Too much focus on Kobe Bryant, and not enough on the rest of the game. The Toronto Raptors should be a team the Los Angeles Lakers beat at home, but it’s going to take time getting used to life with Bryant, for good or bad, back on the court again. The visitors didn’t mind not having Rudy Gay playing for them anymore by the looks of it.
On a different day, the Rudy Gay to Sacramento trade would have gotten a lot more headlines. Not that the Raptors got the best contracts or players out of it, but they got rid of a player they already have one of (DeMar DeRozan), and dumped a very bad salary cap killer.
The Raptors came away with the 106-94 win, enjoying the no-defense presented by the Lakers, not to mention a huge night from Amir Johnson, scoring a career high 32 points on 14-of-17 from the field, adding 10 rebounds, and making sure that DeRozan’s usual lack of precision (8-of-19 from the field, 26 points) wasn’t going to hurt the team too much.
There was enough of a ball-hungry, selfish shooting guard on the court with Kobe Bryant. He did try and make it look like he’s passing early on with a very nice assist to Robert Sacre to open the game, but the Lakers aren’t used to having him on the floor right now. The ball doesn’t move as much as it did before, with it gluing into Bryant’s hands, and the defense, which wasn’t great to begin with, looked even worse. The Lakers starting lineup all scored in single digits, and it’s hard to win basketball games like that, with Gasol finishing on a 3-of-11 night, scoring only 9 points.
Maybe Bryant should come off the bench? No one dares consider that, but the Lakers did look better with Jodie Meeks in the lineup next to Wesley Johnson and Steve Blake. Nick Young led the Lakers with 19 points, but he also pulled off one of the weirdest plays you’ll get to see this year, trying a 720 degrees layup that ended very badly for him and the Lakers.
First impression of Bryant? R.U.S.T.Y. He was 2-of-9 from the field, playing 28 minutes, grabbing 8 rebounds and adding 4 assists. The shooting will get better, and his moves on the court and in one on one will follow. The issue is going to be his effort on defense (on and off in this game) and the way he affects the rest of his teammates -will it be a Bryant failing to recognize that moving the ball might be the best thing for this team, or will this be an older, wider and sober Bryant, that realizes there are more important things than him to this basketball team.