The legendary guard, who currently sits fifth in all-time scoring for the NBA, recorded just one field goal and four points in 35 minutes against the Suns—incredibly not attempting his first shot attempt until the second half and not scoring a field goal until the final three minutes of play.
Most Bizarre Line of the Year: Kobe Bryant 4 pts, 9 asts, 8 TOs, 1-8 FG— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) February 13, 2013
Los Angeles Lakers reporter Mike Trudell showed just how the unproductive night from Bryant compared to his history of low-scoring performances.
This was just the 4th time in Kobe’s career that he had only 1 made FG. Two in 1998, 1 in 1997 and tonight.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 13, 2013
Lakers insider Chris Haladijan went one step further than that.
Kobe Bryant's 4 points is the lowest he has ever scored in a game that he has started and ended (without an injury or ejection).— chris haladjian (@LALakersInsider) February 13, 2013
However, it was Trudell's tweet earlier in the match that hit the nail on the head when it came to analyzing Bryant's remarkable performance on the night.
Jamison's up to 12 bench points after a 3 & a layup. Kobe has 7 assists, & is actually over-passing, having yet to attempt a FG.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 13, 2013
The legendary guard's passing skills have been particularly lethal of late, with Bryant averaging well above his career average of 4.7 assists through 2013. In fact, eight of his last 11 performances have seen him net eight or more assists—reaching double figures in three of those occasions in the past few weeks.
It's really been quite an usual shift from Bryant, who has typically opted to shoot-first and ask-questions-later throughout most of his career.
And yet, up until tonight, it didn't seem like that bad of a move.
Sure, one of the greatest pure scorers in basketball history wasn't scoring as much as he has done at times in his career, or even this season. Yet because the Lakers were winning and Kobe wasn't jacking up impossible shots when there was a much better avenue available, it all seemed like a good move by the man with the No. 24 jersey.
That was, until the unusual went haywire against the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns, who have been simply horrendous of late, very nearly walked away with the win here—all because of Bryant's inability to shoot the ball. It wasn't that he was necessarily double-teamed the entire night and there were better options available—Bryant was passing away shots to more complicated positions when he was the one in the best position.
Particularly in transition, Bryant seemed almost adamant that he wasn't going to shoot the basketball, and the Lakers nearly suffered an embarrassing defeat because of it—saved only by 19-point nights from both Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison.
Whilst Kobe passing the ball a lot isn't a bad thing—in fact, it's something that many have been wanting to see for years—it can become a detriment to the team when the team is forced to play away from the style that has made them so successful.
It isn't worth Bryant trying to play Howard into form and into favor with Lakers fans if it means shooting 1-of-8 and nearly throwing away the game.
It isn't worth trying to completely adapt his usual game to include a strong passing element if it means passing up open, makable, shooting opportunities. Especially not when that's exactly what his role on this team is—making those shots.
Steve Nash was brought in to be the passing machine to complement Bryant's dominant shooting. For the legendary scorer to then turn around and try to change his style of play and thus the team's style of play all so he can pick up a few more assists? It just doesn't make sense.
Adapting his game to include a few more assists is a good thing for Bryant. It's good for him, it's good for Howard; overall, it's a great thing for the Lakers.
But when it starts to become as ridiculous as it was tonight, questions have to be asked.
Against the Suns, the changing style didn't work. It almost cost them, and it led Bryant to have his most unproductive night in NBA history at a time when Los Angeles should be trying to build good momentum heading into the All-Star Weekend.
The changing style isn't a bad thing from Kobe, it just needs to be applied in ways that don't force the star guard into completely remaking himself.
Tonight needs to serve as a warning shot for LA not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Especially when the baby finally just started to grow.
What did you make of Kobe Bryant's night against the Suns?
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