Mike Brown, the Los Angeles Lakers head coach, would like to limit the minutes of his star, Kobe Bryant, because of his age and because he's fighting through a foot injury. According to Mark Medina of dailybreeze.com, Brown said,
I want to try to really be conscious of Kobe's minutes. What I can do is as we go on, is continue to be more conscious of not throwing him out there.
That might not be so easy, though, as Kobe Bryant has been the heart, the soul, the feet, the head, the guts and a few other things for this team. Forget Most Valuable Player, Bryant is the Too Valuable Player.
In spite of the Lakers being off to a 1-3 start, the difference that Bryant has made to the Lakers is eye-popping. Like, make your jaw drop open wide enough to swallow your entire 17-inch screen laptop eye-popping.
Here, according to NBA.com, is what the Lakers have done with Bryant on the court as opposed to when he's off of it.
Literally the only thing the Lakers do better when he's on the bench is offensive rebounding, and that's in part because they're missing so many more shots.
The thing to focus on here, though, is the Net Rating. That's how many points the Lakers outscore their opponents by, or are outscored by, per 100 possessions. When Bryant's on the court they're 16.7 points better. When he's on the bench, they're 34.7 points worse.
That's a total difference of 51.4 points per 100 possessions. That's not just "Wow!" That's "!@#$!!!!"
The Lakers are a really good team when Bryant is on the court. They suck a bowling ball through a garden hose when he's off.
It's hard to keep him on the court when just five minutes off the court could mean giving up 15 points to your opponents, amassing none in the process.
The Lakers' offense grows positively stagnant the moment Bryant's shorts hit the pine. While he's having career highs in terms of his efficiency, hitting on 40 of his 67 attempts, the rest of the team can't hit a barn with an elephant from inside the barn when he's out.
Again, NBA.com's stats show what the Lakers shooting is like from various ranges. The entire team has made just 26 field goals when Bryant sits. That's not just bad, it's depressingly bad. And look at the mid-range—they have just seven percent shooting!
The problem here is that the Lakers just don't have a lot of talent at the guard positions, especially with Steve Nash being injured. Once Nash returns, there will be someone to bear the burden of the offense with Bryant out. For now, there isn't.
The Princeton offense is supposed to be doing that, and to a degree it is. Last year, according to Synergy, over 40 percent of his offense was through either isolation plays or as the pick-and-roll ball handler. This year that's down 33 percent.
That's that much less hostility on his knees, as are the 16 pounds he lost. It might not help his foot, though. Still, if any player has shown he can work his way through injuries it's Kobe Bryant. As long as he has his feet, he can still play.
For now, the Lakers, as much as they might like to give him more time on the bench, really just can't afford it. He's just too valuable.