Kobe Bryant is shooting 14.3 percent in the preseason.
Last night he said he felt better but he was 2 of 10.
You don’t need those stats or any advanced ones to tell you he is not right — just watch him. Wednesday night Kobe came down on the break with the ball in his hands against two backpedaling Kings defenders and pulled up and waited for the offense to set. Healthy Kobe just attacks that and at least draws the foul.
Continuing recovery from off-season knee surgery has taken the edge off his game right now (he said last week he was at 60 percent). He can’t explode past people, he lacks the elevation to rise above defenders and knock down jumpers. As Kevin Ding noted in the Orange County Register, when he came out after one unimpressive play Wednesday in Las Vegas and Lakers assistant (and head coach in waiting) Brian Shaw questioned him about it, he pointed down at his knee and shrugged.
Should Lakers fans be worried? No. Not yet.
True, without Kobe, the Lakers are like all the teams chasing them in the West have felt for the past three years — good but not quite good enough. The Lakers are not intimidating anyone without Kobe.
But this is still the preseason. Too early for even Lakers fans to hit the panic button.
Kobe did look a little bit better Wednesday night, he seemed to move a little more smoothly even if that movement is not up to his own standards. Phil Jackson held Kobe down to 19 minutes in the game, you can expect that or less in future games. Followed by rehab on his days off. Come Oct. 26, Kobe will be better, capable of taking on a bigger role in the offense.
Maybe not as big a role as he’d like. Probably not as big a role as he will need to play come April and May next year. But big enough for the Lakers to win — they still have Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and other guys who can put the ball in the hole. Kobe has to be a viable threat in the offense, he doesn’t need to be THE offense, for the Lakers to win consistently in the regular season.
The only question is will a slightly slowed Kobe force too much of the offense. He did that a few times against the Kings, as he did against Barcelona before. His competitive nature gets the better of him. When he does that, healthy or not, the Lakers offense can struggle.
Right now he needs to trust teammates, get in the flow. Take good, high percentage looks.
If that is what it takes to win, smart money is Kobe will do just that. Until he is healthy and ready to do whatever he wants. And the Lakers become intimidating again.