Kobe Bryant's high volume of shots not an issue for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson
It's usually not fair or accurate to pin any loss on Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
Heck, Bryant sank three game winners this season in contests the Lakers probably should have lost. First came his off-balance, 27-foot three-pointer over Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wayde on Dec. 4 in a 108-107 victory. Then came a 15-foot turnaround over Milwaukee Bucks guard Charlie Bell 12 days later in a 108-107 OT win. Bryant then brought in the New Year on a high note, drilling a three-pointer from the left wing for a 109-108 triumph over the Sacramento Kings.
Not only did he sink three game-winners with relative ease (or at least he made it look easy), Bryant had scored at least 30 points in 10 of the past 15 games after suffering an avulsion fracture in the index finger of his right hand.
Yet, ever since his finger was aggravated last Tuesday in a win against Houston, Bryant has gone 24 of 67 from the field in the Lakers' two losses against the Clippers and Trail Blazers. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson acknowledged Bryant's stat line of 32 points on a 14-of-37 clip indicated he took "an awful lot of shots" in the Lakers' 107-98 loss Friday to Portland. But Jackson didn't appear to have a problem with Bryant's shot selection when speaking with a few reporters Saturday after practice.
After getting Jackson's take, I replayed the past Clippers and Trail Blazers games on my DVR. Well, not the entire Clippers game. The ever exciting GMAC Bowl featuring Central Michigan and Troy went into double overtime, effectively eating the entire first quarter of the Lakers-Clippers contest on ESPN.
After rewatching these games, I didn't find Bryant's shot selection to be an issue. In the Lakers' 102-91 loss to the Clippers, Bryant missed 10 open looks, missed four contested shots and two of his other misses should've been rewarded with trips to the free-throw line in the last three quarters. In the Lakers' 107-98 loss to Portland, Bryant missed 14 open looks along with nine contested shots. Four of those contested shots ultimately resulted in offensive putbacks, including two from center Andrew Bynum, one from forward Lamar Odom and one from the Mamba himself.
I don't mean to downplay the points he potentially wasted against the Clippers and against Portland. But Bryant's main issue isn't the high volume of shots. It's that it's painfully clear his right index finger has taken a turn for the worse these past two games, and has severely affected his shooting stroke.
That, of course, isn't a new revelation. Jackson had mentioned earlier in the week that the finger was aggravated in the Lakers' win Tuesday against Houston when he was smacked across his finger. It forced Bryant to switch more often to his left hand on drives to the basket.
It's a shame for Lakers fans because Bryant had been able to mask his injury before, keeping his production level up and shooting a respectable 47% clip entering the last two contests.
Let's face it. Bryant has given no indication he would sit out any games to heal his finger. So feel free to give your take in the comments section below: Will teams increasingly give Bryant open outside shots, resulting in more missed open looks? Or will Bryant prove the general public wrong again for ever thinking it should doubt him?
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has hit shot blocked by Blazers forward Dante Cunningham in the second quarter Friday night. Credit: Rick Bowmer/Associated Press.