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Lakers' Kobe Bryant proves his value on court despite injuries

Kobe Bryant #3

Aside from the Andrew Bynum-Chris Bosh trade rumors, it's fair to say Kobe Bryant's six-week avulsion fracture to his right index finger has been the most heavily discussed topic among Lakers fans. 

Though I haven't gotten a true sense of where exactly the split lies, it seems there's one camp that believes Bryant needs to remain on the floor for, well, rather obvious reasons. He's Mamba and the team needs him out there. Though the Lakers (33-11) head into today's game at Washington having lost seven of their last nine road contests and are 5-5 in their last 10, it would be unfathomable to rest him, according to this camp. Bryant has averaged a team-leading 28.3 points per game, made four game winners -- including one Jan. 13 against Dallas despite fighting back spasms -- and has provided valuable on-court presence. 

Then there's the camp that believes Bryant shares a huge responsibility for the Lakers'  sputtering record, which has put them behind Cleveland for the NBA's best mark (35-11). After aggravating the fracture to his right index finger Jan. 5 against the Houston Rockets, Bryant has averaged 22.9 points on an 85-of-227 clip (37%) in the following 10 games. The dropoff has pushed Bryant down to No. 4 among the league's scoring leaders behind Cleveland's LeBron James, Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. More importantly for the Lakers, those fans believe those statistics will continue to dip while the losses mount if if Bryant doesn't get the proper rest to heal his finger.

I don't think the main issue involves whether Bryant should sit. It instead involves how Bryant is used on the court. The Lakers' last two games, against New York and Toronto, showed Bryant playing more of a distributing role, adding a new wrinkle in the never-ending debate regarding his playing status. It also proves that his on-court presence is invaluable even with an injured finger.

Though Bryant certainly shouldn't be immune from criticism for his 31 points on 12 of 31 shooting Thursday in a 93-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he rightfully lit into his teammates for their lack of toughness (mainly Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) for allowing the Cavs' front line of Shaquille O'Neal, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson to muscle them inside.

The next day, against New York, Bryant and Gasol led a fourth-quarter charge, scoring 23 of the team's 31 fourth-quarter points. Bryant's 27 points on eight of 24 shooting showed he still took some unnecessary shots, but his six assists were instrumental in sparking Gasol's 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

It also provided a blueprint for Bryant to duplicate Sunday against Toronto. He recorded a near triple double with a team-leading 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists. Just as Bryant added some scoring punch, he was also instrumental in the Lakers posting 56 points in the paint. He continued to push for more aggressive play from Gasol, who finished with 22 points. Bryant had an uncanny feel for setting up Bynum inside with well-timed passes, resulting in 21 points. 

Just as Bryant appeared on the verge of adapting to a distributing role, he reverted back to some old tendencies. After starting 10 of 18 from the field in the first three quarters against the Raptors, he went only two of seven in the fourth quarter. 

I won't question Bryant's last two missed shots. One came with 12 seconds remaining where he had to catch an inbounds pass and immediately shoot a fall-away three-pointer because only three seconds remained on the shot clock. The last miss came with 1.2 seconds left as forward Luke Walton found Bryant for a 38-foot fall-away trey. And then there was one missed shot that eventually resulted in a basket for Bynum, making that particular shot selection a moot point.

But Bryant's other two missed shots could've been avoided. With 5:41 remaining in the game, Bryant had a decent-enough look for a 12-foot leaner after sliding through two defenders. But there was an even better look with a wide-open Shannon Brown in the right corner of the three-point line.  With one minute remaining in the game, Bryant took a contested jumper over Hedo Turkoglu instead of going inside to Bynum, who had leverage over Bosh. Not only was Bynum the better option, but there also was no need for Bryant to rush a stop since 11 seconds were left on the shot clock. 

Of course, nurturing team balance goes beyond Bryant, who actually put the team in contention to at least win the game against Toronto. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson's decision to sit Bryant until the middle of the fourth quarter against Cleveland and Toronto resulted in the team proving its inability to consistently fill Bryant's void. That's unfortunate for the Lakers considering they had shown glimpses of providing that team-wide continuity. 

