Kobe's best role?
Passing role isn't sustainable
I love the #KobeJohnson hashtag on Twitter as much as the next person. And I have enjoyed watching the brand of basketball the Lakers have been playing the past few games with Kobe Bryant moving into the facilitator role and running Mike D'Antoni's system like Colin Kaepernick runs the read-option for the 49ers. But at some point, defenses will adjust. And in some games -- like the Lakers' loss in Phoenix on Wednesday -- the Lakers will miss so many outside shots that Kobe will have to go back to carrying the scoring load.
In other words, Kobe Johnson is a nice alter ego who can help right the ship. But to really maximize their potential, the Lakers still need Kobe Bryant to show up from time to time.
Yes, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are talented enough to carry the Lakers' offense if Kobe Johnson were to score half as many points as Kobe Bryant. But I just don't think that's the most effective way for the Lakers to play, nor is it the most sustainable.
Other teams are going to take it away by double-teaming Kobe and trying to force the ball out of his hands early in the possession. Not every night, but enough nights so that the Lakers can't simply rely on this tweak to solve all of their problems.
In a lot of ways, the Kobe Johnson persona evolved as a way of settling things. Of helping the Lakers to stabilize, then cohere and start playing the right way. Now that they've done it a few games, some muscle memory can develop and it won't always be so necessary for one of the best scorers in the game to change his stripes.
Trust in team is key
We've all seen Kobe Bryant play the role of the unstoppable scorer. He was leading the league in scoring as the Lakers started the season 17-25. He was also the league's scoring champion when the Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007.
The Lakers are at their best when Bryant is more of a facilitator than a scorer. They finally look like the contender we thought they were in the offseason when Bryant looks for his shot while also getting Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison involved.
This isn't to say Bryant shouldn't look for his shot and score when the opportunity presents itself, but he shouldn't be shooting more than 20 times. He needs to trust his teammates and get them the ball and the touches they've been asking for.
During the Lakers' recent three-game winning streak, which included a signature win over Oklahoma City, Bryant had 39 assists and 26 rebounds to go along with 49 points. Nash compared Bryant to Magic Johnson and Bryant said he was intent on being the best point guard in this new system.
Despite the Lakers' loss to Phoenix on Wednesday, nothing about Bryant's new role as a facilitator should change. Bryant had 17 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds as the Lakers held a 13-point lead with 9:35 left in their game against the Suns. Howard then aggravated his torn right labrum and everything fell apart.
If Howard is forced to miss any time with his injury, Bryant may be forced back into his old role, but as long as the Lakers are healthy and at full strength, their best chance for success moving forward is for Bryant to continue playing the role of facilitator.