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Lakers' Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher debate Kobe Bryant's scoring mentality, team's lack of inside game against Memphis

51982406Well, that nostalgic feeling regarding Kobe Bryant surpassing Jerry West as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer certainly didn't last long. Most of the questions surrounding Tuesday's practice focused on Bryant's high percentage of shots versus the lacking inside game the Lakers presented in a 95-93 loss Monday to the Memphis Grizzlies. The issue first reared its ugly head when Lakers forward Pau Gasol lamented to several reporters immediately after the game about he and Andrew Bynum combining for only 15 points on five of 10 shots.

"Obviously, we were not making a conscious effort to pound the ball inside," Gasol told the Daily News' Elliott Teaford. "So, we settled a little bit too much. It's not like they were double-teaming us a lot. It happens."

"I’m proud of him; I congratulate him," Gasol told the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding about Bryant becoming the franchise's all-time scoring leader. "Now we can focus on winning games again."

Given Gasol's nature, this isn't going to turn into Kobe-Shaq. But it at least got the conversation out in the open, something the media was only happy to facilitate, but without Bryant, who wasn't present during post-practice interviews.

Of course, Bryant's high volume of shots is nothing new. Heck, I've only been here for four weeks and I devoted at least five different posts here, here, here here and here on topics involving Bryant's shot selection. It's become a never-ending point of conversation as Bryant has shot below .500 in 10 of the 14 games since Jan. 5 when he aggravated his right-index finger.

A firmer splint has appeared to correct the issue involving his finger, and Bryant's 44 points on 57.1% shooting (16 of 28) against Memphis is something most teams would take any day. But as Bryant closed out with the team's final 13 points in the second quarter, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson could tell he was seeking to surpass West's record that night, and nothing would get in his way.

Said Jackson: "At halftime, we said, 'Get Kobe the ball quickly so we can get over that record and we can move ahead.' "

Bryant broke the record in the third quarter, but the Lakers didn't move ahead. The Lakers didn't have anyone else posting double-digit shots, and they were outscored inside, 42-26. That's why Jackson said Gasol's complaint was warranted.

Some interesting stuff there.

In some instances Jackson highlights Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals where he told Michael Jordan to allow John Paxson some scoring opportunities, the result being Paxson scoring 10 points in the final half of the fourth quarter. Jordan may have preferred leading the comeback charge, but the end result was still there: a 1991 title. Jackson recounts team meetings he's had with the Lakers discussing Bryant's shooting tendencies. Jackson also predicts that'll remain an issue whenever he decides to step down from coaching the team.

Yet, when asked if Bryant has shown that "fine line" Jackson describes between scorers being aggressive and selfish, Jackson says of Bryant, "He certainly has."

Though he agreed with Gasol's assertion that the bigs weren't getting looks inside, Jackson placed the blame on both post players and guards for not working together. Jackson didn't specify to what degree each party was at fault, but Gasol accepted some responsibility for the nonexistent inside game against Memphis.

Even through Bryant's poor shooting performances, the Lakers have shown an effective inside game that can heal most wounds.

Though Bryant certainly shouldn't be immune from criticism for his 31 points on 12 of 31 shooting in last week's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he rightfully lit into his teammates for their lack of toughness (mainly Gasol and 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. That was also the case in other road games against Washington and Indiana where Bryant, Gasol and Bynum each posted double figures. 

Though the inside game is an area that can be most corrected, as evidenced by the Memphis loss, it doesn't immediately lead to success. Case in point, Bryant recorded a near triple-double with a team-leading 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists last week against Toronto. He was also instrumental in the Lakers posting 56 points in the paint. Bryant 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.Yet, the Lakers still lost to Toronto, 106-105, with the Lakers showing an inability to protect seven- and eight-point leads throughout the game. 

Lakers guard Derek Fisher made two things pretty clear. On one hand he said, "we all respect who he is, what he does for us and the fact we wouldn't be successful as we've been without his presence for us." On the other hand, Fisher added Bryant shouldn't be taking 28 of 73 shots in a game, like he did against Memphis. And though Fisher cited other areas that contributed to last night's loss (such as the lacking inside game), he also argued Bryant's shooting tendencies hindered team chemistry and balance. That's something that would've come in handy on the final play where a double-teamed Bryant found Ron Artest, who missed a corner three-pointer as time expired. Nonetheless, Fisher said the team needs to work better with Bryant. 

