Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol: Kobe Not the Team MVP Anymore?

Alex BudaContributor INovember 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 02:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts his arm around teammate Kobe Bryant #24 during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on November 2, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Grizzlies 124-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The simple fact is that the talent of basketball players declines over time, everyone knows that. What everyone recently had been guessing about was when that decline would happen to Kobe Bryant.

Many people thought that decline would start last season; they were wrong.

Then with his offseason surgery and a consideration of the minutes he logged during his NBA career, people started talking about this year being his decline year. Although I don’t agree that he has declined in talent, I do see a different Kobe on the basketball floor.

This Kobe isn’t trying to prove that he’s worthy of a championship. Instead it just looks like he is desperately trying to maintain his status in this league.

This offseason, the Lakers picked up major talent upgrades in Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. Then, to add the cherry on top, Shannon Brown decided to have a breakout year. These three players coming off the bench could arguably be starters for several teams in the NBA. The Lakers are this deep in the bench rotation and Andrew Bynum hasn’t even returned it.

But what surprises me is that even though the Lakers are this deep, Bryant is jacking up unnecessary shots and creating silly plays.

It’s almost as if he is playing to prove something when there is nothing to prove.

He’s managing 25.6 PPG with a shooting percentage of 43 percent—that’s two percent lower than his career average. With the exception of a few games, it’s not even like he is shooting a lot—though, there are always those exception games with Kobe.

He is averaging 20 shots a game, last year he averaged 21.5 shots per game yet. The season is still too young to look deeply into stats but they are a sign for things to come.

What Kobe obviously needs to change to be successful during this season and ultimately the rest of his career is his shot selection. He needs to realize that those crazy fade away jump shots he used to make in the prime of his career aren't going to go down as often as they used to.

He simply doesn’t have the elevation he used to have. I’m not keeping count but it looks like a majority of his missed shots are short.

I believe that this is going to be a transition period for Kobe as he tries to figure out where he now stands in this league after 15 years of service. 

On the other hand, the Lakers have this other guy named Pau Gasol who has been outperforming Bryant this season. Gasol is shooting 56 percent from the field and scoring 22.0 PPG while averaging 11.9 RPG and even 4.1 APG.

He entered elite company in the game against the Golden State Warriors last Sunday after finishing with 28 points on a perfect 10 for 10 from field and converting on all eight of his free throws.

Also, with the absence of Bynum in this early part of the season, Gasol knew how crucial it was for him to stay active in the paint and he has done so.

His leadership on the floor has not only converted into the Lakers' early success but has even had some people question if he is worthy of an MVP this season.

It will be an interesting topic to debate once February hits and we have a better understanding of the season.

Everybody knows Bryant’s ego is bigger than his career point totals and it’s going to be interesting to see how he handles these talks about Gasol’s role on the team.

Is Hollywood big enough for two stars?

Or are we about to have a major Déjà vu?