Despite Bryant's 12 points on four of 21 shooting Jan. 10 against Milwaukee, the Lakers won easily because of Bynum (17 points, career-high 18 rebounds), Shannon Brown (19 points) and Jordan Farmar (17 points). Though Bryant had the game winner against Dallas, it was a team effort that ensured the victory, including Bynum's fourth double double in five games, Lamar Odom's 18 points and 14 boards and Ron Artest's (16 points) and Farmar's 11 bench points. And against Orlando on Jan. 18, Brown and Farmar bailed out Bryant's 11 points on four of 19 shooting.

Bryant has forever tinkered with his splint in hopes it will rectify his shooting woes, but that's not the biggest adjustment he's made in the last two games.  That involves elevating his quarterback role, a responsibility Bryant and the team must continually embrace to ensure fluidity (and fewer whacks to the finger would help).

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wraps a no-look pass around his head as he's surrounded by Raptors defenders in the first half Sunday. Credit: Warren Toda / EPA

 
Comments () | Archives (28)

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Why does Kobe play down injuries? Is it the warrior sufferin' in silence?
The team leader raisin' the bar for his guys? The crafty vet not wanting to show his hand (no pun) to the opposition?

All of the above. There's no up side to cryin' injury unless it's to play possum. The Lakers want the Kobe double team, want eyes on him, attention averted for easier shots for other guys.

So, yeah, stay on the floor, play left handed defense, dribble sparingly and keep the shot count down when they aren't fallin', and maybe run the offense! Too much talent on the floor to fire up 30 + shots. Kobe doesn't "have" to on this team.

hobbitmage,
- - - - - - - - - - -
Thanks for your post. When we both take the time and care to read each other’s posts carefully and objectively, it is easy to see that we do agree on many issues. I liked your personal anecdotes as they reveal a more caring and thoughtful person than some of your posts. And learning from other bloggers is what makes this sports blog truly unique. As I said earlier, we may disagree about opinions but not about respect for each other. :-)
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I can understand your position of speaking frankly when it came to criticizing a black belt for his technique since you have studied martial arts at a high level for so long. But what experience gives you the right to do the same to Andrew Bynum about his basketball play were you to meet him? Might I suggest that were you really to meet with Drew you might be a little less hostile or questioning than you were with your martial arts friend?
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And in response to your earlier posts, if you check my previous posts, you will find that I have criticized Drew’s effort, aggressiveness, and demeanor many times, especially when he was playing way subpar in December. If you think you are disappointed with his play at times, imagine what must be going through my head. The main difference is that I try and remain a loyal fan, realizing that I really do not know Drew enough to see inside his head – or any player’s head, for that matter – and also try to keep the darker urges in my mind at bay.
-
My main criticism of your posts is what I consider your obvious bias against Drew, which fuels your ridiculous claims that he has never had a good game and should be traded for a player like Chris Bosh, who just doesn’t fit. I will acknowledge that I probably have a similar bias in favor of Drew than fuels many of my posts. Let’s just leave this entire discussion that as Lakers fans, we both want Drew to take advantage of this great opportunity he has to become the next great Lakers center. So far, he has shown signs but not lived up to his grand potential.
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In the end, I hope that we can maintain civility in our posts, both towards Lakers players as well as bloggers.
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Tom

Good morning CRUE!!!


GAME DAY BABY - YYYYYEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!


Mamba24 - wherefore art thou? Seriously... If this road slump is not worth a roll call (or 2) I don't know what is.


Utzworld - et tu utz? A prayer couldn't hurt, right?


This team needs to shake off the post-Championship complacency and get a little McNasty out there.


Wouldn't y'all love to see this team get down & dirty? Yah - thought so... (Disclaimer: injuries are killing us. No way we play like this if we're healthy.) That said, I want to see the guys who are NOT injured - YES AMMO I"M TALKING TO YOU - YES JORDY I"M TALKING TO YOU - YES SASHA I"M TALKING TO YOU - (etc) - pump up their game and get the Mob back to doing what we all know they can do. It's getting stupid. Really. These guys are professionals and I would LOVE to see them become THE BENCH MOB again....


