That’s what I asked myself when I read a weird statistic: When Bryant passes the 30-point mark, the Lakers are just 1-10. He scored 42 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers, yet they lost. When they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on November 2, Bryant scored 40 points on 14-23 shooting.
That’s not bad shooting at all and is indicative of the fact that he is a juggernaut on the offensive end.
I think Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA. Hands down, he is the best player in the NBA. He is a world-class competitor who wants nothing more than to win.
But that’s why the Lakers are losing games. Because Bryant is taking the offense and accounting for the majority of the shots taken—and points made—the entire team is losing.
When one player accounts for so much of the offense, other players don’t really get their touches. They don’t get to shoot and when, on the offensive end, players are left doing nothing, there’s little motivation to do anything on defense.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario: The ball is brought up and across half-way. It’s passed to Bryant who dribbles it a few times. Howard stands near the basket, ready for a rebound, and the rest of the guys stand around waiting. Kobe drives, pulls up, and shoots a jumper. It goes in.
But now the team needs to get back on defense. For up to 24 seconds, players just stood around. Now they suddenly need to turn their engines back on and get back into transitional defense.
"Our transition defense is our Achilles' heel. It was our Achilles' heel last year and it's been our Achilles' heel this year. Whether that's because of defensive balance or lack of speed or both, teams are really taking advantage of us,” Bryant explained to Steven A. Smith on the radio.
Transitional defense is getting back into your position fast enough that the other team can’t score a basket before you’re set.
For example, the Miami Heat make a lot of their shots on transition because they are so fast and the opposing teams don’t recover quickly enough.
When players are not motivated by the game it’s tremendously difficult for them to get anything going on the defensive end. More importantly, it has to be exhausting for Kobe Bryant, who is stuck taking so much of the offense into his hands.
We’ve seen him be a beat too slow on the defensive end; I say it’s from exhaustion.
Those who disagree with me say that Bryant is taking all of these shots because his teammates just don’t have the ability to score and are missing shots. So, to win the game, he has to shoot that much. Unfortunately, basic basketball rhythm doesn’t agree with that.
Look at the New York Knicks, who the Lakers will be playing tonight. J.R. Smith is a very streaky shooter. The past five games, he has shot 26.7 percent. But Mike Woodson has told him to “keep shooting…Keep shooting, he’ll shoot his way out.”
With the Lakers, Bryant’s teammates don’t have that opportunity. He sees the team slowly falling away and losing, so he takes over completely. What his teammates need to do is get their shots up. Even if they’re missing, they need to break through this rhythmic rut that their in.
I propose a possible solution for Bryant: Just pass the ball. If he is going one-on-one, then obviously try and shoot. But, if a double team happens, just kick the ball to someone else.
Find that open man and let him take the shot. If he misses, then he misses.
This will let his teammates find a rhythm. More importantly, they’ll see that their star has trust in them. Having trust is tremendously important.
Knowing that your star player trusts you to take a shot means you want to make him proud. By giving his players that trust, he’ll enable them to get out of the rut they’re in.
The Los Angeles Lakers are too good a team to lose like they have been. However, if they’re going to win, the team—and not Kobe—will need to win the game. If Bryant gives his team the chance, I guarantee they’ll start winning games again.
At the end of the day, Kobe Bryant is the greatest player in the NBA; he will absolutely do what must be done to win. There’s no denying that.
Jacob appreciates great basketball and has been writing about it for the past few years. He is co-founder of Curave, a morning newsletter of the best NBA content from around the web.