Life has been anything but good for the Los Angeles Lakers. As of their 117-110 loss to the Utah Jazz, they're 9-12 and once again searching for consistency beyond Kobe Bryant's ability to score the rock.
The question is, what do the reeling Lakers need from Kobe besides scoring?
There is no way around how dominant a force Bryant can be on the offensive side of the ball. Once again, he leads the NBA in scoring with 28.6 points per game and recently became the fifth member of the 30,000-point club.
With that being said, Kobe's greatest contributions will come in areas other than shooting the basketball. So where should we look for Bryant to contribute?
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest leaders in the history of the NBA. It's why he's won five NBA championships, made seven NBA Finals appearances and won two of the past four titles.
Funny how quickly we forget that last piece of information.
Due to this fact, it is imperative that Bryant steps up and shoulders the blame for the Lakers' early-season struggles. Although he is the furthest thing from responsible for these woes, Bryant must take on the media attention.
Thus removing the focus from the more fragile minds on the Lakers roster.
Bryant is capable of facing a media onslaught. Such has been evident for almost 20 years.
For that reason, his stepping up to shoulder the blame will go a long way toward weathering the storm in Los Angeles. Even if he isn't deserving of the label of "at fault."
The sooner he does so, the better off the Lakers will be.
Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-3 during games in which Kobe Bryant has at least five assists. They're 1-9 when he does not.
Call that a fluke number if you'd like, but the Lakers are a better team when Bryant is facilitating the offense. That's factual.
A major reason for this truth is the way the Lakers are passing the ball without Bryant on the floor. Contrary to popular belief, they're actually turning it over more when Bryant is off the floor.
They're averaging 15.8 turnovers per 48 minutes with Bryant active and 18.2 when he is not.
Furthermore, the Lakers have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.32 with Kobe on the floor and 1.21 when he is not.
So how does this impact the offense?
The Lakers are averaging 105.6 points scored and 97.8 points allowed per 48 with Kobe on the floor. Those numbers become 88.4 points scored and 102.0 points allowed per 48 when Bryant is on the bench.
Need one last bit of information?
The Lakers are shooting 47.7 percent when Bryant is on the floor. When he is not, they're shooting just 38.5.
Enjoy thinking of a reason to claim why Kobe is damaging the Lakers now.
Remember those statistics about the way the Los Angeles Lakers are turning it over more when Kobe Bryant isn't on the floor? That doesn't counteract the following fact.
Bryant has turned the ball over at least five times in seven of the Lakers' 21 games. That's not an outrageous amount, but it has hurt L.A.
The Lakers are 1-6 when Bryant has at least five turnovers. They're 8-6 when he posts four or less.
Yet another self-explanatory statistic.
Bryant needs to be responsible with the ball. He must look to get his teammates in rhythm early and execute what he's been the best on the roster at doing.
One final fact about that role is that the Lakers are 5-1 when Bryant leads all players in assists. How about that?
During the Los Angeles Lakers' nine victories, Kobe Bryant is averaging 1.7 steals and 3.0 personal fouls per game.
In other words, the Lakers thrive when Kobe is aggressive on defense.
According to Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register, Dwight Howard has acknowledged that fact in a rather brash manner. He and Bryant were seen arguing with one another over their defensive chemistry.
Or lack thereof.
Twice in the first quarter, Howard was visibly upset after he moved over to provide help defense against Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez, but no one—specifically Bryant—rotated over to help cover Howard’s assigned man, Hornets center Robin Lopez. The first time, Howard looked back at Bryant with an anguished look on his face and gestured at him after Lopez scored for a 12-7 New Orleans lead.
Three-plus minutes later, Vasquez penetrated past Chris Duhon again, Howard shifted over to help again, and Lopez was left all alone again with Bryant toward the corner near Roger Mason instead of in the paint. Lopez scored for an 18-14 Hornets lead, and although Earl Clark was the Laker in best position to help Howard, he yelled at Bryant about it—prompting Bryant to yell back at Howard and gesture back.
The Lakers are at their best when Bryant is playing ferociously aggressive defense. Whether he's coming up with steals or sending a message with his physical play, the Lakers find success when Bryant is focused on D.
Unfortunately, there has been too much inconsistency in that department from the 12-time All-Defensive Team selection.
The Los Angeles Lakers have won five of their past six games in which Dwight Howard attempts at least 14 shot attempts.
Unfortunately, D-12 has only attempted 14 field goals in five of his past 18 outings. Kobe Bryant is the man who can force that to change.
After all, has there ever been a player who can aid a big man in thriving quite like Kobe?
Howard's aggression trend began in Orlando, as the Magic won seven of their final nine games in which Howard attempted at least 14 field goals. Such is a result of the fact that Howard can force any defense to collapse.
Thus enabling players such as Bryant, Jodie Meeks and Metta World Peace to work the perimeter.
As long as Kobe remains in D-12's ear, Howard will continue to be the aggressor. He should be attempting at least 12 shots from the post, as well as an additional three to five from screen-and-roll designs.
Throw in some offensive rebounds and free throws, and you have a 30-point outing. The way Howard should be playing every time out.
Shaquille O'Neal shouldn't have to break that down.