GO LAKERS!!!

Nothing but another title will suffice.

MM
- - - - - - - - - -
Just a shout out to you for the great analyses you have been posting. I love the detail and play by play assessment. Most of all, I love that we have a moderator who has the same thirst for detail and information that we have. In fact, you are making all of us hustle just to keep up. Keep up the great work. Thank you.
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Mamba, time for a GREAT JOB, MARK MEDINA, BANDWAGON. Sign me up as the primary backseat driver.
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Tom

Can't we all just get along?

Bottom line, NOBODY is perfect even Kobe...So let's move on can we???

Excellent Post M&M. Those were prototypical examples of when Kobe's confidence leads him to make questionable decisions. Kobe is so good at making tough/bad shots, especially at crunch time, he sometimes goes away from teammates with better % shots. I think that whether or not this hurts the team is a function of at least 2 variables: 1) the level of the competition; and 2)Kobe's health. I think when we're playing a bad team, it's much easier to get away with this, and when Kobe is healthy, its much easier to get away with this. Obv in Cleveland, both things were working against us.
Anyway, very nice post Mark M.
Before anyone flames me, no I'm not a Kobe hater, I just don't think he's above criticism.

I really enjoyed to read the article MM.
Good piece of writing, and definitely worthy of some more words after.

I think I am fairly considered a "always Bryant in" member of this blog, and it goes so (just as you said) because the man is so supremely skilled that even with half a hand his way to read the game, and all the gems he can provide easily can make him one of the best facilitators ever on court.

This of course would be enough to consider him not merely "valuable" in his contribution, but once again and always the center point of our game.

Do we have the gunners to substitute Kobe's volume of points until he heals as a passer? Well, when we spread the shots, sure, we do have them. It takes at least three players to make one Kobe, but we have the amount of skill to make that happen.

The point is... many times this doesn't happen. Those meant to substitute Kobe's efficaciousness as scorer not always (and not all at the same time) fill his void shoes there.

Then Kobe gets back to his "Saviour/Superman" mood. And this, I can't deny it, at times hurts himself. HENCE the team.

If Kobe would be a robot FOR REAL, I mean an individual without feelings or background memories of himself or/and his life (as a player), I guess he could just keep on being just a facilitator and avoid the "Saviour mode.".

But even if he's an incredible strategist on the court, and he seems to have a power of mind and a strenght overhuman, he still... human.

It's never easy for a player of supreme quality, somebody who has constantly being able to overcome unfair odds and just get always beyond himself, to *forget* what he can be able to do.

None of us can understand how it feels like to be THAT kind of supreme player. I try always to imagine how Kobe's head and heart work on certain occasions, but I fail cos I don't have his sport background, and obviously I can't get the way it feels to know you can do miracles, and trying to do them still, even when everybody tells you:

"Look, why did you do this? why didn't you do that?"

Kobe has always overcome odds with his talent and strenght.

It's easy for us say "he shouldn't do this" and it's always easy for us to pour our cold logic into his game.

But for how much he looks and acts alien-like often, his talent is all a matter of brain and heart and that involves also that unexplicable inner chemistry that turns a gesture "not meant to" into a miracle happening on the floor.

Kobe has to find a way to balance all of these opposite pushes within himself into something WORKING for the situation he lives in at the moment, and that will help the team to get back to his maximum potential.

What I want to make clear is that what seems so "easy" and "clear" and "logic" to us doesn't belong that naturally to Kobe's world and range of class. Psychologically... it's a way harder task than any of us can even imagine, or start to depict.

But still, all of our future fortunes stay in Kobe's hand, and the way he will manage once again his adverse fortune.

It's not easy.

But he has always won making things not easy look just... a magical event happening.

If I have to trust someone.. anyone, in fact, doing it again, I will trust ONLY him, once more.

Seriously, where is Mamba24?

@ Laker Tom

Excellent post on:

Posted by: LakerTom | January 26, 2010 at 09:03 AM

LakerTom,

you wrote: I can understand your position of speaking frankly when it came to criticizing a black belt for his technique since you have studied martial arts at a high level for so long. But what experience gives you the right to do the same to Andrew Bynum about his basketball play were you to meet him? Might I suggest that were you really to meet with Drew you might be a little less hostile or questioning than you were with your martial arts friend?

my response:

hmm ...

