Not for the first time this season, the Los Angeles Lakers looked a lot better when Kobe Bryant wasn’t playing, including a very good but short game for Jeremy Lin in a 104-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the name of the selfish scorer written all over another disappointing ending.
Players shouldn’t be blamed for a loss on their own, even when they miss the potential game winning shots. Those are always hit and miss, and Bryant has hit quite a few of them over his career. But he keeps missing them this season, taking bad ones instead of looking for better looks for himself or his team. Bryant finished with 3-of-15 from the field including 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, and his 8 rebounds and assists couldn’t make up for the damage he did to his team while playing.
Jeremy Lin came off the bench to score 12 points in 22 minutes with 8 rebounds and five assists. With the Lakers trailing by three points after a Russell Westbrook jumper with 38 seconds left in the game, Lin hit one on his own (finished with 5-of-7 from the field) to put the Lakers within one point. Good defense led to Westbrook taking a bad shot, leaving the Lakers with six seconds to try and win the game on one last shot.
Instead of thinking of a play, the Lakers simply do the obvious thing, without a shred of creativity. Bryant, struggling all game long against Andre Roberson (guarding Bryant on 14 field goal attempts), simply dribbled a few times and pulled up for a tough shot. Why would something that hasn’t worked for an entire game suddenly work? Bryant isn’t a magician, and doesn’t have some special powers behind him. He’s human, and a lot less impressive these days despite his ability to polish his legacy with total numbers that hide the fact that he’s sunk very low.
When Bryant wasn’t playing, the Lakers were winning by seven points, not to mention shooting 13-of-21 from the field. The magnet Bryant holds in his hands to make every possession go through him takes away from the Lakers’ ability to surprise. Bryant does pass the ball, but not enough, and his ego won’t let him take a backseat and simply pass the ball, proven to be the best way for the Lakers to score points this season, more than once a month. Nine games into December, and Bryant still hasn’t had a game in which he shot better than 42.9% from the field. He’s 34.6% this month, 37.7% from the season.
Lin? He keeps on making the most from little. He can’t share the floor most of the time with Bryant, which means a limited role. Ronnie Price actually played his best game for the Lakers, scoring 14 points with four 3-pointers. Lin deserved more minutes. Maybe he deserved the final shot, or at least to be involved in the play, but this team is a slave to the will and ego of one player, who only cares about seeing his name in the headlines, and the numbers he produces.
The Lakers lost 55 games last season, but are through an even worse start this year, losing 18 of their first 26 games. If they will continue to ignore players like Lin and what they can contribute to this team in terms of play making, shooting and scoring while giving Bryant every opportunity to keep dragging this team down, we’ll witness another piece of history for a franchise held captive by the desire of one player to be remembered.