So far we have seen a much more efficient Kobe. His improved shot selection and shooting percentage started in the preseason (one of the few bright spots) and has continued four games into the season. The downside is we are seeing too much of Kobe on the floor as far as minutes.
Besides the importance of having consistent time on the bench per game for his overall health, it is important right now for his injury. The high number of minutes is not helping his injured foot, which Kobe described as “about to fall off” after Friday night’s loss where he played 43 minutes. I am not a doctor, but I don’t believe that is how a foot should feel.
Here’s a look at Bryant’s averages so far this season.
PER: 21.70 (28.24 first three games)
The bad news is that his minutes most likely won’t go down much during Nash’s absence, especially if they return to their performances displayed during the first three games. The Lakers are simply not in tune or in sync with the new offensive system yet. Therefore, Bryant will be forced to remain on the floor to generate offense. What makes matters worse is that the reserves for Bryant have not been effective during their time on the floor.
Brown has gone to Devin Ebanks (2.5 ppg in 11 minutes) for most of the games so far, which is a bit confusing to me and I know I’m not alone in this. I cannot give you an answer to why Brown hasn’t subbed in Jodie Meeks (1.5 ppg in 5.5 minutes) for Kobe on a consistent basis unless there has been significant change from him during practice.
To honest, the still unsettled rotations that Brown has used is the most perplexing and frustrating aspect for me this season. Last year, unset rotations were a consistent conflict for the Lakers and I honestly thought that would change given a full training camp and preseason this year.
With the Lakers trying to learn and perform under a new offensive system without their general (Nash) on the floor orchestrating the offense, Kobe will have a lot of that old pressure back on his shoulders. Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace must continue to step up their performances as they did on Sunday (combined for 60 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks) to help Kobe cover the absence of Nash. Blake, Duhon and Morris must do an adequate job collectively at the point guard position.
Kobe and most of the other starters went to the bench with a few minutes remaining in the third on Sunday and it appeared they were calling it a night. The second unit failed to maintain the lead and in came Kobe and the other starters to rescue them. Kobe, Pau and Dwight in particular need to rest and therefore the reserves must improve.
Winning games at all costs seems to be a priority for Brown, who is arguably in the hot seat. I agree that winning needs to happen to help the mood around Laker camp and to hopefully build momentum, but with an already ailing Kobe Bryant, his minutes must be managed carefully not only for right now, but for long-term ramifications. With Nash out and more responsibility in Kobe’s hands, doing so multiplies in importance.