My way or the highway. The Los Angeles Lakers in the 2014-2015 NBA Season are an interesting social experiment that can be viewed in a lot of ways, but the final conclusion usually comes from your personal opinion on Kobe Bryant, and less on the objective facts regarding his teammates like Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and the others.
Fact: Kobe Bryant took 37 shots in the six point loss to the Phoenix Suns, making only 14 of them. Now, from here it’s open to interpretation. Was Kobe shooting so much the best thing the Lakers could have done to try and win the game? There was no motion in the offense and in the few instances he actually gave up on the ball, his teammates failed to deliver. Maybe it’s cold feet, and possibly it’s cold hands of players who just stand around waiting to be noticed by a star player who tries to win a basketball game by himself.
Fact: The Lakers are a bad team. That’s not an opinion on their roster. They’re 0-5 to start the season. They’ve been blown out, and they’ve lost close games. It doesn’t matter. The fourth quarters always turn out to be the same. Bryant takes the ball, ignores everyone else except for sporadic possessions which usually don’t amount to much because of the sheer surprise on the face of a player suddenly getting a pass, and goes on a one man crusade to win the game.
But maybe it’s not about winning anymore. When Bryant signed his two year deal with the Lakers, he was presumably thinking about winning his sixth NBA title ring so he can be like Mike, a player he’ll never be equal to no matter how hard he tries. Did Bryant know it would be impossible for the Lakers to build a championship team with him being paid so much? Was he promised superstars and then realized no one actually wants to play with him?
The Lakers were patched up out of leftovers. The Houston Rockets wanted to get rid of Jeremy Lin, who is actually a player who can help out Bryant. But Bryant doesn’t want help. He cares about his legacy, scoring average and overall place on the all-time scoring list. That’s what’s left. Winning 20 or 30 games don’t really matter, especially after Julius Randle went down with an injury. Steve Nash as well, but he wasn’t going to be a lot of help anyway.
Carlos Boozer came through the amnesty wire. This isn’t a team built to make the playoffs. Bryant knows this, and is willing to go down swinging. On his terms.
When you see a team play offense this way, you usually realize either the head coach has zero influence on what happens on the floor, or possibly it’s a decision from up top to let Bryant do whatever he wants, and to hell with everyone else. Smart offenses usually move the ball and see players on the move as well. Byron Scott is either a not very smart coach, or somebody is forcing his hand. Jeremy Lin wasn’t great in the fourth quarter vs the Suns, but he played well for most of the game. Suddenly going cold in the fourth because the ball doesn’t go through him and then expecting for people to think it’s Kobe who is stranded by bad teammates is an insult to fan’s intelligence.
The sad truth and realization from all of this is that Bryant is going to have big numbers, the Lakers are going to lose a lot which will A) Increase Bryant’s frustration about teammates who aren’t up to par compared to his expectations and B) Increase frustration among his teammates, realizing they’ve been put in a show as extras, hoping for the dictator of the Lakers and one of the biggest reasons for their losing ways these last two years to notice them and share the wealth.