Kobe Bryant’s psychology is such that when his teammates struggle on offense he quickly fills that void — he believes he is a better offensive option even if the defense is focused on him than a passive or cold teammate. That has led to some bad choices and miraculous shots over the years.
Now at age 35 coming off an Achilles injury, can Kobe change is ways?
It’s not me asking that question (well, not alone anyway), it is Laker legend, broadcaster and Hall of Famer James Worthy. He spoke with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
“One of the biggest challenges for Kobe this year is, can he step back?” Worthy said. “He’s been in the league for 17 years, has a lot of miles on the body and has had a lot of injuries. Can he find a game that will allow other guys to flourish?”
While all reports are his recovery is ahead of schedule there remains no timetable for Bryant’s return. It is possible he misses the entire Lakers preseason and maybe the start of the regular season as well (they open the season Oct. 29 against the Clippers).
As big a question is what this Lakers team looks like on the court — they are better suited in some ways to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense but there will be a talent step back without Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. The bigger questions are at the defensive end of the floor — they were a pedestrian defensive team last year that lost their two best defenders.
In a sign of how optimistic some Lakers fans are, Worthy thinks the Lakers will be the five seed and finish ahead of the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies in the West. Most prognosticators have them missing the playoffs (I think they finish around .500, which will be 10th or 11th in the West, so they miss the postseason).
But a lot of that comes back to Kobe, when he returns and how he plays when he does. Can he be even more of a facilitator, even when things aren’t going well?
The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.
Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:
When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”
I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?
Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.
Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.
Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.
Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:
Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.
He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.
He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.
He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.
His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.
Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:
So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.
Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.
He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24
The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.
The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:
“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.
“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:
“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.
“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”
Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.
But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.
Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.
After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.
In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.