Kobe Bryant has missed nearly every shot he takes. Bryant has missed nearly every practice and morning shootaround. Bryant has missed three games because of concerns surrounding both a sore back and fatigue.
Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott maintained that he has not considering adjusting Bryant’s role or his minutes in hopes to jumpstart both the Lakers (2-11) and Bryant’s play.
“The last few days he said he feels great,” Scott said following Wednesday’s practice at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. It’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Bryant’s’ shot has been more than off. The Lakers’ 37-year-old star has averaged 15.2 points per game while shooting 31.1% from the field and 19.5% from three-point range in 30.5 minute per game. In the Lakers loss to Golden State on Tuesday, Bryant posted only four points on a 1-of-14 clip and 1-of-7 mark from 3-point range. But instead of calling for Bryant to decrease his shooting, Scott has echoed Bryant’s contention that he needs help to ensure better looks.
Instead of taking the majority of his shots from behind the perimeter, Bryant said on Tuesday night he would like to receive more off-ball screens off pin downs as well as better floor spacing for catch-and-shoot opportunities.
“We have to have better spacing and set better screens,” said Scott, who praised center Roy Hibbert, while asking more from forwards Julius Randle and Brandon Bass. “Our space and our execution and our young people have to be patient as well. But our bigs have to do a much better job of setting screes and our guys have to do a better job of setting people up.”
Scott maintained he does not need to fix his Princeton-based offense to ensure those looks. Instead, Scott argued “we just have to do a better job of executing.” But Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell suggested otherwise.
“That would be great. I control what I can control,” Russell said. “I’m not setting a wide pindown for him. If I could, I would. It’s more within the system. If the system lets us do stuff like that, it’ll definitely happen.”
Perhaps easier said than done.
During part of Wednesday’s two-hour practice, Scott said “we talked about that today for a little bit” about ensuring better ball movement. But Russell said Scott did not address how to ensure easier shots for Bryant. Lakers forward Nick Young added that no one has ever addressed to Bryant this season about his role in the team’s offense despite leading the team with 16.4 field-goal attempts per game.
“It’s hard to talk somebody who’s a five-year champ,” Young said. “You don’t want to step on his toes. I think he knows the game well and he knows what he’s doing out there. But at some point, it has to click for us.”
In fairness to Bryant, the Lakers also have other ball-dominant guards. Jordan Clarkson have averaged 14.9 points on 12.7 field-goal attempts per game. Young has shot only 41.1 percent from the field, while Lou Williams has gone 35.1 percent from the field.
“A lot of one on one players, including myself. That’s one of the major parts of why our offense is so stagnant,” Young said. “Even though we’re losing, we have to find some joy in sharing the ball and making shots and playing defense and getting out there and having fun. It starts in practice. IT starts with trusting each other. That’s where it starts in practice really.
But Bryant did not practice on Wednesday so he could rest and receive treatment, a customary routine to ensure he stays healthy after having three season-ending injuries in consecutive seasons. Amid Bryant’s absence and his teammates’ collective inexperience, Scott conceded trying to find the right combination is probably the tricky part.” But even if his shots have not gone in, Scott still maintained, “I’m letting [Kobe] try to find it for himself.”
“I’m not so much worried about Kobe,” Scott said. “I am concerned about his shooting percentage. But knowing him the way I know him and how long he’s played int his league, I;m not worried about him finding it.”