Body Mechanics. Regardless of the sport/endeavor ... you're still using the
same body in the same physical realm and therefore the same physics apply.
Regardless of the sport/endeavor the same physical attributes are in play.

Interestingly enough, I hear the commentators saying the same things
my instructors say all the time. Gather yourself. Slow down. Don't rush.

This is what happens when you rush yourself. You are distracted by outside
events. Your muscles are clenched. You are not focused on the endeavor,
you are focused on what is causing you to rush. Clenched muscles move
in jerky patterns and upset balance.

Watch Bynum in traffic around the rim when he' s trying to do a "put back".
Watch Bynum at the free throw line when he's shooting a free throw.
Which one has the higher percentage?

Before you talk about the defender, when Bynum is around the rim,
consider Kobe when he has a defender face guarding him.

This is observable in every sport I have watched or participated in, with
the possible exception of gymnastics.

1st. You learn the technique slow to learn the form.
2nd. After form, comes speed.

Btw, due to the medium you're mis-interpreting the emotion. It is not
hostility. It's directness. However, this could be a language issue. For me,
hostility means that I wish to do you harm. I practice arts which teach me
how to do this. :) I have no desire to harm you or Bynum.

LakerTom,

you wrote this: And in response to your earlier posts, if you check my previous posts, you will find that I have criticized Drew’s effort, aggressiveness, and demeanor many times, especially when he was playing way subpar in December.

My response: Actually, I disagree. You have *not* criticized Bynum very
much and that is something that both I & KB Blitz have specifically addressed.
If you had, I wouldn't have said anything. During the month of december,
I believe after the Chicago game, you said *one* negative thing about Bynum.
That's what I remember and I could be wrong. I seem to recall actually
saying something about it.

Feel Free to ping KB Blitz and others about how many times you have said
negative things about Bynum. *Especially* in December. Going one step
further, I believe someone just commented about our "kumbaya" moment
and how b/n the two of us it was either Bynum was a lazy p.o.s (my position)
or he was a beast (your position). There was rarely an honest assessment
about Bynum's play. Oddly enough, that was one of the reasons I kept
addressing things to you and you chose not to respond.

One of the things that I have learned in life, is that by questioning other
people about myself I find where my blind spots are. Obviously, I'm a work
in progress. :)

Mark


Good article........for two reasons. It highlights the value of Kobe Bryant and it also highlights the inordinate "conditioned" focus on Kobe........WHO IN REALITY IS THE LEAST OF THE LAKERS CONCERNS!

For the last 10 years Phil Jackson has piped a tune that the media has danced to like Pavlov's dog in a "conditioned" response.........Did Kobe take too many shots? Is Kobe taking enough shots? Can Kobe find the right balance? Can Kobe make his teammates better? Can Kobe be at two places at the same time? I am being facecious about the last question.......but you get the point.

Phil Jackson has succeeded in becoming the greatest magician since Harry Houdini as he has all but disappeared when it comes to media or blog analysis.


Maybe you can answer that Mark? How has Phil Jackson seemingly disappeared from any responsibility for this Laker slide?

Lately I haven't read an article or it seems heard the question..........Should Derek Fisher continue to start games? How much pressure does it place on Kobe playing opposite a point guard that can't shoot consistantly or create shots for himself or others? A guard that makes horrible decisions on the break........can't finish at the basket and oh yeah.....can't stop penetration from most point guards? Have you heard any of those questions Mark?

Why not write an article about that? Or how about........has Phil Jackson's ego and his tendacy to be loyal to a fault caused the Lakers to take a slide this year? That's a good question!

The amazing thing to me about this team which is rarely covered is............this team is tied for the best record in the league BUT, with the exception of Kobe.....NOBODY.......has performed at an all-star level. Where would this team be without Kobe Bryant? Kobe detractors should think about more than if Kobe should sit out..........a better question should be.......How many games could this team win without Kobe?

