For virtually any other team in the NBA, last night’s convincing victory over the Houston Rockets would’ve been cause for (minor) celebration. The offense and defense both played well, and two of the most notable stars in the gym delivered big performances.
But with the Los Angeles Lakers, things are never that simple.
Kobe Bryant responded to his growing legion of critics by taking even more shots (29 last night compared to 28 in the ghastly loss to Denver on Sunday) on route to 37 points. Teammate Andrew Bynum had the first 20/20 outing of his career, but one gets the sense that he could’ve done a lot more offensively had he gotten the ball more frequently, and his frustration on the court throughout the game indicated that he felt the same way.
Head coach Mike Brown — who doesn’t exactly have a history of challenging superstar players — and Kobe seem to think it’s best for Bryant to dominate the offense.
“[Bryant’s] got five championship rings and Bynum and Gasol have maybe one or two, so I’m going to go with the man who’s got five,” said Brown. “Whatever he does, obviously I’m going to coach him but I’ve got to get to know him and in order for me to get to know him and his game, he’s going to make mistakes and I’m going to make mistakes out on the floor.”
“That’s why we sit and watch and tape afterwards,” continued Brown. “So we can better understand where he wants the ball or he can better understand what I want on this particular possession or anything like that. I think it’s pretty neat that everybody’s making a big deal of it but it’s early in the process, I’m getting to know him, he’s got the five . . . championship rings, so he’s been there and done that. I’m going to give him some freedom.”
“You guys can say I’m rolling over, say I’m deferring to him,” said Brown. “Look, Kobe’s a superstar, he’s been there, done that. You’ve got to give. He can score. You’ve got to give him more freedom than I give Darius Morris. I’ve got to give Kobe more freedom than I may give Pau Gasol. I’m going to give Kobe more freedom than Derek Fisher. That’s it. There’s nothing more to it.”
Stats and the naked eye show that the Lakers are a much more efficient and dominant offensive team when they take full advantage of their highly-skilled big men, but Kobe Bryant (injured, aging, shooting just 41.7% from the field so far this season) obviously doesn’t intend to change his approach.
Assuming Andrew Bynum stays healthy and continues to develop into a truly dominant force — and the biggest if of all: that the Lakers don’t eventually trade him for Dwight Howard — the relationship between Bynum, Kobe, Mike Brown and the rest of the team will be a very fascinating one to keep track of this season.