Steve Nash's Return Shouldn't Prevent Kobe Bryant from Facilitating
The Los Angeles Lakers are still awaiting the return of Steven Nash from his fractured fibula, an injury that was supposed to keep him out for just a few weeks, but even when he does return it should not keep Kobe Bryant from acting as a facilitator.
With Nash's return still very much uncertain, Kobe will continue to be the main facilitator for Los Angeles, but it doesn't make sense for him to back down much when Nash does come back.
What should be concerning to Lakers fans is that Bryant has come out and said that he's looking forward to scoring more when Nash comes back:
I’ll be scoring a lot more when Nash gets back. I won’t have to facilitate as much, and it will allow me to do what I do best — and that’s put the ball in the hole.
The biggest problem with that mentality is that it goes against a lot of Mike D'Antoni's theory on which the offense is predicated. Ball movement to the open man and a fast-paced offense leads to winning games, especially when you've got so much talent on one team.
Kobe is leading the league in scoring, averaging just a shade under 27 points per game, while shooting at a career high clip from the field (49 percent), the free-throw line (87 percent) and the three-point line (40.5 percent). Basically, whatever Kobe has done in the first month of the season is working incredibly well.
In fact, there's a sharp contrast between the way Kobe plays when the Lakers win compared to how he plays when they lose.
The Lakers are 7-2 when he shoots 18 times or fewer, compared to 1-6 when he shoots more than 18 times.
Of course, there are instances in which his shooting more is more of a result of the rest of the team being incapable of scoring.
The point is that the Lakers need more than just two guys scoring well for their offense to work, otherwise they're stuck in a situation where the offense is just Kobe, and the defense knows that. The results of those games this season have been losses.
Of course, that's not to take the onus away from Kobe. Just take a look at how the Lakers do when he's distributing well.
When Kobe puts up five or more assists in a game, Los Angeles is 8-1, compared to a stunning 0-7 when he averages fewer than five.
Los Angeles needs diversity in their offense desperately, and it starts and ends at how Bryant plays. He's a well-known scorer, and when he decides that getting the rest of his team involved is more important, it leads to better spacing and more shots falling.
Of course, the argument against Kobe continuing to facilitate once Nash comes back is pretty obvious. They've got the best point guards in the past decade, so why not use him to his full abilities?
Nash was never the only passing option on his old Suns teams, however. He was the main one, but his best teams were capable of averaging 26 assists per game. Compare that to his 11.5 and you've got more than half the team's assists to find somewhere.
The rest came in big hunks from Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa, or in the Lakers' case, Pau Gasol and Kobe.
Nash's most successful team in Phoenix centered around him running the break, but a skilled passing big man and a smart guard beside him helping with the facilitation. That not only creates diversity of where the shot is coming from, but who is facilitating in the offense.
Some games are going to necessitate Kobe scoring 35 points, but that should never be his main goal. He needs to work on focusing his energy on getting his teammates to be as involved in the offense as possible alongside Nash, not through Nash.
This team needs diversity, and with Kobe continuing to help facilitate they'll find it.
However, if he ends up going back into old Kobe mode and playing isolation ball for stretches at a time they'll never get the most out of this squad.
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