While Kobe Bryant actually saying he needs to stop trying to take over games so the Los Angeles Lakers can move on and develop, it’s going to take some time before he actually trusts D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle do it without him.
From what we’ve seen in the first two games of the season, both losses (one of them Bryant’s fault in a big way), actually stepping away right now and not even playing might be the best thing for the Lakers. But that’s not going to happen. It’ll be about Bryant slowly regressing into a less and less meaningful role, and while he has acknowledges it’s time for him to let it go, something tells us that his instincts and ego won’t make it very easy on him.
Can’t do it anymore. Gotta let them develop. It’s difficult to pull back, but it has to be done. I’m really wanting to let the young guys, especially D’Angelo, let him call the game. Let him call the game. Let him organize the game. Let him read the game. Let him read the flow. Let him make those decisions. Which is part of me taking a step back, which needs to be done. You have to let the young guys make those reads, and you have to be able to help them and support them with those reads.
Now, Bryant isn’t lying about struggling to step back. It’s not just his legs not being where they used to be when it comes to long range shooting, as Byron Scott is hoping Bryant plays closer and closer to the basket. It’s about Bryant shooting 24 times (making 8 of those shots) on opening night. He looked a lot more like the old man willing to let go in the loss to the Kings, shooting 12 times. He also played just 22 minutes, but his 1-for-8 from three point range suggest he still hasn’t fully embraced the part about him not playing like he wants to play anymore.
As much as some people would love to see wins and wins and wins, the Lakers aren’t in that position. I’m not saying they should tank, but letting Russell, Clarkson and Randle turn into a consistent, notable and fearsome young threesome should be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list for the Lakers. Letting Bryant have fun on his retirement year? This is a business with a touch of sentimentality, but giving Bryant the ball doesn’t help the Lakers on the team’s path to a better future. Sadly, on most nights, it doesn’t even help them in the present. Bryant has turned into that much of a problem for them.