Kobe Bryant Needs Los Angeles Lakers' Supporting Cast to Act Like They're Stars
Kobe Bryant can't do it all by himself, but you probably knew that already.
This wasn't your usual run-of-the-mill Kobe's-doing-too-much effort, though. He was remarkably efficient (for the most part), needing "just" 23 shots to get his 40 and converting all 10 of his free-throw attempts.
This wasn't, isn't and so far hasn't been the Kobe that some folks have come to know and loathe. Through three games, Bryant is averaging 30.7 points on 61.4 percent shooting from the field, including a 50 percent mark from three-point range.
He's done what he does best and what he's always done—put the ball in the basket—but with greater ease and with greater efficiency than folks in Lakerland have ever seen.
So why are the Lakers 0-3 for the first time since 1978, the year of Kobe Bean Bryant's birth?
(Yeah, that alliterative opportunity was too much for me to pass up.)
For the most part, the problem has been, well, everyone else. Steve Blake deserves a pat on the back for an admirable effort in Steve Nash's stead. He was left to deal with Chris Paul, the best point guard in basketball, for most of his evening and did surprisingly well to stay in front of the Clippers' All-Star more often than not.
But Nash was practically nonexistent in the Lakers' first two losses. The two-time MVP managed a mere seven points and four assists in the opener against the Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas Mavericks, and he followed that up with two points and four dimes in 16 minutes in a predictable defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers the following night.
However long Nash needs to recover from his shin injury, the bigger concern will be the time he'll require to adjust to an unfamiliar situation in L.A. He clearly wasn't comfortable with his new teammates in limited action early on—Princeton offense and otherwise—and must be more productive for the Lakers to succeed.
Not that the Lakers aren't used to taking a hit at the point (see: Fisher, Derek), but this team isn't going to come close to reaching its ceiling unless Nash gets used to wearing purple and gold. Nagging injuries can only postpone that process.
Dwight Howard still looks like he's recovering from his own corporeal issues. He was steady in his first game as a Laker and borderline spectacular in the second (with 33 points, 14 rebounds and five assists), but he was nearly invisible in the third game.
How culpable Howard is for his relative ineptitude (13 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) on this particular night is up for debate. The big fella was in foul trouble from the opening tip, with two early whistles proving to be his undoing. He wound up playing 29 minutes, but he never seemed to get in anything resembling a rhythm due to his many foul-related visits to the bench.
Such trips can only be a disservice to a guy whose athletic fitness and timing remain in flux after undergoing back surgery in late April. He's been active and appears to be giving a full effort every time he's out on the floor, but perennial rebounding champions like Howard don't usually give up plays like this:
At least Howard has some excuses in his back pocket, not that he'd necessarily lean on them. Pau Gasol, on the other hand, has performed unevenly so far, to say the least.
He was quietly transcendent against the Mavs (23-13-6 with three blocks), stepped back a notch in PDX (16-9-2) and was barely heard from on Friday (10-14-3). He took all of nine shots the entire game, only two of which came in the second half.
Not a good sign when even Kobe's partner in crime seems to be falling in and out of focus. Nor are the Lakers ever likely to win when both of their All-Star bigs lay duds in the same 48-minute span.
Even when Kobe drops 40.
For the Lakers to win under such circumstances (i.e. no-shows from 75 percent of their Fab Four), Bryant would have to be flawless.
And the bench would have to play like, well, a real bench. The reserves combined to contribute 16 points to the cause—or, to put it in perspective, five fewer than Jamal Crawford scored by himself.
But taking potshots at a corps of reserves for whom the bar was already set low isn't exactly fair. Few expected the likes of Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris to be even passable, much less a cumulative plus.
Nonetheless, the Lakers need more from their second unit. Period.
Is it panic time for the Lakers?
And Kobe, for his part, has been far from perfect. He racked up seven of L.A.'s 24 turnovers on Wednesday and "led the way" with six miscues among the team's 20 against the Clips.
The sloppiness has been contagious (59 turnovers in three games). In Kobe's defense, though, a number of his bad passes and ball-handling giveaways have been byproducts of him trying to do too much.
Not because he's wanted to, but because he's had to.
And it's not as though Bryant is 100 percent himself. He's been coping with a badly strained right foot since the preseason, one that led him to remark to Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell after the game:
Kobe, playing through pain, asked about his foot: "Feels like its about to fall off right now."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 3, 2012
Which makes Kobe's play to this point all the more remarkable...and the need for support that much more urgent.
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