Despite having won three straight games, the Los Angeles Lakers are 12-14 right now. That’s right – even three consecutive wins haven’t been enough to get this woefully underachieving ballclub to .500.
Given L.A.’s struggles, and taking into account the fact that they have been through three different head coaches in the span of 26 games (with Bernie Bickerstaff being the only marginally successful one), some folks are understandably beginning to look at the players as the problem.
More specifically: some folks are beginning to look at Kobe Bryant as the problem.
Recently, Chris Broussard of ESPN spoke with a few rival coaches and executives. They had an interesting take on who should shoulder the blame for L.A.’s early season troubles.
“Absolutely, Kobe’s shooting too much. When we played them, we told our guys, ‘Look, we don’t necessarily want Kobe going for 50. I mean, we’re going to guard him. But we’re not going to double him, and we’re not going to try to get the ball out of his hands.’
“Our main concerns were not to let [Antawn] Jamison hit a bunch of 3s and not to let Dwight [Howard] go crazy down low. There’s no question they would be a better team if Kobe shot less. Why do you think [Pau] Gasol struggles? He’s going to struggle in any offense where he doesn’t touch it,” one rival coach said (via Pro Basketball Talk).
“[At] the end of the day, it has nothing to do with [Mike] D’Antoni and his system. It’s all about what Kobe will allow to happen. When you play the Lakers, it’s like they don’t have a system. It’s whatever Kobe chooses it to be. If he wants to take all the shots, he’ll do that. He’ll pacify his teammates early in the game, but then he’ll throw up a heat check and if he’s got it going, nobody else touches the ball.”
Of course, not everyone is of that mind. Here is what another person had to say on the same matter:
“Watching the Lakers play the Knicks this year was hard to watch because the other Lakers were just so bad. It was like Kobe was trying to do all he could just to keep that game close. And hey, if Dwight’s not going to try his butt off and if other guys aren’t going to try their butts off, then I’m going to give the ball to the guy that’s going to go for it, and that’s Kobe.
“I don’t think it’s that Kobe doesn’t trust his teammates; it’s just that he trusts himself more. A questionable shot by him still might be better than a good look for one of those other guys.”
Ultimately, the truth (as always) is somewhere in between. Yes, Kobe undoubtedly shoots too much sometimes. Yes, he should look to put his teammates in position to succeed more than he does. However, it is worth remembering that he is not a point guard. He is a shooting guard. And at the moment, he is a shooting guard who is shooting an extremely impressive 48 percent from the field. Plus, he is actually shooting less times per game now than he did last year. When L.A. was winning back-to-back titles he was taking 21.5 and 20 shots per game; this year he is taking 20.7 shots per game. Hardly a noticeable difference.
The Lakers have a lot of problems this year. Kobe isn’t even close to being the biggest one.
(Kudos Pro Basketball Talk)