The Lakers' struggles continued Wednesday night as the team fell to 1-4 following a 95-86 loss at the hands of the Utah Jazz. Just one game after setting plays like a true playmaker and team leader en route to a win, Kobe Bryant tried to do too much on offense once again and that ultimately sunk the Lakers. The five-time champion scored 29 points, shooting 7-of-17 from the field and 15-of-17 from the free-throw line.
His 17 attempts were five more than the next man in line, Metta World Peace, and are a sign of the Lakers' problems not only with the Princeton offense, but in the absence of Steve Nash. Keep in mind that after the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons, Adi Joseph of USA Today posed the question of whether or not Bryant would keep deferring to his teammates while Nash recovers from a fractured leg.
As of now, it appears that Bryant will not continue to defer as against Utah, it was as though the new season of the Kobe Bryant Show premiered. With the Lakers struggling out of the starting gate, it's as though he immediately went into freakout mode and took it upon himself to lead the team to victory.
In reality, he did the exact opposite of helping the Lakers. Save for his inconsistent shooting and seemingly excessive trips to the free-throw line, Bryant committed six of LA's 18 turnovers. At the final buzzer, the Lakers only had a total of 11 assists on the night.
Simply put, if the Lakers want to break out of their funk and actually make a statement with their new-look team, all they have to do is one thing: Make sure that offense comes from players besides Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Nash are such talented scorers to begin with, so to not get them involved heavily is just plain foolish. As my grandfather would say, the Los Angeles Lakers have the recipe for Coca Cola, but team management doesn't want to make any bottles.
More importantly, look at the Lakers teams from the past two seasons. They were eliminated in the Conference Semifinals each time because the offense was overly reliant on Kobe Bryant. The Lakers' struggles in the playoffs since 2011 are proof that a one-sided offense will get a team nowhere, and yet coach Mike Brown hasn't even called his star player out on it.
That all being said, something needs to change in Laker-land, starting with sitting Bryant down and letting him know he has to share the ball. Brown instituted a Princeton offense for a reason, and while whether it's working or not is another debate entirely, everyone can agree that Kobe Bryant taking control game after game is only going to prolong the Lakers' struggles.
The fact is that GM Mitch Kupchak brought Nash and Howard in for a reason. He saw the one-sidedness of the team's offense and chose to make it more balanced.
With all of the money tied up in Nash and with Howard's free agency summer fast approaching, the Lakers have more than just financials riding on this season. The key to Howard staying is for the team to succeed, and if Bryant continues to run the offense like his own personal playground, the Lakers are simply doomed.