Fisher's assertion that Bryant's shooting wouldn't have been a topic of discussion had the Lakers won the game is certainly valid. And as a media member myself, it's totally accurate that we tend to have knee-jerk reactions and opinions on all topics covered.

Bryant's game-winning shot against Boston came against a heavily guarded Ray Allen, and capped off an eight-of-20 shooting performance. Yet, most of the focus was on Bryant making his fifth game-winner of the season and how the victory served as a signature road win. Bryant's one-on-one duel with Allen Iverson in last week's win against Philadelphia wasn't the prettiest game to watch, yet it brought back memories of the 2001 NBA Finals. Though the media may not have asked the questions that we did Tuesday, that doesn't mean the issue still wasn't serious enough to be addressed. It's a conversation Gasol and Fisher both acknowledged they haven't had face-to-face with Bryant.

Here's some statistics they could bring up that Bryant couldn't really argue. The team was 7-5 in January any time Bryant shot below .500. He ended January with a season-low 23.7 points per game and shot only 41%. And of the six games the Lakers lost in the last 18 games, Bryant's total shots represented at least 34% of the team's total shots in five of those losses. 

Here's some statistics Bryant could then present to the team showcasing his worth, courtesy of Statsheet.com

NBA

Lastly, the team can cite these games as examples showing the Lakers' ability to win when Bryant isn't shooting well:

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 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.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, the aforementioned performances don't always happen. Jackson's decision to sit Bryant until the middle of the fourth quarter against Cleveland and Toronto, for example, resulted in the team proving its inability to consistently fill Bryant's void and resulted in eventual losses.

This issue returning to the forefront may not be perfect in its timing, since it coincided with Bryant's record-breaking milestone. But now that the conversation is out there for public consumption, it's up to the Lakers, including Bryant, his teammates and Jackson to resolve the issue.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant waits to shoot after drawing contact from Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo in the first half Monday night. Credit: Mike Brown/EPA.

 
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It is painful to see KB jump shoot all the time and turn the ball over and over. Share the ball please, and play team ball.

Cali, just saw that!:)

You know I love your posts. Very often you write what lies in the core of my mind :) And you write it better than I could ;)

I TOTALLY share your shout out at Denver here, as well.

Those Thuggets... Yiikes. I shouldn't be so adamant on them, but they truly sends shivers down my spine. They are our main obstacle this year. And we badly need to improve in the... general hospital department if we want to face them the right way.

Gosh it just amazes me how people start bickering when Kobe takes 38% shot in one game! Gasol, Bynum and Fish need to shut up and work on improving their game. How about that pass to bynum by Kobe and he missed the easiest dunk and lost the ball..how about those post moves by Gasol when he cant even go to the hoops one on one against his own brother?? why would u pass the ball when obvisouly the big guys cant take advantage and their mind is not in the game??? now dont tell me that oh they are not in rhythm because they didnt get involved from the very beginning...you dont need to be in the rhythm to dunk a freakin ball..how about those missed shot by Odom and Fish?? how about that huh?? is it because of bryant that they lost the Memphis game??

I could go and on and on...please someone need to tell the Lakers big guys to step it up..create your own opportunity by fighting for position and gran rebound when the ball doesnt go in..Pau needs to develop more post up move..has he ever scored one on one against his own brother Mark Gasol? Bynum need to learn that if you dont get the ball few times you dont take yourself out by thinking "oh, I am never get the ball" mentality..

I am mad as hell because the Lakers lost the game against memphis. And now I am getting even more pissed that everybody is attacking KOBE...how many shot he took in the 4th quarter, tell me??? where were other lakers in the 4th qtr??

All i have to say is "CONGRULATION" Kobe Bryant, keep playing,some people are "JEALOUS".
Forget about the "LIP SERVICE" Bloggers. or anyone else.

Kobe Bryant played with Memphis head monday night, they didn't know what to do, the Lakers could have won that
games if they really wanted too. But i think taking out
Boston was the Plan, Memphis is so far down on the list
if they some how make the play off, chance of them meeting the Lakers is far=fitched.

I have no idea, why Phil won't start Farmar or Brown at the PG position. We should look back at the Houston Rockets, when they had Sam Cassel and Kenny Smith. Kenny always started the game, but Sam would often finish it. Derrick should be coming off the bench, and playing all of the critical/end of game posessions.
It seems that Phil is satisified with getting nothing from the PG position. Why not play Fisher to his strenghts? which clearly is end of game/tough situations where we need him to hit a big shot. He can get ALL of those positions with 15 minutes per game!! This would also give Farmar/Brown an opportunity to truly show us what they can do.

