According to the Orange County Register, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers announced this offseason he has not had, and is not going to have, the orthokine therapy he had last offseason. Orthokine therapy is the German blood-spinning procedure which Bryant had on his surgically-repaired knee.
Don't worry, Lakers fans. This does not mean that the Lakers season is lost. In fact, the impact on the season should be virtually null.
There are a combination of reasons for this, but the primary reason has nothing to do with Germany, knees or blood-spinning. Rather, it's a Canadian who causes more head spinning than anything else: Steve Nash.
For the first time in his career, Bryant will not be the player who dominates the ball most of the time. Yes, there are plenty of people who scoff at that notion, but Bryant and Nash are not among them.
Of all people entitled to weigh in on this issue, Bryant shouldn't be the last opinion to consider, and his is pretty definite. Here it is as reported by J.A. Adande of ESPN:
The Heat had two players who were really similar, different in size but similar in how they handled the ball and what they liked to do. Here, Steve's primarily the facilitator, ball handler. I can go back to my natural place, which is scoring the ball, attacking the rim. We all know what Dwight does.
So according to Bryant himself, Nash is going to be the primary facilitator on this team. There are going to be those who doubt his words, but those are his words, not Kelly Scaletta's, not Adande's, not even Mike Brown's.
But, some will protest, it's Bryant who has dominated the ball his whole career.
Well, not quite. Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles notes,
Kobe Bryant is going to be a high-usage player, appropriately so. But that the last time he was below 30 came when surrounded by another star-studded lineup (in which the stars weren't as bright as this year's group) means something. During the Lakers' two recent championships when his help was more consistent, Kobe's usage was lower, as well.
(Just in case you're wondering, usage rate is the percentage of possessions a player "uses" as measured by the possessions with a player either taking a shot or turning over the ball. Bryant's usage rates in the years in question are 29.2 in 2004, 32.2 in 2009 and 32.3 in 2010. Those are two of his three lowest years in the post-Shaq era).
I'm among those believing big picture the Lakers (code for Kobe, let's be honest) won't have significant issues sharing the ball. There could be some muscle memory Bryant has to unwind and at some point he'll be criticized for forcing a shot (or shots) when another option would have been better, but overall Kobe will see the talent around him as an opportunity, not some kind of threat. If nothing else, he'll share the sandbox just to spite those who think he can't.
Muscle memory is a nice utterance. Yes, there will be times that Bryant defers to habit and chucks up a bad shot. The larger point is valid too, though. When he's been surrounded by talent, Bryant has willingly taken a lesser role.
It's not a coincidence that since he rose to stardom, his lowest usage rate came when he shared the court with his best backcourt teammate, and 2004 Gary Payton can't hold a candle to 2012 Nash.
Bryant won't have the same usage rate he usually does this year, and that in turn means less abuse to his knee. History actually does vindicate him here.
Beyond that, though, there's the accusation that Bryant is "selfish." Whether he is or not, he's not stupid, and no one ever accused him of being that. Even if he is selfish, he is more happy winning rings than scoring points. If he takes too many shots, it's because he's trying to win, not because he's trying to score.
This is an important distinction because he has tremendous respect for Nash. He revealed as much in his interview on ESPN Los Angeles with Mason and Ireland,
I think he sees the floor better than most. I don’t know where it comes from. … He sees the game from a facilitating standpoint, the way I see it from a scoring standpoint. I don’t know if it comes from his soccer-playing days, but he just sees so many options out there on the floor, and it’s just so natural for him. It’s going to be fun playing with him.
Translation: Nash distributing the ball gives us a better chance of wining. Since Bryant is all about winning and he has such respect for Nash, he's going to let Nash be the distributor.
Bryant's knee won't be as much of an issue because it won't get abused nearly as much. Even if Bryant is being selfish, he's far more concerned with getting as many rings as Michael Jordan than he is with scoring more points than Jordan, and he knows the best way of getting there is with Nash handling the ball.
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