Pivot Points: Kobe Must Trust His Teammates When He Can't Trust Himself

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  (L-R) Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers talk on the court during the game against the Chicago Bulls on November 19, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.   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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Just when I felt it was safe to assume that Kobe Bryant had matured into the role of a facilitator, and a player comfortable playing within the confines of the game, he goes out and has a game like this.

His 7-of-24 field-goal shooting, a circus of disarray, proved that although Kobe has seen incredible growth and maturity in his game, he is still capable of taking shots that leave viewers shaking their heads in disbelief.

And not in a good way.

Kobe's untimely burst of inaccuracy effectively took the Los Angeles Lakers out of their game with the Utah Jazz and was a major component of their loss.

I understand that Kobe was suffering from a stomach ailment, and of course he recently fractured the index finger on his shooting hand, but that's all the more reason to measure your approach and let the game come to you.

That brings me to another point. Why not just trust in the abilities of all the talented players around you? After all, they are more than up to the task. They proved that on Saturday night.

Kobe shot the ball 24 times and missed 17 of those shots. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest took a total of 30 field goals and connected on 17 of them.

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You don't have to be well-versed in the realm of arithmetic to see which of those percentages is higher. To be honest, Kobe could have taken half of his shot total and the Lakers would have been in perfect position to steal one on the road.

The team that Mitch Kupchak has assembled is nothing like the "Kobe or bust teams" of 2006 and 2007. This team is loaded, championship-tested and battle-approved, and the all-Kobe-all-the-time approach is not necessary.

In Pau Gasol they have one of the best power forwards in basketball. In Andrew Bynum they have the most dominant center in the Western Conference. You can throw Artest's three-point shooting and strong post-play in the pot also.

All three players performed well, and all three would have been capable of shouldering more of the burden, if only Kobe had allowed them the chance.

The Lakers didn't have a horrible game against Utah, Kobe Bryant did. The Lakers out-rebounded the Jazz and, outside of Bryant, shot for a higher percentage.

The loss should be of no large concern to the Lakers. Their streak was destined to end and Utah had plenty of motivation due to the events of the teams' previous meeting.

The point, though, is that Los Angeles could have won this game had Kobe reined himself in and trusted his teammates to do the jobs they are compensated for.

The Lakers have a powerhouse roster of players who are capable of aiding Kobe when he can't carry the team by himself.

A broken finger and a possible stomach virus constitutes one of those times. Under those circumstances, the facilitator role is better for the team and better on Kobe's beaten body.

I also understand Kobe's need to show people that he can play with injury, because this is not the first hand injury for Bryant, nor the first time that he had a terrible shooting night in the aftermath.

But this team is far beyond that mentality and Bryant should be too. He has threatened to force trades because of the lack of talent surrounding him, and is now blessed with a wealth of skills beyond comprehension.

Kobe should show the true depths of his transformation from superstar to legend and trust his formidable teammates, and their ability, to help the Lakers in achieving the status of one of the NBA's most dominant teams in history.

That will be what Kobe will be remembered for then, and he could lay to rest the reputation of a perpetual "shot-jacker" forever.