Pau quit your whining and score some points, maybe hit your free throws too! Bynum, you show up to what, every other game?

This is amazing. There are 105 posts on this one and it seems like only 4 or 5 people actually read the whole story. Pau is right, more passes inside would have been good (even though he and AB couldn't hit a dunk at times). This can be directed at all of the outside players because they too got caught up in the Kobe scoring record. D. Fish is right; Kobe taking so many shots kills the chemistry because teammates quit playing and start watching. It's up to the other players to keep playing hard and making the cuts to get offensive/rebounding position.

Face it, when it looks like Kobe is going to take over a game, other players (UPS, AB, JF, and Fish) are a little afraid to give up the ball and move because they don't think there's a possibility of getting it back. So they either jack up a 3, try to drive on all the big guys and turn it over, or they stop and stand around.

Fish is only doing what a leader should do: making everyone pull their heads out and start thinking about doing their individual jobs the right way.

JR

This is amazing. There are 105 posts on this one and it seems like only 4 or 5 people actually read the whole story. Pau is right, more passes inside would have been good (even though he and AB couldn't hit a dunk at times). This can be directed at all of the outside players because they too got caught up in the Kobe scoring record. D. Fish is right; Kobe taking so many shots kills the chemistry because teammates quit playing and start watching. It's up to the other players to keep playing hard and making the cuts to get offensive/rebounding position.

Face it, when it looks like Kobe is going to take over a game, other players (UPS, AB, JF, and Fish) are a little afraid to give up the ball and move because they don't think there's a possibility of getting it back. So they either jack up a 3, try to drive on all the big guys and turn it over, or they stop and stand around.

Fish is only doing what a leader should do: making everyone pull their heads out and start thinking about doing their individual jobs the right way.

JR

Jeanette:

Love your post, especially:

Guess what, Kobe is now looking at Artest to help him win games. He knows that Ron is not afraid of big plays, ready to take responsibilty no matter what the outcome may be. To all of you who criticize Kobe, think of the 5 wins that would have 5 losses if not for him. I do not want any of Fisher, Gasol, Bynum to celebrate with Kobe when he makes another game winning shot.

That's real talk!

Another physical team in Charlotte. And watch Stephen jackson and first time All-Star Gerald Wallace demoralize our bigs by blocking their shot!

I have an idea..Over the summer, even though Ron is from my neighborhood in Queens, I proopose RonRon take Pau on a field trip to the hood. Go across the bridge and drop Pau off in BedStuy and let him chill there near the Marcy PJs (Public Housing Projects) basketball and handball courts on Halsey St and Thompkins and come back and get him later!

Pau needs to get hoodalized!

better yet, take him to the Rucker Park..one day at the park Pau would come back a changed MAN, hell, Pau would come back, A MAN!! lmfao..Lemme stop..love me some Pau just p'o'd at him!!

I wonder how different these comments would look today if Ron-Ron had drained the three.

As for everyone bagging on Pau late in games -- I seem to remember Shaq being less-than late. Worried that he might get fouled and have a fun-filled trip to the line.

That Memphis team is good, and getting better. We were at the end of a grueling road trip, coming off a huge win. And we still almost won.

I miss Pau's mid-range game. With folks flying out to either Kobe outside or Drew low, Pau can hit all those shorties. He should be the Mid-Ranger Rambler ...

Dang, that's a lot of comments MM, it must have been a heck of post. CONGRATS MM!

PS: Plaschke is NEVER right. I think that's the fourth law of thermodynamics.

The problem is simple- players not playing their roles. There is not one person on the Lakers squad who should speak while Kobe is talking. They should shut their mouth holes and follow their leader who happens to be the best player on the planet.

Derek Fisher is good for a hot 25 minutes of mediocre O and zero D (even though he reminds me of Big Shot Rob). Lamar Odoms has a split personality. He is as good as any player in the league, but most times you don't realize he's even in the game. What a WIMP! He gives away more three point plays than logically possible. Andrew Bynum is young and wet behind the ears. He needs to learn what AGGRESSION is and get his footwork right. He is no Kobe. Pau is a beast, but gets ate up on the defensive end by bigger bigs. Everbody else on the team could be replaced by ANY player in the leage.

Notice how Lebron and D-Wade's teammates play their roles, follow the leader, and supplement him. That's why it seems Lebron and Wade make their teammates better. They let them make them better.

