To be sure, the Lakers have a bunch of problems. Dwight Howard has seen his usual dominating performances as the season progresses (18.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.6 bpg to this point), but his free throw woes have haunted the Lakers’ faithful (47% from the line so far). Then there’s the absence of Steve Nash to deal with. Mike D’Antoni’s “system”-if you want to glorify his sidelined yelling of “go, go, go!”-requires a guy like Nash at its helm. The two-time MVP is perhaps the team’s best fit for D’Antoni’s run-and-gun style of coaching.
To add on, Pau Gasol (one of the league’s top 5 forwards in his worst season as a Laker) is getting benched more often, World Peace is just about as unpredictable as ever, and the Lakers bench is still a rather nondescript collection of jersey-dawned question marks.
Kobe Bryant has been one of the team’s few bright spots. He’s averaging just over 27 ppg, with 5 apg and 5 rpg. “hot damn!”, right? Not quite. The fact is that the L.A Lakers are now 2-8 when Bryant scores over 25 points per game, and 6-1 when he scores under 25 per game.
It’s an interesting note when you consider a couple of things. First, Bryant’s production has arguably been the only thing keeping the Lakers within reaching distance of .500 (Along with Dwight and random contributions from some lesser Lakers). The other thing is that Bryant’s usage percentage (percent of offense a player accounts for in his time on the floor) has seen a slight downturn this year. The last two years have seen Bryant account for 35% of LA’s offense, he’s at 30% so far this year. Again, SO FAR.
With D’Antoni and the rest of the world proclaiming that Nash is all this team needs to cure itself of mediocrity, you’d think the Lakers might be looking at a less demanding Kobe Bryant. I speak for all of us when retorting with: “Naaaaaah”
With all that being said, that the Lakers’ pattern of losing so far coincides negatively with perhaps Bryant’s most efficient offensive year is interesting. The implications are many, but the bottom line remains unchanged: the Lakers are hurting.