The Kobe Bryant stat line from the Los Angeles Lakers 97-85 win over the Detroit Pistons: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 4 turnovers while shooting 6-of-19 from the field, 1-of-4 from three and 4-of-4 from the line. Maybe the best he can give them right now, and an effort that leaves him almost broken down.
Remember how Byron Scott constantly playing Bryant around 35 minutes last season broke him down pretty early? Bryant played 36 minutes, the most he has this season, in the win over the Pistons. He played the entire fourth quarter in which he made just one field goal but a few free throws down the line, adding a couple of assists. Maybe the Lakers still need him on the floor for some reason so late in the game after he’s gone through more than his body can take. It mostly says how poorly this team is constructed and coached.
Bryant will rest on the Lakers next game against the Suns. Playing 32 minutes two days before his 36 minutes effort seems to have depleted him, and not that there’s too much left in the tank at this point. Bryant is averaging 16.9 points per game, but he’s shooting 33.6% from the field while doing it. He’s shooting 23.3% from beyond the arc, attempting 7.5 shots per game. There are seven players this season taking 7 shots or more from beyond the arc each game. While there are three, including Nik Stauskas and James Harden, making less than 30% of them, Bryant is at the bottom of the list in terms of accuracy.
On November 6 Bryant played 31 minutes. Two days later he played 32. That resulted in missing a couple of games. The Lakers lose with or without him. Their net +/- with or without him is slightly better towards him being out of the game, but just by one point; not a really big difference. This team is bad on both ends of the floor regardless of who is on the court. Bryant just makes them slightly worse.
Why does he keep playing like he’s still a good, influential player? Why does he keep shooting so many threes when he clearly doesn’t have the legs to make them? It’s because he’s not strong enough to muscle for points near the rim as well. He might be playing more small forward (89% of the time) but he’s not capable of getting to the rim, taking only 3.6% of his shots from three feet or under. He can’t beat guys off the dribble or muscle them down low. He simply takes the lazy option and jacks up threes. The Lakers don’t move the ball very well to actually get him open.
This is what a retirement season feels like, although you never know with Bryant. You’d expect someone who has fallen so far from his better days to realize he needs to take a step back. In fact he’s said it a number of times. Bryant needs to take a smaller part in the offense, and do more in terms of creating shots for others, not forcing his own. But this is the man, the player, for good and bad. These days, it’s mostly the bad.