If Laker support players follow Kobe's lead they would rarely ever lose. On the side, I believe Lamar Odom's jealousy of Kobe has rubbed off on the team.

I say trade everybody but Andrew and Pau!!!

Let's not criticizing Fish and just look at it from the technical stand-point. Go inside-out is the fundamental of the game. If you have skilled low post players, feed them the ball to draw fouls and open up the outside. Sure, Kobe is the man, but what people want to express is the fundamental of basketball.

It goes totally unsaid that the Lakers support players are absolute scrubs. How dare they say Kobe shoots too much??? They are mad because they lack the drive to be great, and I understand how that can be frustrating.

Stop wining and play ball, allow Kobe to be the point in the triangle, and win another championship; or, hate on Kobe, play a passive game, and lose.

Watch Chris Paul, Lebron, and D-Wade. Noone on their teams complain about them hogging the ball because they can see how it fits into the offense. The Lakers have the world misunderstood if they think they have anything other than an offense that centers around Kobe.

It must be hard to be The BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET!!! Keep doin what you're doing Kobe!!!

P.S. Why do you think Laker fans love Kobe so much? He plays how we want our team to play. Why do you think opposing fans shout M-V-P? Because the world knows what the Laker support players find hard to deal with.

It must be hard to be The BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET!!!

The heart, passion, and drive of the Lakers has been called into question. But notice- no one is quationing Kobe's heart, passion, or drive.

There is a problem in Lakerland and it is not Kobe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In Pau's comments, he never mentioned the turn overs and his inability into get a decent position. Though he deserves some credit for admitting that he and Bynum need to be more aggressive (though he didn't seem to have an answer as to how), it must be difficult for a player like Kobe to deal with guys that need to be reminded to be aggressive. Bynum readily admits that he needs touches often and early to get his confidence up. In my humble opinion, if he lacks confidence, he should stay in the locker room. He and everyone else on the team makes way too much money to need their confidence boosted every night. It also must be difficult for Kobe to constantly gauge when to take over and when to get the others involved. Either he shoots too much, or not enough. Yet, those criticisms are always based on the play (or lack thereof ) of the other players. Sunday's game lacked energy and intention. Only Kobe looked ready to play. Funny how that wasn't mentioned.

OK...so hmmm, let's see, so the Lakers have the 2nd best record in the NBA, but the sky is falling:

Gasol & Bynum complain about not enough touches. I have a remedy...don't play softer than drug store cotton. Go inside, stand ground...DEMAND THE BALL...and then do something with it when you get it.

Phil...cant say much, because when he takes Kobe out of the game, the Lakers' leads usually evaporate like teardrops falling on a hot skillet.

DFish...can make the statement because he is on the team for as much of his "presence" at this point as he is for his "game". But, more floor leadership would help.

Kobe...does ACTUALLY shoot too much, and in all honesty, and it's a double edge sword. Shoot too much and folks complain. Pass the ball and teammates botch it, and folks say he shouldnt trust his teammates. Take over too much, teammates stand around and watch. Try to get them involved, and often times finds the ball coming back with 4 or fewer seconds and HAS to jack up some wild shots. Sometimes those wild shots go in, sometimes they dont. So yes, he needs to find a balance. So does the team.

Artest...Looks like he might be starting to come around, finally. But let's revisit that thought in a month.

The "Bench Mob"...not such a scary bunch these days.

Now, here's what I find funny: Pau and Bynum have both complained about touches, but Pau came up shorter than Mini-me on his knees at the end of the Cavs loss...and in the Boston win, Bynum said, and I quote "The ball came to me and I was immediately like, 'what the hell'?...so I tossed it right back like a hot-potato".

Wow...that inspires a whole lotta confidence.

Bottom line is: The TEAM needs to play better. PERIOD. Stop laying blame, because they all share it. In looking back at the season...they have "given away" 6 losses...easy.

And the Lakers still have the 2nd best record in the league.

What Pau, Drew ,and Fish need to realize if they play better and harder the ball will find them. DFish needs to be on the bench, Farmer and Brown don't have problems getting their shots when they are playing. Pau wil take a pass from Kobe in the paint and try to create shots for Fish,Walton,Odom etc. If you're a scorer Pau just shoot the ball,quit being mad because your little brother outplayed you.

What Pau, Drew ,and Fish need to realize if they play better and harder the ball will find them. DFish needs to be on the bench, Farmer and Brown don't have problems getting their shots when they are playing. Pau wil take a pass from Kobe in the paint and try to create shots for Fish,Walton,Odom etc. If you're a scorer Pau just shoot the ball,quit being mad because your little brother outplayed you.

