The plan seemed pretty clear on how the Lakers would somehow stop the losing. Of course, it all started with Kobe Bryant.
“I’d like to put the ball in his hands more,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “See if he can be a little more of a facilitator.”
The Lakers soon saw the exact opposite in their 107-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday at Staples Center. Bryant posted 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting and four assists in 31 minutes, including 12 shots in the first 10 minutes.
“I was trying to get us off to a good start,” Bryant said.
Bryant was also trying to get his team off to a good ending. But that didn’t happen, either. He missed a 3-pointer as the Lakers trailed 95-90 with 3:39 remaining. He missed a jumper nearly two minutes later. Add all up, and second-year guard Jordan Clarkson scored more points (a team-leading 19) on much fewer shots (8-of-14).
Yet, Scott argued that Bryant “moved the ball,” considering he had four assists. Scott also refused to blame Bryant entirely for both his shooting inaccuracy and his shot selection considering the Lakers collectively shot 36.4 percent from the field.
“All of us, not just Kobe, everybody on the team needs to do a better job of trusting each other and moving the ball,” Scott said. “It gets stuck. Every shot we take is a challenge shot under duress. Until our guys trust each other, it’s going to be like that.”
It’s not surprising that Bryant attempted so many shots. That’s what has defined his prolific 20-year NBA career. But Bryant has recently said that he planned to scale back his shooting in hopes of expediting his younger teammate’s development. On Friday night, Bryant even argued that, “I can go out there and score 25 points or something like that. But what in the hell is that going to do for these guys? It’s not going to do a damn thing.” Hence, Bryant posted 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting, five assists and four rebounds in the Lakers’ loss to Toronto.
The Lakers’ 37-year-old star hardly duplicated the same approach against Portland.
“Kobe is going to be Kobe,” Lakers forward Nick Young said. “He’s been doing this for 20 years.”
And after doing this for 20 years, Bryant admitted he and his teammates are “pretty far” away from showing consistent ball movement.
“We have games we do much better and other games we don’t,” Bryant said. “It’ll be a constant process. It just happens. Growing up we’re used to having the ball and making plays.”