Why Kobe Bryant's Success Is Killing the Lakers and Proving His Critics Right
One of the most notorious knocks against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is that he doesn't make the players around him better, and to the dismay of Lakers fans everywhere, Bryant is proving that theory correct with every 30-point game he produces which the Lakers lose.
Bryant scored 38 points on an efficient 15-of-25 shooting from the field against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, but it still wasn't enough to lead the Lakers past the city's and the NBA's top team, as they fell two games below .500 in a 107-102 loss.
Kobe's 48-percent shooting from the field is the highest of his career, and his 30.3 points per game leads the NBA and is nearly two points higher than the average of his closest competitor.
But Bryant's career year will mean little if his team continues to perform below expectations.
This Lakers team appears to be headed towards a designation as one of the NBA's biggest busts of all time, and that conclusion would surely outweigh any individual accomplishments Bryant adds to his legacy.
It may not be fair to lay the blame for the Lakers struggles solely at Kobe's feet since Mike D'Antoni's cluelessness when it comes to defense, Dwight Howard's back and Pau Gasol's disappearing acts have certainly contributed to the debacle.
However, this is Bryant's team, and as the franchise's most recognizable player, he will ultimately receive the brunt of the criticism if the Lakers can't turn it around. And unfortunately Bryant is not helping the situation by firing away from the field at every opportunity.
Bryant is on pace to lead the NBA in field-goal attempts for the third straight year, which means that either he is still trying to do too much or he doesn't trust the players around him.
Why Bryant feels the need to shoot the ball 25-30 times per game is not important, but the ability to recognize that approach is not working is.
There have been many suggestions on how to fix what ails the Lakers, but limiting Bryant's shot attempts has not been among them.
Deferring to Steve Nash and his other teammates may not turn things around for the Lakers, but it wouldn't hurt to try, and in Gasol's case, it might even help his confidence a little.
Gasol only scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field against the Clippers and was benched for nearly the entire fourth quarter. After the game Bryant told ESPN.com that more of the offense needs to flow through Gasol in order to get him more involved.
That could help, but is Bryant willing to sacrifice some of his own offense for the greater good of the team?
Is Kobe's scoring hurting the Lakers?
The Lakers will never be a dominant defensive team under D'Antoni, so their only real hope of reaching the postseason and competing when they get there is by being the league's most efficient and effective offensive team.
And the only way to do that is by establishing chemistry and finding balance on the offensive end.
The Lakers' chemistry has begun to improve since Nash returned from a leg injury, but the balance part can only be achieved if Bryant is willing.
It would be an amazing accomplishment if Bryant were able to lead the league in scoring at the ripe age of 34, but who is going to remember it if the NBA's best team on paper fails to reach the postseason?
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