Sometimes you think to yourself about why basketball players don’t make the obvious changes they needed to make a long time ago. Kobe Bryant forgot about his scoring numbers, and simply did what’s best for the Los Angeles Lakers, which includes feeding the ball down low to Dwight Howard.
Meeting or no meeting, whatever was discussed, it seems to have worked, at least for one game. Maybe it was Mike D’Antoni calling out the selfishness of his players on offense that made all the difference. Suddenly we saw Bryant playing the facilitator role: He took only 10 shots during the game, his lowest output of the season, finishing with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 14 assists. Yes, 14 assists. The Lakers kept playing that simple thing called the pick n’ roll, set off-the-ball screens and suddenly, taking and making open shots wasn’t so complicated.
We made shots and that makes the game a lot easier. It’s not about showing we’ve turned the corner. It’s about doing it. We’re bonding together and we’re communicating with each other very well. You can’t just sweep things under the rug all the time. They don’t get better.
Dwight Howard finally seemed content with the amount of balls he was getting in the paint, scoring a team-high (along with Metta World Peace) 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. His defense was probably even more important, and when he feels OK with his shoulder and happier about how he’s treated by his teammates, which means getting more feeds down low, he has a bit more motivation to handle big men like Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, combining for only 22 points on 10-25 from the field.
Metta World Peace will always be the guy that’s left open in this starting five. When he makes five three pointers (out of 11 attempts), the Lakers are going to score well. With all the picks and screens, MWP will be the one left out, as the defense squeezes in on a rolling Howard and slashing Steve Nash. Even Pau Gasol looked like a happy sixth man, making 7 of his 8 shots, scoring 15 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.
The question is how long can this last. Was this an energy boost, like someone pressing Nitro, and the good times, meaning an end to the losing streak, won’t last long? If this was a rare case of Kobe Bryant feeling energized on defense, helping out Howard quite a lot by not making it so easy to break through the initial line of defense, than nothing has changed.
But maybe this was Bryant turning over the page and finding out that stat showing the fewer shots he takes, the better off the Lakers are. Basketball isn’t such a complicated sport when it’s played the right way, and when you have passers like Bryant and Nash while also having the inside presence of Dwight Howard, you establish his dominance in the paint and work your way from there. Maybe the Lakers figured that out. Maybe Kobe Bryant is figuring out him shooting 25 times a game isn’t the most important thing in the world. Too many maybes. Like Bryant said himself, they should stop talking about turning the corner, and simply turn it.