Five things that ensure Kobe Bryant a successful 2011-12 season
This is the first part of a series that focuses on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2011-12 season (assuming there is one, of course)
1. Have a solid relationship with Mike Brown. The coach's relationship with Kobe Bryant will largely determine whether Brown can convince everyone else to buy into his system. Bryant must not allow his frustration with the front office's failure to consult him to interfere with whether he buys into Brown's ideas.
2. Stay healthy. Regardless of whether his various procedures on his knee this summer will improve his health, Bryant must continue playing efficiently. He remains a dominant force, but he faces a limited shelf life. That's why it's critical that Bryant treat his shot selection, on- and off-ball movement and overall pacing more as though he's caring for a valuable classic car and less like he's driving a new one off the lot.
3. Iron out offensive disagreements with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Bryant is correct that Bynum's going to need to "fall in line" on wanting a larger offensive role. Bryant and Gasol still rightfully demand a larger portion of the offense's production. But the offense remained inconsistent last season, partly because of Bryant's tendency to do things on his own and partly because Gasol and Bynum didn't play aggressively enough to warrant touches. The three need to iron out their roles in a more precise fashion so the offense runs more fluidly.
4. Set an example on defense. Bryant preaches he takes the most pride on defense and that ingredient largely determines NBA championships. Those are just words. Bryant has infamously sagged back on defense in recent seasons and played the center-field position, leaving everyone else to cover for him. Part of that addresses Bryant's pacing. Doing that too much, though, hinders his credibility within the locker room when he criticizes the team's defense. With the Lakers' financial inability to upgrade drastically at point guard, Bryant might also need to slow down the opposing team's top guard.
5. Elevate co-captain's role. His role along with Derek Fisher will prove even more important because of the new coaching staff. Doing so would also enhance Fisher's value to the team since he's entering a season of fresh doubts as to whether he's fit for Brown's faster-paced offense.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo credit: Mark D. Smith / US Presswire / Feb. 27, 2011