Thus far, the 2012-13 NBA regular season has provided us with disturbingly weak team performances by the Los Angeles Lakers. This is quite the tragic truth considering Kobe Bryant is presently having one of the most efficient seasons of his 16-year career.
As the season progresses, look for Kobe to continue putting up MVP numbers while facilitating in a new role. That of a "striker."
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, Kobe has described his role by likening it to that of a soccer player. This comes by virtue of both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol missing playing time, thus creating the need for a player to take charge.
Something Bryant has no issue with doing.
"We have some key pieces that are out; when they come back, we'll get this thing locked and loaded," Kobe Bryant.
"[Until then]. I'll take control of the ball a little bit more. I'm going to play more of a striker position."
For those unfamiliar with the striker position in soccer, said player serves as the go-to scoring option. They're also looked to as a primary assist-man.
In other words, a striker is what Kobe has been and will continue to be.
In said role, Bryant will post the numbers of an MVP. Although we could debate whether or not it will bring about the necessary wins to earn the award, Bryant will do what we all expect him to.
Dazzle us with his stat line.
Serving as a Facilitator
Through 24 games, the Los Angeles Lakers are 9-4 during outings in which Kobe Bryant has at least five assists. They're 5-2 when Bryant dishes out at least seven dimes.
It's not surprise that they're 1-10 when Bryant has less than five assists.
This is precisely why the Lakers need Kobe to play the role of a striker. He's clearly the go-to scorer, regardless of which players are healthy and who is not.
With that being said, Bryant must capitalize on the defensive focus he draws by facilitating the offense. The Lakers are at their best when he does just that.
The question is, will Kobe take the initiative to do so? As a striker, he would.
I'm not going to tell you that the Los Angeles Lakers' record of 2-11 when Kobe Bryant scores 30 points or more is meaningless. In fact, it is rather reflective upon the way his individual contributions can hinder team chemistry.
No matter how efficiently Bryant may be scoring, the Lakers are a better team when he involves his teammates.
With that being said, Kobe's scoring tendencies are not the issue at hand. It is his inability to find a consistent balance between scoring and facilitating.
Let the numbers speak to that.
The Lakers are 7-4 when Kobe has at least 20 points and five assists. This is why the Lakers do not need Bryant to stop shooting, but instead to walk the line between putting up points and facilitating for his teammates.
Once he does so, the Lakers will discover victory and the MVP award will be in reach. That is, if Bryant is willing to make the sacrifice of an all-out scoring approach and embrace an even strategy.
Expect him to do just that as the Lakers' new "striker."