Byron Scott was hired to bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to championship contenders, but it was never intended to happen this season.
Byron has been an average coach in terms of career winning percentage, but his strong connection with Kobe Bryant and ties to Lakers past won him the job. Saddled with a lackluster roster and an aging Kobe, the Lakers haven’t proven any critics wrong. The Lakers continue to inch closer to a lottery pick than playoff contention.
Losing was expected, yet there is one move that can severely alter the Lakers present and future: reducing Kobe’s minutes.
Whether you believe Kobe Bryant is the Lakers best player at age 36, no NBA player should be logging the minutes Bryant is especially coming off two major, career-threatening injuries. Kobe is not going to take himself out of games, even if he’s struggling. The same stubborn, confidence that got him five championship rings still resides inside him. As much as naysayers bash him for shooting too much, it’s hard to criticize Bryant’s nightly effort on the court. If his teammates played as hard as Kobe does, they’d win more games.
Knowing Kobe is stuck in his ways, there is only one man who can save the Lakers: Byron Scott.
Here are three benefits to reducing Kobe’s minutes:
1) Rest. Kobe needs it. Consider resting Kobe from time-to-time similar to what Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs do. Kobe commented that he feels bad sitting out games when fans pay their hard-earned money to watch him. But when has Kobe cared what others think? The wear and tear he’s accrued over a 19-year career in the league cannot recover without the proper rest. Sitting Kobe would give Byron a chance to see his system run without Bryant dictating the flow. San Antonio gives the blueprint for the argument, the system is bigger than any one player. In the long run, this prepares the Lakers for life after Kobe.
2) Reduce. The obvious choice is to sit Kobe out, but a modification is to stick to a minutes restriction which was discussed prior to the season starting. The “number” Byron mentioned hovered between 30 – 40 minutes a game, but if Kobe’s minutes are held closer to 30, he wouldn’t need to take games off. There have been several instances where the Lakers create synergy with Bryant off the floor and when rested a rejuvenated Kobe has the legs to take less-contested shots. Nick Young, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis are having career years and with less reliance on Kobe, they would be forced to execute at a higher level consistently. Young is willing to shoulder Kobe’s load while he’s resting and at this point in his career, Swaggy P has the ability to get his shot off as well, if not better than Bryant. The Lakers may be less talented without Kobe on the floor, but the young players need opportunities to shine. Imagine if Kobe played closer to 30 minutes versus 40 minutes. How much more efficient could he be? Reducing Kobe’s minutes is the only sure way to reduce the amount of poor shots he attempts.
3) Recruit. This season for the Lakers is all about laying the foundation for 2015 and beyond. When opposing teams and players see the Lakers function without Kobe on the floor, it gives free agents a clear picture of what joining the Lakers will be like. It’s obvious Kobe needs help, but when he’s left out there fatigued and jacks up contested shots, it sends the message that he’s in charge. Who wants to be a part of a team where one player holds all the power? If Byron Scott corrals Kobe’s minutes by giving other players the chance to perform, it significantly improves the chances of superstars wanting to join the purple and gold. If the Lakers decline to make any trades and the current roster is intact at end the season, the Lakers have shot themselves in the foot when it comes to free agency. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and expecting different results. If Byron continues to play Kobe big minutes, the Lakers will continue to lose games.
There are a lot of holes on this team, but they can be patched up with balancing playing for the present while preparing for the future. Byron Scott has the power to reduce Kobe’s minutes, developing the current talent and extending Bryant’s career.
Do the right thing Byron. Give Kobe some rest.
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