Kobe Bryant is still a ferocious competitor. He has slowed down in recent years, but he has a lot of help this season. Will he try to hog the spotlight?
The only person who can hold back the Los Angeles Lakers is Kobe Bryant. Mike Brown’s coaching can too, but on the court, Kobe no longer has to do it all.
Kobe has more championship credentials than any current NBA player. He is getting older. He is still the top shooting guard in the NBA.
He is no longer the very elite of the NBA. There are three, maybe four players on that list. One of them won a championship last season (LeBron James). Another lost in the NBA Finals (Kevin Durant). Another elite plays on the Lakers: Dwight Howard. Joining that short list would be another L.A. guard, Chris Paul of the Clippers.
A few years ago, the Black Mamba would have toped that list. Age gets the best of everybody. There are some high schoolers out there right now who will replace those elite players in less than a decade.
If the Lakers are to win their third title in five seasons it’ll be because Kobe defers to Howard. And defers playmaking responsibilities to Steve Nash. Kobe’s has to play team ball, something he has never done before.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe were teammates once. At one point, they played in the NBA Finals four out of five years, winning three of them. They were champs three years in a row.
Had Kobe not run the Diesel out of town, who knows how many other titles the Lakers could have won. Together, they were lethal. It was as if Michael Jordan played with Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq and Kobe were the best players in the NBA on the same team. In today’s league, it would be as if James and Durant teamed up.
Will Kobe finally play team ball? He’s no longer the player who can dunk over two guys. The crazy drives to the basket with the big finishes are rare. The consistent jumper clanks off the rim with more frequency.
Last season, the Lakers had an All-Star center in Andrew Bynum. He got a lot of looks in the low post, but not as many as he should have. Kobe thought it would be better to brick more shots than he took, shooting a terrible 43 percent from the field. He also took the most shots in the NBA by a ridiculous margin.
Why would you do that with Bynum and Pau Gasol on your team?
With Howard and his power dunking, Kobe should give the ball up a lot more. What’s better, a demoralizing Howard dunk over three guys or a Bryant jumper from 20 feet away? The dunk is much sexier and it’s the higher percentage shot too.
To be fair, this new Lakers team didn’t get much time in the preseason. They played one game together. Kobe didn’t defer to Nash in crunch time. He should have.
Kobe bricked a three to tie the game rather than letting Nash work his off-the-dribble magic. L.A. lost the game.
Maybe the Mamba has learned his lesson. Once upon a time, the Lakers had Kobe with Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. That team made it to the NBA Finals. The Lakers should have won. Shaq hit 60 percent of his shots.
But Kobe thought it might be better to go one on one against Tayshaun Prince. A lot of bad shots were hoisted up.
Kobe proved his point and Shaq was traded before the next season.
Howard, Nash and Gasol are nowhere near as good Shaq, the Mailman and the Glove. They are good enough to win a championship.
Pass the ball, Kobe. Good things will happen. Then take the final wide open shot off a pass from Nash or from a doubled Howard or Gasol.