Kobe Bryant Can Take Any Shot He Wants, Does That Mean He Should?
The Los Angeles Lakers face an uphill battle if they hope to return to the NBA Finals under new head coach Mike Brown, but at least Brown seems like he has a pretty good idea of how to get them there.
It became pretty clear after the first minute of the Lakers' 92-89 New Year's Eve victory over the Denver Nuggets that Brown intended to feed the ball inside to newly reinstated center Andrew Bynum at every available opportunity.
And the Nuggets had absolutely no answer for Brown's strategy.
The true beauty of Brown's reasoning may be in the simplicity of the concept, which may have been overshadowed by Phil Jackson and his triangle offense.
The Lakers have had the most dominant offensive front line in the NBA for arguably the past two seasons, but that little grain of information is often overlooked when discussing the Lakers recent history.
Jackson made sure he utilized the size and skills of Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but he also made sure this was done within the confines of his scheme, and Kobe Bryant was where the Lakers offense began and ended.
When the Lakers ran the triangle to perfection it was a thing of beauty, but if Jackson's innovation and Tex Winter's creation were poetry in motion, then how would you describe Brown's no-frills, ball-to-the-paint approach?
Well, you could probably start by saying it may represent the Lakers' best chance to reach the Finals this season,though I'm not so sure Kobe shares that opinion.
Bryant has been catching plenty of flack for his 6-of-28, 16-point shooting performance in the Lakers 99-90 rematch loss to the Nuggets on New Year's Day, especially when you consider the manner in which Bynum and Gasol controlled the paint.
Bynum and Gasol combined to score 38 points and grab 27 rebounds on 15-of-27 shooting from the field.
So Bryant actually took more shots than Bynum and Gasol, but was much less efficient from the floor.
After 16 seasons in the league you would expect a player of Kobe's caliber to recognize the irony in those numbers and adjust accordingly, right? Wrong.
And surprisingly, Brown completely backs Bryant's shot selection and decision-making, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com writer Dave McMenamin.
Brown said he and Kobe watched tape of the second game on the plane ride home, and he felt the shots that Bryant missed are ones he usually makes.
Well, most of the shots Bryant takes are ones that he usually makes, but the bigger question is why was he shooting at all?
The answer may lie in this quote: "If you mean (to ask me) if I'm going to shoot less, the answer is no. It starts with me. I do what I do and we play off of that. That's not going to change."
I hate to use player quotes in articles, because in many cases they only offer a portion of an idea that a player is trying to convey, but in this instance Kobe's words are right to the point.
Bryant also said the Lakers always begin their offense from the inside-out, but that was usually with the clear understanding the ball was coming back out to Bryant.
Last night against the Houston Rockets Kobe made good on his word by attempting 29 shots from the field, but this time he connected on 14 of them for a game-high 37 points, and the Lakers won the game.
Kobe's fans will undoubtedly use his bounce-back performance as proof most people were simply overreacting to his two sub-par shooting exhibitions against Denver, and even though they may be right, they are still missing the point.
Kobe has earned the privilege to take any shot he wants from the field, but that doesn't mean he should, especially when he has a dominant interior player in Bynum who is capable of making the game so much easier because of all the attention he draws.
Kobe will have more nights like Tuesday's offensive explosion against Houston, and he will likely have more shooting nights like the dismal ones in Denver as well.
But the Lakers' postseason destiny may lie in Bryant understanding that even though he may have the ability to hit every shot he attempts from the field, he has a viable alternative in the paint when those shots are not falling.
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