TORONTO — There’s so many fingers to point regarding to the Lakers’ ongoing struggles, but there’s not enough hands.
So in the wake of the Lakers’ 108-103 loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant asked that all the finger wagging aims directly at him.
“This way we don’t have to worry about that as a team,” Bryant said. “It’s my responsibility. I’ll take the arrows. That’s what we do best and playing together and trying to get out of this ditch. I’ve been through the and worse times than that. Let me go out there and focus on playing.”
Bryant tried focusing on that task against the Raptors, but to no avail.
He scored 26 points on only 10 of 32 shooting, including a 5 of 16 clip on jumpers. After his increased on-ball defending role led to quality performances against Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, Bryant allowed Toronto’s Jose Calderon to smoke him on a team-leading 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting.
Bryant attributed his bad game to “heavy legs” after playing 43 minutes, but vowed he will increase his treatment that entail ice baths, massages and elevating his legs. He then offered an unsolicited comment that could be interpreted many ways.
“This team needs me on both ends of the floor,” Bryant said. “So unless they’re going to do something roster wise, I have to continue to push through it.”
So does this mean Bryant believes the front office needs to make a move to help ease his burden?
“No,” Bryant quickly said. “Listen, if this is what we’re rolling with, I can’t make no excuses. I have to go out there and do my job. Tonight wasn’t good enough. I did okay defensively and played very well in pressuring the ball. But my offense was subpar in terms of missing easy shots. I have to do a better job putting that ball in the hole when the opportunities present itself.”
Still, doing that won’t completely solve the Lakers’ problems.
After all, Bryant has led the league in scoring this season, averaging 29.6 points per game on an efficient 46.8 percent clip. Even during those times, the Lakers have still managed to a 17-23 record with a 12th place standing in the Western Conference.
The Lakers’ loss, which gave the team a two-game losing streak, also featured other bad elements.
Dwight Howard only scored five points on 1 of 3 shooting after getting ejected late in the second half. The Lakers looked unorganized on defense, allowing Toronto to shoot 54.8 percent from the field because of open jumpers and drives to the basket. Toronto stormed out to an 11-2 run after the Lakers clearly looked uninterested in trying.
“We were lazy,” said Lakers guard Steve Nash, whose 16 points and nine assists and visit to his native Canada was soiled because of it. “We were cutting corners. Not an excuse at all. If anything, it’s a warning sign.”
Some of the Lakers showed signs they’re trying address that.
Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace talked extensively after the game in what looked to be an engaging and positive conversation. Afterwards, World Peace touted the importance of maintaining “positive energy,” while Gasol brought up the need to communicate better on defense.
Still, who knows what that will do. After all, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni repeatedly called timeouts throughout the game emphasizing the same concepts.
“There’s no words that we can change it around,” D’Antoni said. “It’s action.”
Bryant at least hopes his words accepting blame will spur the action needed to turn things around.
“This is what I do,” he said. “It’s on me. I can’t be missing those shots. It’s part of the responsibility of being a leader on the team is you have to take that. You got to take that.”