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Is the Lakers biggest problem really Kobe Bryant? No.

Dec 19, 2012, 8:42 PM EDT

Lakers Bryant reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the 76ers during their NBA game in Philadelphia Reuters

While Steve Nash and Pau Gasol were out, Kobe Bryant has carried the Lakers. He is leading the league with 29.5 points per game, scoring more points per game than he has since before Pau Gasol arrived as a Laker. Back when Kobe had to carry Kwame Brown and Smush Parker (remember they both started).

But the Lakers have struggled to a 12-14 record — and that is after a three game win streak.

It has led some people to say, “Kobe Bryant is shooting too much.” He is back to being a ball hog and that is what is holding the Lakers back.

I think those people are wrong — Kobe is playing as many minutes but taking fewer shots per game than either of the Lakers most recent title years. With Nash out, the playmaking has to fall to him because you can’t let Chris Duhon do it. But that is different than being an inefficient gunner.

Still you hear it — “Kobe is shooting too much.” And it’s not just fans. This is an assistant coach from another team, speaking to Chris Broussard if ESPN (the story is behind their pay wall).

“Absolutely, Kobe’s shooting too much. When we played them, we told our guys, ‘Look, we don’t necessarily want Kobe going for 50. I mean, we’re going to guard him. But we’re not going to double him, and we’re not going to try to get the ball out of his hands.’ Our main concerns were not to let [Antawn] Jamison hit a bunch of 3s and not to let Dwight [Howard] go crazy down low. There’s no question they would be a better team if Kobe shot less. Why do you think [Pau] Gasol struggles? He’s going to struggle in any offense where he doesn’t touch it.

“[At] the end of the day, it has nothing to do with [Mike] D’Antoni and his system. It’s all about what Kobe will allow to happen. When you play the Lakers, it’s like they don’t have a system. It’s whatever Kobe chooses it to be. If he wants to take all the shots, he’ll do that. He’ll pacify his teammates early in the game, but then he’ll throw up a heat check and if he’s got it going, nobody else touches the ball.

Thing is, who else on that roster (with Nash out) do you want to handle the ball? Darius Morris?

I think this scout hits the nail more on the head.

“Watching the Lakers play the Knicks this year was hard to watch because the other Lakers were just so bad. It was like Kobe was trying to do all he could just to keep that game close. And hey, if Dwight’s not going to try his butt off and if other guys aren’t going to try their butts off, then I’m going to give the ball to the guy that’s going to go for it, and that’s Kobe. I don’t think it’s that Kobe doesn’t trust his teammates; it’s just that he trusts himself more. A questionable shot by him still might be better than a good look for one of those other guys.

That has always been Kobe — he trusts himself to make plays more than he trusts anyone. If other guys are not knocking down shots early he will do it. The only question was always was he hitting shots and efficient or was he a gunner? This season has been his most efficient in a long, long time.

But it is no different than Kobe from any of the Lakers title years, particularly the most recent. He is who he is.

Let’s see what Kobe and the Lakers look like with Steve Nash in the lineup, then we can discuss what needs to change. But through it all, Kobe is not.

  1. unxpexted1 - Dec 20, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    I think just like most things, its very misleading with the numbers. if you look at Kobe early in the season with Brown and Bickerstaff. he was only averaging about 17 shots a game, which is not much at all for a superstar. But with D’antoni’s system, the ball is in Kobe’s hands more and he is the lead decision maker. SO when you ask you scorer, to have the ball in his hand and make the best decision….more often then not, that scorer is going to think the best decision is himself. There is no true point guard on the team right now, and Kobe throughout his career has never really played with a pure point guard. I say that to say, its pretty unfair to ask somebody who is a scorer to be the floor leader as well, no diff than asking somebody who is a pure point to become a teams first scoring option. Until Kobe plays with a pure point guard, and we’ll see with nash, its really almost impossible to judge how much of a ball hog he is or isnt. Just another way to look at it. Also, most of his big shot attempt games happen in games when they are losing and they are trying to come back. Its not like they are up 10 or 15 and Kobe keep shooting and other teams comes back. If the team is functioning he functions with him, but if not……well…..

  2. tipstopten - Dec 21, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    Divas are always something to deal with, I don’t think that Team has a Kobe in it. It always seems that he has
    himself first and the team second. He should just “shut-up” and play ball with his all-star roster. They have enough
    to win, but Kobe needed to be a team mate first not a “Diva”

  3. kavika6 - Dec 22, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    Most turnovers in the league. Most shot attempts in the league. One of the worst records in the league. Some superstar.

  4. jimeejohnson - Dec 24, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    Lakers biggest problem: LA traffic.

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