Kobe Bryant says his shots, game demands helping Lakers’ youth learn

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This can’t be said often enough (especially since this doesn’t appear to what the Lakers are doing):

The Lakers need to prioritize player development over winning. They need to prioritize the development of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle over — to use the phrase of Kevin Ding — building a shrine to Kobe Bryant. Bryant leads the team in shot attempts, 16.2 per game, which is not ideal for a guy shooting 32 percent overall. He’s taking eight threes a game and hitting 20.8 percent of them.

Are all those Kobe shots taking away from the development of younger Lakers? Not if you ask Kobe, which is what Ken Berger of CBSSports.com did.

But in an interview with CBS Sports on Saturday at John Jay College, where Bryant dragged his aching body for a 2 1/2 hour practice between games, he disputed the notion that all of his shots and demands are detracting from the future plan.

“They’re one in the same,” he said. “Because they learn by observing how I approach it. They don’t want to see me approach it as an average player, or approach it as a player who’s 20 years in. They want to and need to see that focus and that intensity and that energy and that drive. That’s how they learn. They’ve told me that. They want to see that. That’s how they want to learn.”

No doubt the young players on the Lakers, and young players everywhere, can learn from Kobe’s work ethic, his attention to detail, his practice habits, how he approaches preparing himself. But the shot selection we have seen this season — where 63.9 percent of his shots have been contested this season, according to the NBA’s Sports VU tracking cameras — what exactly is that teaching the next generation of Lakers?

Russell, the point guard of the future in Los Angeles, seems to be learning the need for offensive balance.

“Throughout the game, we know he’s known for making tough shots,” Russell said. “So early in the game, get him involved, get his flow going. But we’ve still got to demand offense as a team, knowing that man’s a legend and he’s going to be open a lot and he’s going to be calling for the ball a lot. But you’ve still got to be able to maintain a balance on when to run the offense and when to get him the ball.”

One other Kobe note: He has said he wants to play in all 82 games this season, but with a back-to-back this week in Miami and Orlando, coach Byron Scott is reconsidering the idea. That said, he’s not the guy with the power, he has to get Kobe’s buy in.