We’re about one-fourth of the way through this NBA season, and if you’re a Lakers fan, and more importantly Kobe Bryant fan, you have been heartbroken, frustrated, and also fed up with the play of our 20-year superstar. Kobe Bryant is averaging career lows since his rookie year in FG% at 31.1, 3PT% at 19.5, TS% at a horrific 41.5, and PER which is at 10.2, well below the league average of 15. The Lakers faced the Warriors before Thanksgiving on Tuesday, and the world got to witness Kobe have his worst game as a professional basketball player on national TV. Bryant shot 1-14 from the field overall, 1-7 from 3PT land, shot numerous air balls, and just looked old, honestly.
After the game, it was curious to see how Coach Scott would handle the workload and minutes of his longtime buddy. Kobe has already missed games due to injury, has said he can ‘barely walk’ after some games, and most recently, Bryant can’t put the ball in the hoop. At 37 years old and coming off two season-ending injuries, it is almost insane to see the workload and minutes Kobe Bryant is logging every single game. Behind only Jordan Clarkson, Kobe leads the team in minutes played per game.
Before the season even began, Coach Byron Scott preached minute management for Kobe in order to keep him fresh, healthy, and as consistent as possible. It is clear that plan has gone out the window. The Lakers had their first game of a back-to-back on Saturday vs. Portland. Kobe played 20 minutes in the first half alone, and finished with 21 points on 7-20 shooting in 34 minutes of play. Despite Kobe shooting 35% from the field and just 20% from three-point land, Byron still insisted that he “looked good and played well.” Scott also added his young backcourt made “a ton of mistakes” despite Clarkson and Russell clearly having better, more efficient games than Bryant. Russell had 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. With a true-shooting percentage of 69.9 percent. Clarkson finished with 19 points, four assists, three rebounds, and four steals with a true-shooting percentage of 61.5%.
Scott’s dismissiveness of Bryant’s constant poor play is concerning, to say the least. Bryant has now begun getting sympathy from other NBA players around the league due to his poor play. The failure to adjust the game plan and offense to get Kobe easier, closer looks is unbelievable. He averaging seven three-point attempts per game and is only making 19% of them (A career low). That calls for an adjustment. Byron Scott has stood firm on his belief that Kobe is struggling due to timing, not legs. However, on Saturday night against Portland, Bryant said “My legs aren’t what they use to be” during post game interviews.
Look at other veteran players like Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, even Paul Pierce. They’re still productive, efficient, and relatively healthy. This is due to good coaching schemes, game planning to their strengths, and knowing when to rest them. Byron Scott seemingly lets Kobe have free reign over his playing time, game availability, and how much he’ll be involved in the offense. With Scott recently saying, “There’s no way I’d bench Kobe due to poor play or inefficiency” it’s clear Kobe is calling those shots, which is doing nothing but hurting the hall of fame shooting guard.
Coming into this season, we fans wanted to see glimpses of the Kobe Bryant pre-Achilles injury. However, with Scott playing him heavy minutes, constantly dismissing his poor play, and essentially letting Kobe do whatever he chooses, we might not see Kobe Bryant play 65 games this year. As a coach, you have to do what is best for your star player, for the team, and for the health of the players. I believe Kobe’s worst enemy is Byron due to Scott continually letting this happen. Kobe is repeatedly struggling on both ends, which not only makes Kobe look bad, it makes the entire team look bad. The lack of accountability coach Scott puts on Bryant is terrible and discouraging. If this continues and Kobe doesn’t get called out for his atrocious play, Bryant will retire being arguably the worst NBA player — statistically speaking — this season. That’s something that none of us thought would be a possibility coming into this season.
It is time for Byron to “man up”, make changes, and adjust his game plan when it comes to Bryant before it is too late.
Bryant announcing that he’ll be retiring after this season should put a new focus on Byron Scott and the Lakers’ organization as a whole. The goal should be keeping Kobe Bryant healthy enough to play in as many games possible, including the final game in April vs. Utah. If Byron continues to play Bryant these heavy minutes, I highly doubt we’ll see Kobe suiting up for his final game in a Lakers uniform.