After watching Los Angeles Lakers point guards struggle night after night, it has become apparent that the Lakers are benefiting from the few minutes that Kobe plays small forward in a three-guard offense.
Coach Mike Brown has started to use this small lineup at the end of the first quarter and at other times when Derek Fisher’s shot clangs off the side of the backboard.
For many of us, it is a better lineup than putting "Metta World Disaster" back on the court. Last seen, "World Disaster" was shooting about 17 percent from the three-point line, which is probably lower by now.
Worse than that, Metta is now saddled with rumors of criticizing his coach and causing a rift between teammates. Despite his denials, usually where there is smoke, there is fire.
There was a time early in his career when Kobe was too small and slight to play the 3. It might have had something to do with being a teenager in a man’s league. After years of weightlifting and building his strength, there are not many players at the 3 capable of muscling Kobe.
Many teams already assign their small forwards to guard Kobe because their 2-guards are literally too small to cope with Kobe backing them down in the post or shooting his mid-range jumper over them.
Playing Kobe with Steve Blake and Andrew Goudelock at guards gives the Lakers three good shooters and three players capable of making a three when open.
With Metta on the court, the opposition is basically playing five-on-four defense because the opposition’s scouts have told them to beg Metta to shoot. Metta either holds the ball too long, dreading the responsibility of shooting, or throws up an ugly shot that either clangs off the rim or misses the rim entirely.
In some arenas, the crowd practices chanting air ball in anticipation of "World Disaster’s" shooting. The chorus is getting louder everywhere Metta plays.
As of today, the Lakers' best offensive lineup is Gasol and Bynum coupled with the three-guard lineup described above. On occasions, the lineup functions better with the energy brought by Matt Barnes on both ends of the court.
On defense, it seems that Steve Blake is capable of guarding a 2-guard better than he has fast point guards like Chris Paul. A young Goudelock has much to learn about defense, but his offensive prowess keeps other point guards from doubling on the post and helps make the "pick and pop" more effective because of his outside shooting.
He also has the confidence of Kobe, who has nicknamed him the "Mini-Mamba." He is one player Kobe has confidence in passing the ball to for an open shot.
At some point, the Lakers must accept that they erred in bringing Metta back instead of using the amnesty clause to cut him after the strike was settled. The thinking at the time was to let him play out the year and exercise their right to buy him out this summer, clearing salary cap without wasting their one-time amnesty clause.
As I have observed before, it will take Mike Brown until the middle of March to understand the various parts of this Lakers team and find a rotation that works the balance of the season. I based that upon the period coming up where the Lakers get a slew of games at home, which permits Mike Brown and his staff many more days of practice.
The simple fact is that the Lakers will practice more days between now and the middle of March than they did from Christmas Day until now.
For the time being, the Lakers can improve their offense by employing the three-guard offense with Kobe at the 3. It will spread the offense and limit double teams on Kobe. It will also give life to the second unit when Kobe is the only starter on the floor.
The eternal question for Laker fans is how well will Kobe play with no double teams in a year in which fouls are rarely called and mugging shooters is becoming routine.