Kobe's FGAsKobe Bryant is regularly attempting 30-plus field goals a game now, drawing the wrath of the studio analysts on TNT and ESPN. TNT ran a graphic indicating that Kobe has had more 30-plus FGA games this season than studio analysts Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith had in their careers. A moment of comedy ensued when Barkley asserted that anyone who attempts 30 shots in a game is hurting his team and that he never took 30 shots in a game during his career; of course, host Ernie Johnson then immediately pointed out that Barkley did have a few 30-plus FGA games in his career. A larger point (no pun intended) about Barkley's shooting was not mentioned: the Chuckster launched 2020 three pointers during his career, connecting at a .266 rate. Some of those were surely end of the quarter half court heaves, particularly early in his career when the three pointer was not a regular part of most teams' offenses; still, I'd be interested to know how exactly Barkley was helping his team with his bombs away approach from the perimeter.
The issue is not how many shots Kobe attempts but rather the quality of those shots. He is at his best when he posts up, drives to the hoop or attempts a mid-range jump shot after the Lakers run the triangle offense. The problem is that most of the Lakers do not yet completely understand how to run the triangle offense, upsetting the precise rhythm that is essential for that system to work. Sometimes this results in Kobe receiving the ball late in the shot clock with few good options. Other times the opponent's defense ignores Kobe's confused teammates and simply converges on Kobe; Kobe sometimes forces shots in that situation rather than passing the ball. I used to play some pickup basketball with Dale DeGroat (a member of the musical group Zapp) and he had a perfect way of describing what Kobe is thinking in those situations: "I can do bad by myself." In other words, Kobe has seen his teammates miss shots, fumble the ball out of bounds and not know where they are supposed to be on the floor. Even when multiple defenders converge on him, Kobe figures that he has at least as good a chance of scoring as his teammates do.
The worst thing that Kobe is doing now is shooting pull-up three pointers in transition early in the shot clock; these are low percentage shots that the Lakers have little opportunity to rebound if they miss. This is another instance of "I can do bad by myself" thinking. Kobe figures that the offense is going to break down anyway, possibly leaving him facing a double-team as the shot clock winds down, so he would rather take a deep shot against one defender early in the shot clock. If he would drive to the hoop in those situations or have enough confidence in his teammates to run the offense, his field goal percentage would rise.
The assertion that Kobe is selfish ignores the fact that Kobe served as the primary facilitator in the triangle offense on three championship teams. Someone once did a study that showed that more of Shaq's assisted field goals came on passes from Kobe than from any other Laker. Remember the lob from Kobe to Shaq that punctuated the Lakers' dramatic seventh game win against the Portland Trailblazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals? The problem with the Lakers is not Kobe's FGAs but the steep learning curve that the rest of the team is experiencing with the triangle offense--and a lack of consistency on defense. Last night Kobe shot 9-16 from the field and had nine rebounds and eight assists, but the Lakers squandered an 18 point lead, surrendering 39 points in the fourth quarter to lose 113-108 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kobe's inflated FGA totals are a result of the Lakers's struggles, not the cause of them.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:55 PM