The Los Angeles Lakers, considering the circumstances (no big star wanting to play with Kobe Bryant) made some good moves in the offseason: Bringing Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin among others. But the selfish drive of Bryant to score as many points as possible and forget about the damage he’s doing to his own franchise and teammates shows just what he actually cares about at this stage of his career.
There’s no hiding behind the fact that the Lakers are worse off because Kobe Bryant can’t stop shooting. There are those who argue: If Kobe won’t take those shots, no one will. Well, there the blame goes to a head coach that has failed in implementing an offensive system that depends on ball movement and others getting involved, instead of four players staring at Bryant make his mind on the floor, usually making the wrong decision.
Bryant has the highest usage rating in the NBA this season at 37.3%. However, his PER of 18.4 is good enough for 80th in the NBA. His true shooting rating is down at 47.2%, currently the worst of his career. From the looks of things and the pace of his shooting, it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on slowing down, taking any less or changing the kind of shots he’s taking, often with a hand in his face or with his body not facing the basket.
Scoring 25.4 points a night isn’t bad. Good enough for third in the NBA. But the team’s offensive rating with Bryant on the court is only 97 points per 100 possessions, while the defense is at 114 per 100 possessions. Bryant does share the ball from time to time, but his assists average so far is 3.9. Totals not good enough for you? His assist ratio of 21.3% is the lowest of his career since the 1998-1999 NBA Season. He hasn’t been this bad and this selfish in a very long time.
Jeremy Lin’s numbers aren’t great this season – 13 points and 4.8 assists per game, not exactly an upgrade to his Rockets days. He’s shooting a bit better from 3-point range, hitting 38.5% of his shots.His per minute numbers are actually slightly down compared to last season, but it seems that playing next to James Harden was a walk in the park compared to playing next to the 2014-2015 version of Kobe Bryant, a man obsessed with shooting as much as possible.
Doesn’t Bryant want to win? His history tells us that there are few fiercer competitors and hungrier players for wins. But Bryant keeps doing the same thing while the results suggest that his method of winning just doesn’t work. Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is foolish. Or mad. Or simply completely selfish. And maybe Bryant doesn’t care. All he wants is to move past Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring charts, and then angle his way upward towards Karl Malone and then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Lin’s per possession numbers despite a usage rate of only 18.8%, less than his days in Houston, aren’t that bad. Not for him or his team. The offensive rating is at 111. The defense drops even further to 119, but with Lin on the floor and the ball actually moving through his hands, the Lakers run a bit more and play a faster, quicker and a bit more unpredictable brand of offense. That’s not saying Lin isn’t making mistakes, but when you ask a player to actually make a move once every six or seven possessions while the rest is spent wasting thinking what Bryant is going to do this time, it’s no surprise players have cold hands and rusty decisions when their numbers is up.
Kobe Bryant talks about feeling envy towards the Spurs longevity, forgetting his part in breaking up one successful team and his presence making it difficult for the Lakers to built another great one. He doesn’t mind throwing teammates under the bus. He’s at a place and standing that allow him to do whatever he wants. Criticism? Bounces off him like bullets off of Superman. As long as he gets his shots and points, Bryant really doesn’t care.
The Lakers might be on their way towards a historically bad season. It’s because of bad managements over the last few years. It’s because of Kobe Bryant. It’s because of Byron Scott. And every player has been under-performing at this stage. But for guys like Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, a good free agency pickup who isn’t used to the extent he should be, this might end up being a wasted season, sacrificed for the glory of cult of personality of Kobe Bryant. It was very unwise of the Lakers to hitch their wagon to his fading, aging star.