Anyone who has consistently watched the Los Angeles Lakers the last few seasons knows Kobe Bryant has been playing the role of "playmaker" more than he used to earlier in his career. Kobe’s transformation has been due in large part to his natural maturation as a basketball player and his physical inability to play the way he used to when he was younger.
There are few fans who would argue that the Lakers are a much more successful basketball team when Kobe plays more of the facilitator role than when he is a little too heavy-handed trying to leave his mark on the game. After all, the team won back-to-back championships with Kobe often deferring to his frontcourt sidekicks and picking his spots to dominate.
However, going forward it’s even more imperative Kobe continues to work as a playmaker if the Lakers want to make it back to the NBA Finals, considering all of the changes that have gone on in Los Angeles since the team was eliminated from the playoffs last spring.
No longer will Kobe and the Lakers be running the triangle offense or taking guidance from Phil Jackson. Add in the aforementioned ugly playoff defeat to the Dallas Mavericks in the postseason, and it would be an understatement to say there are more questions surrounding the Lakers than usual.
Given all of the change, it would be easy for Kobe to possibly “regress” a little bit and attempt to take charge more on offense to show the world the Lakers are still a team worth of being considered championship-worthy.
Here is why I believe this to be the case: Mike Brown has yet to coach one game, and he is already on the proverbial hot seat. Brown’s biggest crutch during his first season as coach will be relying heavily on Kobe. I am afraid Brown, in an attempt to make sure he keeps Kobe happy (remember, Kobe has not necessarily given tons of praise over Brown being hired), will give him “the keys to the car,” as far as the team’s new offense is concerned.
This is all fine and dandy, except for one thing: Brown doesn’t have the type of relationship with Kobe to be able to work with him the way Jackson did. Kobe has a mind of his own, though I am certainly not implying he would try to undermine the team if given more power by a new, unproven coach.
What I am implying, however, is Kobe may have to stay focused and keep the team doing the right things if Mike Brown proves he cannot handle coaching such a high-profile team and superstar. What if Brown proves to be a bust and the team struggles out of the gate? Kobe must be prepared to handle something like this and continue to facilitate the offense instead of trying to dominate it in hopes of getting the team back to the finals.
If Brown proves to be inadequate as leader of the Lakers, Kobe may feel he has no choice but to exert himself more than he needs to. But his ability to fight this urge may be the difference in the Lakers having a successful season or a long, tumultuous one.
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