When the Lakers beat the Timberwolves last night, ESPN, NBA.com, and the Twitterverse were all abuzz about how great Kobe was. And don't get me wrong, Kobe was good last night; it's always impressive when a shooting guard snags as many rebounds as the other team's star power forward. But I'm definitely going to have to agree with Stop-n-Pop on this one:
Despite what your memory may tell you about Kobe Bean Bryant's late-game "heroics", Mike Brown and the Lakers did their damnedest to hand this game to the Wolves. It was obvious from very early on that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum could get whatever they wanted whenever they wanted against the Kevin Love/Nikola Pekovic front line. Instead of sticking with this very clear strategy (Mike Brown has recently stated that he wants to move Pau around throughout the game to keep opponents "guessing"), the Lakers saw Kobe jack up nearly 30 shots for his 35 points. On a night where Pau had 28 points on 15 shots and Bynum 21 on 14 and when the Wolves had no option but to run out the stick figure Anthony Randolph against the titan Bynum....well, again, it's pretty hard to think of a way that the Lakers could have played this that would have made it harder for the Wolves to climb back into things, even on a terrible shooting night.
My goodness, if there's a Most Increased Selfishness award this season, Kobe's going to win it. You know what was happening a lot during that pivotal 18-point comeback? Andrew Bynum was sitting on the bench a lot and Kobe was shooting a lot. The box score doesn't really do justice to how much Bynum was dominating people inside, throwing his weight around and wreaking havoc (as evidenced by his 7 FTAs on 14 FGAs vs. Kobe's 2 FTAs on 29 FGAs). And the next time the Wolves and the Lakers meet, if you guarantee me that Kobe will put up 29 shots and that Pau and Bynum will combine for 29 shots, I'll take the Wolves by 7, because Kobe won't go 5-for-9 from downtown very often.
I'm not a Kobe hater (although, honestly, I might become one by the end of the year if he keeps this up). I'm saying Kobe could be so much better if he'd use his ability to beat his defender to pass the ball when the help defense collapses on him. Yes, I know he's above average in assists. He could easily increase those assists. As a coach, the players I always hated trying to motivate were the ones who were satisfied with being "good".
Right now, Kobe is good. He could be great. And from an a standpoint of athleticism and skill, it's truly impressive the numbers he is putting up when every team is just throwing defenders at him. But individual accomplishments do not win games. Basketball isn't diving. Style points aren't worth shit.