It’s a rough road back from recovery for Kobe Bryant, having the expected ups & downs in his offensive game since returning to the Los Angeles Lakers, straight into the lineup. It’s nice to have an old battle partner like Pau Gasol come back to life, if only for a moment, to help push the team through a tough road game.
Kobe Bryant has been quite the turnover machine since coming back, and especially being inserted into the point guard role. Semantics. Even as a “shooting guard” Bryant would be the one dominating the ball. The new realignment only gives him another excuse to hold on to it a little bit more. He has now turned the ball over 34 times through the first six games, adding four in the 96-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. His scoring went back to the 20’s, finishing with 21, and Pau Gasol, getting a few more opportunities to get the ball in the post and work from there against Zach Randolph. Gasol also had 21 points, adding 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.
But don’t let Bryant’s 21 points fool you. This wasn’t some change in his play, becoming a bit more in sync with the D’Antoni system. His shots simply went in instead of out, even though he took plenty of tough and bad ones along the way, with Tony Allen not exactly making life easy for him. Bryant also had a moment of scare, falling and looking like he twisted his knee, but eventually got up and walked it off like nothing happened.
The Grizzlies continue to be a team on hold, waiting for Marc Gasol to return. With Mike Conley also out of this game, there was just nothing on this offense except for Zach Randolph lowering his head and going to the basket. He finished with a team-high 18 points but needed 22 field goal attempts to get there, as the Grizzlies simply looked awful offensively from the moment the game began.
The Lakers continue to get some excellent production from Nick Young on the bench. He finished with 18 points, including a few hard to watch 3-points that went in despite not having anything to do with a planned basketball play or good shot selection. But that’s Young, who might be inspired by Bryant’s return to take tough shots as well. In the long run, it’s not going to be very helpful for the Lakers.
But a win is a win, no matter how it was achieved. The Lakers seem to be on hold, waiting for Bryant to be 100% again, if that’s even possible. He talked about feeling more comfortable with pulling up even while being guarded quite closely by Allen, but from the outside it simply seems like someone who is shooting and shooting and shooting without remorse. On some nights it goes in, on others it doesn’t. There seems to be more and more of the latter recently.
As for Gasol, it’s hard to say if this is the game that sparks him back into consistency and productivity. The way the Lakers are playing often keeps him far away from the basket. It comes down to Bryant and how he decides to spread the ball. It might slow down the Lakers on offense, but it’s good for Gasol, who has been waiting for someone to start feeding him down low.