The gold medal quest in London is underway for Team USA. The men’s squad made it look all-too-easy in defeating a Tony Parker led French team by the score of 98-71 in the early morning hours here on the West Coast. After a few exhibition contests leading up to the opening tip in London and continuing in the Olympic opener today it is very obvious that Kobe Bryant is not a focal point of Team USA’s offense.
Sure, Bryant is still going to be involved. You’ll never catch KB10 (The Olympic edition) playing the role of decoy only. Bryant is a born competitor that can still compete at the highest level of hoops. All due respect to the Olympic Games but even a gold medal game has got nothing on a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
Bryant has been there and done that on all fronts in the game of basketball. Even his reduced Olympic role is nothing too new. We saw something similar last time out in Beijing 4 years ago as Mamba waited patiently choosing to strike when the stakes were highest against Spain in with Olympic gold on the line.
This time around Bryant is being pushed even further into the background. Kobe clocked just 12 minutes of court time against France this morning. A clear indication that his legs are being saved for more meaningful moments but also showing how a reduced role can benefit the entire team.
Mike Brown and his coaching staff should be taking note and Bryant had better be paying attention as well. The Lakers, nor any NBA squad for that matter, is as loaded as Team USA. So asking Bryant to trust Devin Ebanks the same way he does Kevin Durant is foolish.
However seeing Bryant take a step back now that he’s got Steve Nash to run the show while allowing Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to get more touches in the paint will benefit everyone involved with the Lake Show as the ball moves more freely. For years Bryant has been the alpha and omega of the Lakers’ offense. That doesn’t need to be the case anymore.
Let’s not fool ourselves though. A reduced role for Kobe might mean taking one less shot a night while playing two less minutes. Even with only an NBA quarter’s worth of burn against France Bryant still put double digits in the box score scoring 10 on 6 shots. Some things will never change.
None the less the Olympic experience in London should help provide a bit of a blueprint for how Bryant and the Lakers can benefit from a reinvented role for Mamba. Of course if there are any close contests in London you better believe Bryant will be calling for the ball. Some things will never change.