After a lot of people doubted whether he would even play on Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant went out and put up a very impressive performance. For all of the questions regarding whether or not he would be able to share the floor with three other legitimate stars, Bryant’s 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting came very much in the flow of the offense. He didn’t force the action. He didn’t ballhog. He let the game come to him.
Bryant did his part in the Lakers’ 99-91 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, but the same can’t be said for the bench. Say what you will about Steve Nash’s opening night woes (three-of-nine for seven points and only four assists), and Pau Gasol’s questionable field goal attempts total (19), Metta World Peace’s poor shooting night (one-of-eight for three points), and Dwight Howard’s shaky defense (fouled out) – the Lakers have enough star power in the starting five to overcome all of that.
The benefit of having four future Hall of Famers is that they can compensate for each other’s off nights. What this team can’t compensate for, however, is weak performances from their reserves. L.A.’s backups combined for 17 points; Dallas’ backups combined for 37. That -- and the Lakers’ inability to hit free throws -- is what decided this game.
For what it’s worth, Bryant is exhibiting a lot of patience when it comes to his team’s reserves.
"For me, it was just about challenging our second unit," he said Tuesday (via Los Angeles Times).
"When I'm practicing, I'm normally just trying to beat the crap out of them. When I was on the sideline … I had a chance to have a little chit-chat with them and give them some words of encouragement, kind of get them riled up a little bit."
Mike Brown, for his part, doesn’t seem totally sure of what he can expect from his backups either.
“We'll see. In practice at times they look good. I think it can carry over to the floor because it's going to have to. We're going to need those guys to play some minutes and be effective while they're out there in order to give our starters a rest."
There is no way the Lakers can make a championship run if their ancient starters (aside from Howard, obviously) are pushed to the max on a nightly basis. They need support from the bench. Whether they ultimately get it or not might be what makes or breaks this season.
(Kudos Los Angeles Times)