Kobe Bryant was ice cold last night, shooting 6-of-28. That of course has led to the standard black or white Kobe discussion on the internet — his defenders act as if he can do no wrong, his detractors think he shoots for his ego not because he’s one of the game’s great all time shooters.
As with all things Kobe, it’s not that simple.
Kobe and the Lakers are adjusting to major changes — Mike Brown’s new offense and the shift of the Lakers to an inside-out offensive team. Here is what Brown told the Los Angeles Daily News.
“We got a couple of things we can run to get (Kobe) in his sweet spots,” Brown said. “I’m still trying to figure out that, too. We’ve got a guy like (Andrew) Bynum, we’ve got a guy like (Pau) Gasol, who deserve touches. You always want to play in the flow. We’re all kind of feeling our way right now.”
Kobe is now a primary ball handler on the pick-and-roll and that’s a big adjustment from the actions of the triangle. Unleashed like this Kobe’s nature is to attack — and so he takes on more of the offensive load. He has a usage rate of 38.2 (basically percentage of possessions used when he is on the floor), which is the highest it has been since the Smush Parker/Kwame Brown era in Los Angeles.
Just like those seasons, when Kobe starts off shooting 1-of-10 like he did Sunday night he will keep shooting because Kobe has shot his way out of slumps for 15 seasons. His incredible confidence in himself is a reason he has 28,000 career points. He still sees himself as the best scoring option.
But Kobe has to adjust.
The Lakers beat Denver the night before because despite having Nene the Nuggets can’t stop Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. For two games Bynum is averaging 23.5 points per game shooting 66.7 percent — feed the man the ball.
Kobe is the only guy who can really create his own shot on the perimeter for this Lakers squad, Kobe is going to be the guy with the ball in his injured hands. But he must learn to be a distributor more than just a scorer. For the sake of the Lakers he has to approach it differently. He has to feed the post more. He has to get himself to the post more. The Lakers need to work inside out.
The Lakers have the size and skill up front that no team can match. That is where they are going to win games, that is where they are going to advance deep into the playoffs (that and defense). Kobe still needs to be Kobe, but a modified version. Sort of like the Lakers themselves.
Can Kobe adapt? Can the Lakers? It may take time, but if they can they are a threat in the West. If not, things will end early for an older Lakers team.