Don’t blame Kobe for Lakers’ shortcomings

    Kobe Bryant did not go into the April 11 game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings aiming to bring his team down or to throw the game. Granted, Kobe took only one shot in the entire first half of the game, and ultimately finished the contest with a near career-low eight points in 40 minutes of floor time, it is ludicrous to suggest that Kobe was retaliating for comments about him hoarding the ball and taking too many shots made by teammates, as the media might have us think.

    Give the Kings some credit here, people. Kobe says he was double- and triple-teamed for most of that game, and essentially shut down by a seamless Sacramento defense. Why is this a surprise? Kobe went into the game as the fourth-ranked player in the NBA for points per game. If you were directing the Kings’ game plan, wouldn’t it be logical to eliminate the greatest threat? Sure, everyone expected him to come out red-hot and put in 30 highlight-reel-caliber shots, but the Kings did their job. Get off his back.

    The biggest question that I have after this game is, how can a 102-85 loss be attributed completely to Kobe’s lack of scoring? After all, there were four other Lakers on the floor for that whole game, and it’s not as though Kobe was holding the ball for the entire shot clock. He might not have been looking for shots as much, but he was certainly passing the ball much more than usual.

    If he was being double- and triple-teamed for the duration of the game, why are the other members of the Lakers who are left undefended not stepping up? The game against the Kings should have been an opportunity for every one of the other Lakers to be the hero, to make the highlight reels, and to show that the Lakers are not a one-dimensional force.

    Instead, a weakness has been exposed in the waning moments of the season, which will undoubtedly plague the Lakers in the playoffs. It is just because this game was the last chance for the Lakers to beat the Kings and gain an edge in the postseason seeding. It is just because the media frenzy surrounding the event may have left a rift in the team’s unity and cohesion. The problem will be confidence in the team as a whole.

    What will happen in the playoffs if every team that the Lakers face decides to double- and triple-team Kobe in the same way that the Kings did? Will the Lakers be able to balance their offense to compensate? Or will everyone look at Kobe and ask why he let them down?

    Kobe demonstrated in the April 13 Lakers victory over the Golden State Warriors that he is the same great player, regardless of whatever controversy has come up. The superstar drained 45 points in the 109-104 effort. How’s that for not trying?

    The bottom line is that Lakers fans and Southern California media commentators required a definite scapegoat when the Kings beat Phil Jackson’s squad. Face it, folks, the Kings outplayed the Lakers on April 11. Rather than accepting it, everyone has again made Kobe the focus of criticism when he deserves more credit than that. Kobe is only one link in a long chain of Lakers players and does not deserve the burden of fault in the Kings’ success. Besides, it’s not a rivalry until the Kings win a playoff series.

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