it’s good … You know. I think sometimes he just … You know … Umm … Yeah, it’s good.”
—Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, when asked to describe Kobe Bryant’s off-the-ball defense, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
When Kobe has to defend on the ball — stop his man when said man has the ball — he is still a strong defender. He was on Kyrie Irving much of the night Sunday, helping hold him to 15 points in the Lakers win.
But over the past few seasons (and exacerbated this season), off the ball Kobe just roams around and tries to play free safety half the time. He chases the ball too much, tries to anticipate a pass to create a steal, and generally gambles and leaves the team exposed. There is no discipline and good teams, ones that move the ball, exploit this.
The Lakers are still Kobe’s team. D’Antoni is not going to go criticizing him in public. But the Lakers defense remains their biggest stumbling block, the thing most needing to be fixed if they are serious about making it into the playoffs. And Kobe is part of the problem. The Lakers get out of position, they don’t help the helper, they don’t make the second and third efforts. Kobe is part of the problem. We’ll see going forward if Kobe is part of the solution.