Are the Los Angeles Lakers tanking? Or are they simply caught between a rock and a hard place, AKA the ego of Kobe Bryant and the awful head coaching of Byron Scott?
It’s not that difficult to understand the losing (0-3 so far); the Lakers aren’t a very good team, and might be headed towards another season of trying to see what ends up at the other end of the draft lottery. But it’s difficult to comprehend why, when knowing their future will probably have more to do with Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, is Kobe Bryant getting so many minutes, touches and credit?
You can’t expect Bryant to keep his own word. Despite talking about taking a step back and letting others take the final shots and over the game, Bryant remains defiant to the ailments of time and age. He leads the team in scoring with an impressive 17.3 points in 27.3 minutes per game, but is shooting just 31.4% from the field with an even more disastrous 20.7% from beyond the arc. Not that it’s stopping him from shooting, taking 17 shots per game (22.4 shots per 36 minutes) and attempting 9.7 three pointers per game. He has the 10th highest usage rating in the league. That’s not taking a step back.
The Lakers are better off without him on the court. There’s no small ball as promised by Scott, with Bryant playing 89% of the time as the shooting guard and only 9% of the time as the small forward. The Lakers are losing by 11.8 points per 100 possessions when he’s playing, and are worse off by 6.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court compared to his time on the bench. Few players in the league can claim such a negative impact on their team as Bryant does.
The answer? Benching him. He doesn’t need to play 27 minutes a night. He’s not helping the Lakers win. Unless this is reverse psychology: Using Bryant on the floor to make sure the team doesn’t win, it makes no sense playing him this much. His legs are shot, which means he can’t pull up from long range and can’t last so long on the court before he destroyed everything for everyone around him. Bryant is turning into all the players he berated for so many years.
Bryant saying that he stinks or sucks doesn’t take the blame off of him. It’s just a way for him to try and shrug some of the deserved criticism he’s been getting. He can waive his five rings or tweet and Facebook about it all he wants. The bottom line is that the Lakers have been needing to move on for a very long time, and here they are, getting another glimpse at what they’ve become by keeping Bryant on the team and on the floor, while a clown runs them into the ground from the sidelines.