I love it when someone writes something that I have been thinking, as Craig Kwasniewski does about Kobe Bryant’s increased touches in the post:
With Kobe starting down low and clapping for the ball the whole 24 seconds there’s nobody left to stretch the defense. The upside to the Radmanovic trade last spring was unearthing the hidden gem in Shannon Brown but they lost their best perimeter shooter in the deal. Before this season, when Kobe attacked from the wing, the help side defense rotated over to the freethrow line extended creating weakside space for players like Odom to slash or post up. But with Kobe down low, defenses are packing it in (Houston did this all Sunday night) and the Lakers are left with non-perimeter shooters like Artest and especially Odom standing around with their hands up and defenses daring them to shoot.
Let’s take it one step further, when Jordan moved his game to the low post in the late 90’s the Bulls’ roster was loaded with quality mid-range shooters to stretch the defense. Guys like Luc Longley, Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr were dropping 8 to 12 points a night simply because they found the right areas to spot up in the Triangle Offense.
Kwasniewski hit the nail right on the head. Bryant spent much of the offseason working on his post game, and it’s clearly paying dividends. After struggling to maintain position early in his career, Bryant has become quite adept at holding his ground, then turning and uncorking a fadeaway jumper before help can arrive. Bryant is shooting 46.2 percent in the immediate basket area and has taken 22 percent of his attempts from that distance this season — compared to only 17 percent last season. He enters tonight’s contest against the Pistons averaging a league-best 30.1 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting. Solid marks for the 13th year pro and former league MVP, although it’s become increasingly obvious that the Lakers aren’t built for him to operate primarily on the low block.
We’ve been making comparisons between Bryant and Jordan for a decade now, and the parallels are striking. But here’s the interesting dynamic: Bryant has to be Jordan — and Pippen — for the Lakers to win another championship. L.A. needs Bryant to orchestrate their offense, plus stretch the floor with his outside shooting for the triangle to operate at peak efficiency. Their personnel dictates that Bryant play a dual role as scorer and facilitator. I’m sure the Laker offense, which has fallen to 18th in points scored per 100 possessions, will pick up when Pau Gasol returns, but I’m not convinced Gasol’s presence in the starting lineup will lead to more ball movement, or improved spacing as long as Bryant has a green light to dominate the post.