Two big stories came out of Monday's loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis. The first involved Kobe Bryant and a lofty spot in Lakers history. The second, and more important in a practical, day-to-day sense, surrounded postgame comments from Pau Gasol about the lack of balance in the offense on a night where he and Andrew Bynum combined for 10 shots while Kobe took 28, nearly 40% of L.A.'s total.
After practice Tuesday afternoon in El Segundo, Gasol was careful not to call out Bryant or lay blame for the loss at his feet, but reiterated his belief in the need to create a more egalitarian distribution of touches, and particularly to exploit the team's strengths in the post.
"As a team, not just (Kobe), we have to make sure we understand what we want to get accomplished on the offensive end, execute, get everybody involved. That will give us rhythm, flow. And at the end of the game, we're all going to be ready to make plays... He understands the game as much as anybody. We just have to understand that as a group. As a team, a coaching staff, player by player, what it takes for us to play good basketball out there, and that is going to reflect on winning, I think."
Gasol noted the bigs need to do their share, too. "You can always, when you don't think you're getting the looks you might want, you should work more on the opposite side and try to get your look there, so yeah, it's on us, too. We've got to take responsibility, and try to be more demanding and more aggressive."
Still, the paint needs to be a priority. "Andrew and myself, I think we're two very good post players. I think that's been proven plenty of times, and we can be very effective. Basketball is a game that when you work it inside-out, it becomes a lot easier for everybody else. We can be very, very effective, and we've proven that as a team, too, by doing that," he said.
"It's not about fewer shots or more shots or less shots. It's frustrating because we lost. It's the losing part that affects me."
Derek Fisher agreed the Lakers- Kobe very much included- didn't do a good job promoting the type of balance best allowing them to thrive.
"(Monday) night, we had 73 total shots, and however you distribute those, if we play nine or 10 guys that's not enough shots to go around. I think you always know that Kobe's going to lead in shot attempts, but the percentage of that has to kind of balance out. When you think of him having 28 shot attempts last night out of 73 total, that percentage is not enough for our team to have the balance that we need to have," he said. "Sometimes when we get caught up when we play a team we think wants to run, we try to pace the game, slow it down a bit, and have it be a little more our ace. Sometimes it works against us, because we don't get out into the open floor, get some easy baskets, and make sure that everyone's getting a chance to touch (the ball)."
"Inside-outside," Fish said, "we're always better. No question about it."
Fisher understands better than perhaps any other player in the league both the challenges and rewards playing with Kobe presents, and from the moment he returned for his second stint in L.A. spoke of a responsibility to teach younger players how to "protect their space" on the floor with 24. Fish spoke at length on the issue today, some of which is noted in the quote above, the rest of which is contained in this nifty piece of audio.
Bottom line, he says, everyone plays a role. Kobe has a duty to keep his teammates engaged, they have a duty to stay engaged and find other ways to contribute even through those moments when Bryant is more dominant in the offense. How well all parties actually make that happen seems to vary from night to night.
I've always advocated a healthier sense of proportion in the offense. It makes the team better, it makes Kobe better, since the opposition can't overplay him without severe penalty. This season more than last, equilibrium has been lost. The harmony Kobe was able to strike so consistently last year hasn't quite been there in '09-'10. Gasol's hamstring injuries have played a role, messing with the team's offensive continuity, as has the integration of Ron Artest. Kobe's finger fracture, which prevents him from handling the ball and creating as effectively as he'd like, is also a problem. I think there are times when Kobe shoots not just because he thinks it's the best opportunity, but instead as part of a constant effort to find and keep his touch since his mechanics are forced to change so frequently.
It serves as an in-game distraction to himself. It's a fairly delicate juggling act Bryant must perform and it doesn't take much to throw things off-kilter. That which makes him so great also can occasionally cause problems. Nobody would trade the former to lose the latter.
Andy and I will have much more on this in our new PodKast, which should be posted early Wednesday. In the meantime, here's the Cliff's Notes version: Don't expect this to fester into some major, locker room-shredding problem. Gasol didn't express anything Monday he hadn't multiple times before.
I think it's a good thing, too, that nobody backed off his comments. It's difficult for players to stick up for themselves on the court if they won't off it.
Kobe, just as a housekeeping matter, wasn't available to the media Tuesday afternoon.