Mike Brown sees Kobe Bryant's scoring as short-term fix
Game after game, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant proves the injuries and heavy basketball mileage he's accumulated no longer hinder his ability to score.
But as Bryant has scored at least 40 points in four consecutive games, Coach Mike Brown's hope of having a more balanced offense has been delayed.
"I'm telling them that it's a short-term thing for our team," Brown said Monday before the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. "Long-term, I have to have other guys, whether it's inside or outside, step up and be able to help our team score. I have to put them in better position to score and they have to step up and want to do it."
Brown wouldn't say whether this puts the responsibility more on Bryant to involve his teammates, or on his teammates to elevate their play. Or perhaps both. Regardless, Brown's comments appear to deviate from his statement Saturday after the Lakers' 102-94 loss to the Clippers that "there's no downside of having a guy that good."
Clearly, Bryant's high scoring rate is a double-edged sword, yet it's not entirely his fault. Of course, there was no justification for his six-for-28 shooting in the Lakers' 99-90 loss at Denver on New Year's Day, a game in which Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 38 points on 15-for-27 shooting. But during his string of 40-point games, neither Bynum nor Gasol has looked aggressive in establishing post position.
Forward Matt Barnes has provided some support for Bryant with his constant off-the-ball movement and ability to score hustle points. But that's hardly extended to Derek Fisher, whose distribution skills haven't offset his declining speed and shooting stroke. The reserves also remain unpredictable for a variety of reasons.
Among them: Brown's frequent substitutions, Steve Blake's rib-sternum injury, Josh McRoberts' sprained left big toe, Metta World Peace's inconsistency, Devin Ebanks' demotion to the bench, Troy Murphy's lack of speed, the steep learning curve of rookie guards Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock, and a lack of quality play from Goudelock and Jason Kapono in relief of Bryant.
"You have to keep searching so you can help guys find their rhythm," Brown said. "Right now, I haven't done a good job with it."
The numbers aren't pretty.
The Lakers rank 13th in scoring (94.71). Their bench ranks 19th at 27.7 points per game. And they remain last in three-point shooting (25.7%). Consider the difference between what Brown considers the ideal Lakers box score and the actual scoring averages for Bryant (32.0, vs. Brown's preferred 25), Bynum (16.4, 22), Gasol (16.4, 20), Fisher (4.3, 12) and World Peace (5.6, 15)
'Kobe can average 40 points a game if he wants to," Brown said. "There's no doubt in my mind about it, but we have to do a better job and he has to do a better job starting with me in letting others help him."
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant brings the ball upcourt in transition as Coach Mike Brown follows the play in a game against the New York Knicks last week. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA / December 30, 2011