Maybe one day Kobe Bryant that his way of playing basketball is hurting the Los Angeles Lakers, not helping it. But that day is not today. In the meantime, Jeremy Lin and the rest of his teammates keep thinking about ‘what if’ scenarios after losing yet another game that could have gone differently, dropping to 1-8 after being beaten 93-80 by the San Antonio Spurs.
It seems the stronger the criticism is of Bryant’s shooting ways, the more he digs deep and tries to pull off a worse performance. Well, with 1-of-14 from the field, making his only field goal in the fourth quarter and finishing with 9 points, it might be finally rock bottom for the future hall of fame inductee, setting a new low for himself in terms of shooting percentage in a game in which he took at least 10 shots.
The Spurs were playing from a safe distance all through the second half. No one had to do too much on his own, which might be the big secret to their success, which is even easier to spot when playing against the Lakers. A team that is bound to the will and mood of one player, which is obviously frustrating to watch go through for his teammates, and is also affecting their ability to play defense. When you just stand around doing Kobe-watching on offense, it’s no surprise you’re slow to move your feet defensively when it’s time to track back.
Jeremy Lin scored 15 points on 5-of-11 from the field to go with four assists. He had two moments of slightly being schooled, twice stripped (one of them was probably a foul) by Kawhi Leonard, but better players have been manhandled by Leonard defensively. The NBA finals MVP played only 18 minutes, heading early into the locker room after getting hit accidentally by Bryant when the two collided above the eye. He still scored 12 points on 5-of-6 from the field, and seemed to have his way on both sides of the court whenever he felt like it.
Carlos Boozer led the Lakers with 19 points, but that and Lin’s offense some of the time was part of the very short list of positives for the Lakers. Their bench remains a black hole, contributing nothing to the game. Right now, until Nick Young, Wayne Ellington and Xavier Henry (playing, but barely getting minutes) are actually back, Ed Davis is the only player from the second unit that has the ability to somehow affect the game in a positive way.
The Lakers gave up less than 100 points on offense, but that doesn’t help when the offense stagnates – only 2-of-12 from beyond the arc and 37.3% from the field. Bryant is getting a lot of the blame, but Byron Scott has a big share of why the first nine games have been so disastrous in so many ways for an organization that is getting used to losing, but never on this scale, with hope of things getting better slowly slipping away.
No one owes Jeremy Lin anything. Bryant isn’t here to improve Lin’s career. Scott’s job is to win games, not make Lin feel good. But the offense is going through the wrong hands most of the time. Not that Bryant is a bad choice, but he gets too many touches, and does too badly with them. While the ball moves quicker with Lin in control, it feels like the bad start is trickling down and affecting everyone. There’s still time to change things and turn this ship in a positive direction, but it’s not going to happen with players trying to do this on their own. If Bryant stops, the rest will follow.