Can this team repeat with Phil Jackson's lackadaisacal coaching methods (coaching between naps on the bench) and inattention to detail on the defensive end. What about Phil's substitution pattern? I have to give Phil credit however because at least he is now making the decision to play Shannon down the stretch instead of Fish but this should have been happening long ago. I'm concerned about Farmar in the long run because he will be a huge defensive liability especially down the stretches of games.

What about Pau Gasol? These are all concerns that weigh a lot heavier than what Kobe is doing. Kobe hand-fed Gasol down the stretch of the Cleveland and Toronto games but the question should be.........does Pau Gasol have the heart of a champion? The same could be asked of Bynum.

Both Gasol and Bynum have talent.......but do they possess the will to COMPETE! Mbenga and Powell don't have the talent of these guys but both are more willing to compete.


And finally.......what about Luke Walton, Sasha, and Adam Morrison?? These guys are just taking up space on the Laker roster. Phil Jackson inserted Luke to inbound the ball on the Lakers last two plays against Toronto........but the question should be........why did Phil do that? Did he forget all the bone-headed plays Walton has made taking the ball out?

Walton blew the inbounds pass at Cleveland 2 years ago when he had a timeout and then threw a careless pass to Kobe (eerily similar to the horrible pass he threw to Kobe to end the Toronto game) he has done this on at least 2 other occasions.........yet Phil goes with Walton...........why?


Can you answer that Mark?

@ Mark G and ZairaAmaterasu

I know you guys were complimenting MM but I wanted lob a compliment both your way also.

I used to frequent this blog and post quite a bit. But due to cutting of my former co-workers and wearing multiple hats at work, I am only limited to quick reading and can barely post.

You guys are a great balance for the blog.

@ hobbit image

What martial arts have you trained in before?

Thanks

Hobbitmage,

heres a clip for you. enjoy ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsSoX6qB9N0

LAMAR ODOM NEEDS TO STEP UP OR BE TRADED FOR AN CONSISTANT SHOOTER

Lets face it, Kobe loves playing the martyr and always has. If he was effective doing so, Andrew Bynum might actually shed his mangina on the road against a decent opponent. Expect some roster shuffling soon, as per my sources.

Take it easy, Pau Gasol will be traded next year to San Antonio. That is the solution to improve Bynum as center.

@Charles :) :) :)
Thanx :)

Antawn Jamison is questionable tonight with a bad foot? Jeez, if we don't blow this Wizards team out by at least 20 points tonight, I'll consider it nothing less than a complete catastrophe!

ChicNstu,

gracias. I loved that movie.

Charles,

multiple styles of karate, muy thai boxing, 2 styles of jujitsu, 2 styles of tai chi,
ba gua, escrima, japanese sword, japanese long staff, japanese short staff,
aikido & a couple of kung fu styles.

Some of these arts I spent a lot of time with. Others I didn't.

@ Charles,
In the words of Elvis, Thank you very much.

pfunk,

"KOBE IN REALITY IS THE LEAST OF THE LAKERS CONCERNS!"

Amen

Hey guys, we got a new post up with some links. Ron Artest will play tonight

MM

Wouldn't y'all love to see this team get down & dirty? Yah - thought so... (Disclaimer: injuries are killing us. No way we play like this if we're healthy.) That said, I want to see the guys who are NOT injured - YES AMMO I"M TALKING TO YOU - YES JORDY I"M TALKING TO YOU - YES SASHA I"M TALKING TO YOU - (etc) - pump up their game and get the Mob back to doing what we all know they can do. It's getting stupid. Really. These guys are professionals and I would LOVE to see them become THE BENCH MOB again....


Justa - That is what I'm talking about. Time for everyone to step their game up and bring it. Push yourselves to make things happen!

LakerTom,
The effect on the salary structure and the potential of Bynum are reasonable arguments to make against the Bosh trade, but you can't reasonably argue that his game "doesn't fit." His game fits much better than Bynum's does with this roster.

ESPN Insider has some news on "Hinrich for Lakers". I have not renewed my membership, so I did not know the details. Anyone who knows, can they please share?? :)


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