Analyzing The Anomalous: Kobe Bryant vs. Utah
No player best represents the flawed personality of an egotistical nut job quite like Kobe Bryant. For all the aesthetically pleasing movements that leave us breathless, there are three post game quotes that have us shaking our collective heads. Everyone believes at some point or another that the world revolves around them—that the obvious explanation for why the sky is gray is their own temporary sadness—but nobody comes close to relentlessly proving it as truth like Kobe. His quotes after this game were typical in that they assaulted common sense, and the astounding usage rate number here shows that.
”The shots he took, I’d give it to him again. I don’t know how many shots he missed near the rim – I mean, point-blank shots.” —Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown
Here are some indisputable numbers that contradict Brown’s public attempt at appeasement: 13 of Kobe’s shots were taken at least 10 feet from the basket, and two went in. Kobe went 1-7 from nine feet and in. He only attempted three shots at the rim and missed them all. Meanwhile Andrew Bynum, aka the Lakers most dominant player, missed just two shots, scored 33 points, and had a lower usage rate than Bryant. Something doesn’t fit with Brown’s assessment.
Kobe Bryant vs. Utah. Lakers lost 103-99. Kobe’s statistics: 37 minutes, 15 points (on 3-20 shooting), 38.2% usage rate, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 7 turnovers.
- Midway through the first quarter, Pau Gasol stood with the ball high on the left wing, preparing himself to feed a deeply-entrenched Andrew Bynum down low on the block. Instead of throwing it in, Gasol waited for a curling Kobe Bryant to loop around Bynum and up towards the ball. Upon seeing this, Bynum steps out of the post and re-positions himself to get an eventual rebound. For him, the exciting part of the possession is all but over. Kobe proceeds to clang a 30-foot jumper off the back iron. A couple plays later, he took a turn around jumper from the foul line that might have been his best look of the night. The shot pinballed around the rim before popping out.
- On one play, Kobe used a Pau Gasol screen to free himself from his man, and received a pass directly underneath the hoop. Instead of going up quick for the reverse lay up, he threw a weak pump fake, spun away from the basket, and fell short on an off-balance shot. Right idea here, and still a shot he can make, but watching this play I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kevin Garnett throwing up fakes on Joel Anthony in last year’s playoffs. It’s a quick snapshot of a one-time great player whose athleticism and confidence are clearly diminishing. You wouldn’t have seen this play from Kobe two years ago.
- Standing at the left elbow after a switch with Ramon Sessions, Kobe was given the ball with his back to the basket and a smaller defender on him. He managed a couple dribbles before a double team was sent from the weak side. Kobe’s rational? Why, to split it of course! (Mind you, this is being done with no dribble). Synergy describes what ensues as “No Play Type”, while Mike Brown probably references it as a “First Option”. The result was a wild lunge towards the basket and a missed layup that was contested by about three of Utah’s players at the rim. Boneheaded play.
- With 4:44 left in the second quarter, Bryant takes the ball across half court, gets a quick screen from Gasol, and fires a wide open three-pointer. It was his first basket of the game. Two possessions later he takes another three with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. It meets the side of the rim in an unpleasant manner and does not fall through the net.
- His next few shots were a contested jumper with the shot clock winding down, a running left-handed floater from about 10 feet away, and a turn around jumper from the wing that had Kobe spinning into a double team and letting the shot go anyway. None went in. His next three were either taken with none or one other Laker touching the ball on the possession before his shot went up. Again, none went in. The shots? Atrocious. Kobe’s countless achievements speak for themselves, and he’s hit more crowd-silencing shots than any current player, but that all happened when he was his team’s best offensive option. This isn’t an overreaction to one poor shooting performance, but more a declaration based on a season’s worth of empirical evidence: Andrew Bynum should the Lakers first option. In the confines of a single night’s work, there should be discipline and restraint placed on Kobe by the Lakers coaching staff when pretty much every shot he’s choosing to jack up is digging the hole a little deeper as opposed to finding a way out. There was no flow to his motion all night. The Lakers have not one, but two other highly dependable choices on offense, and yet the only apparent solution was Bryant getting a screen, taking one dribble, and shooting.
- Seven turnovers is never good. Kobe’s came by way of overly aggressive play, trying to prove himself (or a point) on an individual level as opposed to moving the ball out of a double team or continuing to attack one on one even though his man just poked the ball away and forced him 25 feet from the hoop with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. Much has been written this season about Kobe’s desire to get his as opposed to winning actual basketball games. I chose to ignore most of it, but this performance just goes to show how despite the five championships and thousands of made buckets, nothing matters in the game of basketball except the next play. Unfortunately, this is a truth Kobe Bryant chooses to ignore.