5 Ways Kobe Bryant Must Adjust His Game to Complement New-Look L.A. Lakers
Already one of the greatest players in NBA history, Bryant's still going to be a top player in 2013. What will be different is that he'll have three of the NBA’s top 20 players (according to ESPN) by his side.
If you think Bryant is going to change his game, you clearly haven’t watched the 34-year-old throughout his 16-year career.
At the same time, if you think that he is going to be the same self-seeking star from 2012, you’re underestimating just how different this Lakers squad is going to be.
Here are five ways Bryant will change to accommodate his new teammates.
Take Fewer Shots
While it may sound like a cliché, there simply aren’t enough basketballs to go around if Kobe Bryant is hoisting 23 shots per game as he did in 2012.
Until Bryant’s age officially catches up with him, the Lakers are going to remain his team. However, the addition of Dwight Howard indicates a potential shift of power as the 34-year-old gets closer to retirement.
Howard has averaged just 11.3 shots per game, but we’ve all heard grumblings from his camp when he feels he deserves more touches down low. With the big man in a contract year, the Lakers organization is going to do everything possible to keep him happy as he approaches free agency.
Don’t forget about Pau Gasol, either. The 7’0” power forward could easily become the odd man out. Keeping morale high is going to be important as everybody learns each other’s styles.
Nobody in their right mind is going to ask Bryant to reduce his shot attempts to single digits. But allowing his teammates to establish themselves in the offense is going to be vital for team chemistry and success.
Become a Teacher
Kobe Bryant recently told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that the Los Angeles Lakers are still his team, but that he’s looking forward to preparing Howard for life with the organization once he calls it quits.
Howard is no stranger to being a team’s best player—he played that role for eight seasons with the Orlando Magic and led them to one NBA Finals appearance.
However, the city of Los Angeles is a whole different animal. Bryant mentioned in his interview that he wanted the Lakers to thrive once he is gone and that getting Howard would be one way to ensure the team’s success.
Howard told McMenamin that he knows Bryant is going to be tough on him, but that he is excited to learn from one of the game’s greatest players.
Obviously, Bryant isn’t going to teach Howard how to score in the paint. But what the 34-year-old veteran can do is teach the big man how to handle life in Tinseltown and how to be the face of the franchise when he is no longer The Man in L.A.
Let Steve Nash Control the Offense
Kobe Bryant has become quite accustomed to having the ball in his hands. But if this Lakers team is going to succeed, Steve Nash must be given the keys to the offense.
At age 38, Nash is still one of the game’s best facilitators. His 10.7 assists-per-game was the second-best in the league in 2012, and his jump shot is still dangerous enough to keep defenses honest on the perimeter.
With one of the best—if not the best—pick-and-roll big men in Dwight Howard, Nash is the perfect player to feed him the ball where he wants it at the rim.
Nash is the kind of player who makes his teammates better, while that same thing can’t always be said about Bryant.
Team chemistry is crucial when it comes to a group of stars aligning, and by having Nash take control, the kinks and confusion should be pushed to the side by the time it counts toward the end of the season.
Play off the Ball
As a byproduct of allowing Steve Nash to run the offense, Kobe Bryant must learn to play off the ball.
For the majority of his career, Bryant has been an isolation player. His one-on-one skills are among the best in the league, and he knows—at least in his own mind—that there’s not a defender who can shut him down on a regular basis.
The Princeton offense will create motion off the ball, so allowing Nash to find Bryant will be the best way to keep both involved.
Bryant won't be learning any new tricks. He's just adapting to a new mentality.
He has played off the ball before in the triangle offense, but he’s rarely done it from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Adjusting your game mentally can be difficult for any player. But if Bryant can do it, this team will be successful as long as it remains together.
Lose the Ego
It may sound judgmental, but Kobe Bryant needs to accept that he may not be the No. 1 option every game during the 2012-13 season.
Bryant has been the go-to scoring option in L.A. for quite some time, and while there will undoubtedly be nights—a whole lot of them, in fact—when No. 24 takes over, you have to believe that Dwight Howard will command the ball down low on a fairly regular basis.
We’ve seen Bryant selfishly protest in the past by hoisting shots without looking his teammates’ way, and we’ve even seen the opposite when Bryant doesn’t take a shot to simply make a point.
These things can't happen if the Lakers are going to succeed. Bryant needs to put all petty differences aside to avoid a catastrophe in Los Angeles in 2013.
Bryant is hungry for his sixth championship, and if he can accept that he has more-than-capable teammates almost everywhere he looks, the drama in L.A. will be nonexistent and the team will find success sooner rather than later.