Say what you will about Kobe Bryant, but there are few players with his kind of drive for success and title rings in the NBA, even after 15 season in the league and five championships. Problem is, his ego and desire for individual greatness can get in the way.
Because Bryant might say that all he cares about is winning with the Lakers; and he might be willing to make adjustments in order to make the team better and help the new guys and new style (if there will be a new style) come together faster, but sometimes his own desire to get all the credit and carry the scoring load on his shoulders interferes with his decision making and the greater good.
He averaged 21.5 shots per 36 minutes last season, his highest since the 2005-2006 season, part of a two-three year period in which Bryant couldn’t stop shooting because he had no trust and confidence what so ever in his teammates. That period included the famous “i’m not shooting, just pass it along” playoff game against the Phoenix Suns.
Bryant, a fierce competitor as you’ll ever encounter, is a gentle soul in many ways, especially when it comes to needing his ego boosted and pampered by the team and head coach. As long as everyone falls in line, the Lakers-for-life seems pleased sharing the wealth with others. When it doesn’t, things don’t always work in favor of the Lakers.
Last season the Lakers didn’t look like a team that can challenge for the title. It took some time to come together, especially defensively, and become a formidable opponent for Western Conference teams. At least in their own minds. Bryant finished with his lowest shooting percentage since his sophomre year in the NBA, 43%, but that didn’t stop him from shooting. When Kobe feels that his pride and name and chance to win that sixth ring relies on his shooting ability, you’ll see him attempting 25 or more field goals a game.
In the playoffs, which ended in the conference semifinal for the second straight season, Bryant had two games of over 30 field goal attempts , and the Lakers lost them both. In the regular season it worked a bit better, having five games with 30 or more FGA, winning three of them, all in the January streak he had of four consecutive games scoring 40 points or more.
The numbers are just over the .500 in games with Bryant taking 28 shots or more. Last season was more about giving Andrew Bynum the chance to get involved more. It usually worked better for the Lakers when it wasn’t all on Bryant, who found it hard shifting to a game with two dominant big men on his team. Things aren’t going to change next season, with Steve Nash probably going to take a lot of the ball. Bryant said he had no problem with being more of a shooter than the actual point guard on the team.
And it’s not going to be all about the points and numbers. Bryant loves the attention, and having Dwight Howard on the team is going to take some of that away from him. While there’s no real question about who’s the king of LA at the moment and the alpha-dog of this team, Howard hasn’t exactly shown he’s a team player during his last season in Orlando. Some toes might be stepped on as the season continues.
A ring is all that’s on Bryant’s mind, and pretty much the entire Lakers organization, going all in once again, trying (and succeeding this time) by bringing in the best available player in on the trading block. Now all they need is for Bryant to stay happy and confident of winning while not feeling his position is being compromised in any way, and this season might actually turn out like many predict it will – by beating the Thunder and facing the Heat to play for the NBA title.