Quality sports reporting has gone the way of the dodo. It seems like the only questions the reporters asked Phil, Pau, and Derek related to how they felt about Kobe jacking up too many shots. Incredible! Sensationalism at its finest. The intent of the questioning was to create drama. Oh, look. Kobe's teammates are unhappy that Kobe's shooting too much. Oh, look. Phil's playing mind games to try to reign in Kobe's "Black Mamba" alter ego. Oh, look. The Lakers locker room is fraught with conflict once again. It's all quite ridiculous. Folks, there's nothing wrong with this team. We don't need to trade anyone. Kobe understands what the team needs to do to be successful. We don't need to start Jordan in place of Derek. Fisher does a very good job of setting the offensive tone in the first quarter. He hasn't shot a very high percentage this year, but that's OK. He doesn't need to. He is a step slower on defense, but he has been doing a pretty decent job of funneling the quicker point guards away from the middle and to the baseline...where another defender is supposed to seal off the baseline. That's the team defensive scheme that the Lakers have implemented. It's funny for me to hear people whine about how Fisher is too old/slow on defense when he forces his man to the baseline, no help arrives, and the guy makes a layup. That's a failure of the team defense, not Fisher in many cases. For the record, Pau and LO do a much better job of sealing the baseline than Drew does...although he is improving in this regard.

Byrant is a selfish, arrogant, spoilt little brat who considers himself God's gift to basketball!!!

(He's not, LeBron is!!)

Phil, please sit him down if he takes too many shots.

Mitch, please trade him so I can enjoy the Lakers again. We can get great players (team players!)for him!!

He's getting old anyway

I'm a die hard Lakers fan but I'm thoroughly sick of that ball hog Kobe

He bitches and whines when he didn't have good team mates.

He gets Pau. So what does he do? He takes all the shots!!


Lakerfan 71 - Let me just clarify one thing. The videos in this portion are all related to Kobe and the inside game because I edited together those portions. There were certainly other questions asked, as you can see from the latest post previewing Charlotte.

MM

i can take the comments from pau ang the zen master but from fisher? no way. hes playing horrible this season and should just shut up. Cant make proper play, shots, def? he should be coaching instead of playing to be honest.

yeah, thats right. kobe should pass the ball more to fisher's 35% FG @SS to win

@MM: OK. Thanks for clarifying that. It's hard to get a feel for how the interviews were conducted in their entirety. I guess I should have realized that the video clips were just small portions of the media sessions with the team. Fisher and Pau always seem quite composed when delivering answers. Phil gives his answers with measured diplomacy, although he can "bristle" when questions are phrased in a certain way (but that's just Phil being Phil). For the most part, I really like the video clips. Keep 'em coming! I'm still not sure why the press (and the fans apparently) are so fixated on whether Kobe is a ball hog. In any case, it definitely doesn't warrant a "crisis" label. It would have been interesting to see how Kobe would have answered the same questions. That could have gotten ugly. :-)

Ok people KILL me when they talk about Kobe taking too many shots, then turn around and dog him when he does pass the ball. It's a catch 22 for him. He can't win no matter what he does. The losses have NOTHING to do with how much or how little Kobe shoots its a LACK OF D BY HIS TEAMMATES! Pau needs to be quiet, he couldn't even take advantage of a 80% Kevin Garnett he has gone back to his finess game. He was a little tough at the end of last season. The only other consistent players on the team right now are Farmar, and Brown, Odom does his part when his shot is not falling he is grabbing rebounds. Artest needs to change his shoes, he wore different shoes in the Celtics game and had one of his best games this year. They need to trade Sasha and Morrison they need to be the shooting guards when Kobe sits and Morrison can't stay healthy and Sasha's shot has all but dissappeared I remember just 2 yrs ago he was deadly from 3pt range not anymore. That last Play against Memphis Kobe passed the ball to Artest who was by him self and he couldn't hit. Kobe passes when they are active and hitting shots. He doesn't when they miss and the guy HATES TO LOSE! My thing is don't dog Kobe for taking shots, Lebron has his moments when he doesn't pass either, but when he does his 2 guards hit the shot. You will see a VERY different Laker Team After ALLSTAR Break, and whom ever thinks Denver is going to beat the Lakers is just silly talk about taking shots Crymello Anthony does it ALL THE TIME and he is having an injury filled season.

 
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