We know Kobe Bryant is on the verge of retiring. That he’s not good anymore, at least not as good as he used to be. We know he and his salary cap hit are a burden on the Los Angeles Lakers. But we didn’t know that everything coming out of his mouth regarding the need to take a step back and defer to the younger players was just rubbish to appease some fans and maybe the media.
Bryant is Bryant, and isn’t changing. He took 22 shots in the 107-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. He finished with 18 points (6-of-22 from the field, 6-of-7 from the line). He has the highest usage rating on the team, ahead of Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. He’s playing the same way he always has been, only without the physical capabilities that helped him dominate for so many years.
Yes, Bryant, the old, almost useless Bryant, is just as selfish as he ever was. He’s taking 16.6 shots per game in just over 31 minutes. The rest he gets from time to time helps him, for now, maintain a high minute count. The Lakers are losing by 4.2 points per 100 possession when he’s playing, although things are even worse when he’s off the floor. The issue is that playing Bryant for so many minutes doesn’t help them develop some sort of chemistry and style, but maybe they’re going for a major overhaul anyway when this season is over, including Byron Scott.
Bryant still thinks of himself as one of the best players in the league. Don’t be fooled by the words like defer, step back, or when he says it hurts him after game and that he stunk up the place after a bad performance. Shooting 33.1% from the field gets players benched. It makes players think twice about how they’re approaching the game. Not Bryant. He’s doing the same things he was when he was the MVP. When he won championships.
But now he’s an old man in basketball terms, although unlike a lot of other “geezers” around the league, his immense ego doesn’t allow him to make the appropriate adjustments to make himself more useful, to look less embarrassing and to actually help his team. Bryant is on the Kobe farewell tour, and he’s not going to let anyone get in his way. With a head coach that doesn’t interfere and a team that has long ago sold its soul to its franchise player, he’s going to sink them to the very bottom before leaving them at the lowest place possible.