It was quite a night to remember as the Lakers beat the number one team in the Western Conference, the mighty Golden State Warriors 115 to 105 and without their star player, Kobe Bryant.
Kobe was not even in the Staples Centre as he was probably resting at home, but expectations were that the Lakers was going to be slaughtered by the sharpshooting skills of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. To everyone surprise that did not happen as the Lakers dominated the Warriors for most of the game with lead as high as 24 points. In the end, Head coach of the Warriors, Steve Kerr said that “They kicked our ass. They were much better than we were.”
The Lakers were definitely a different team as they ran the floor on both ends, being offensive and defensive as if they were the number one team in the west. Everyone was involved in the game, there was ball movement and the level of play was intense and Lakers fans were loving it. The fans didn’t have too much to cheer about this season, but tonight was special as the players gave them an early Christmas present.
This begs the question, “Do the Lakers need Kobe Bryant?” With Kobe on the floor, the game slows down and he takes too many shots and ball movement is pretty much dead. His teammates seem to be looking at him play instead of playing with him. They all try to cater to the way Kobe plays instead of natural rhythm and everything gets bogged down when this happens.
When the loss is mounting for the Lakers, Kobe takes it upon himself to try to do even more, but instead of helping his team, he actually compounds the problem by playing more of his isolation game and taking more low percentage shots.
Kobe at 36 years old and 19 years in the league needs to play a different role as a true team leader. He simply does not have the legs or energy to play at a high-intensity level consistently. It does not help that Byron Scott defends Kobe at every turn despite his poor performance making excuses for him.
As the Lakers standing at 9 and 19 (W-L), Byron Scott is finally taking a step in the right direction by realizing he has to use Kobe Bryant effectively and efficiently instead of allowing Kobe to play more minutes than he can handle. Byron has to remember he is the coach, not Kobe and he should be deciding what is in the best interest of the team.
If Kobe is having a bad night scoring, the last shot should not always go to Kobe, there are other options in Jeremy Lin and Nick Young, both proven to be clutch in their own rights. Give them the ball and let see what happens.
In order for the Lakers to make the playoffs, Kobe Bryant has to take on a new role as a true leader and mentor for the young Lakers. He has to be forcefully but encouraging at the same time. If he can find that balance the Lakers can become a much better team as they have demonstrated that they can beat top elite teams such as the Spurs, Raptors, and Warriors.
There should be no doubt that Kobe is still needed on this team because there are certain things that only Kobe can do whether it is drawing double or triple defense on the offensive end and freeing his teammates for the easy buckets or taking that last game-winning shot when he is hot.