There are a lot of question marks for the upcoming Laker team. Who will be the coach? Who will be on the roster? Who will the Lakers draft?
The bigger question is, what Kobe Bryant will we see next year?
Kobe Bryant is an alpha male. He plays like it on the basketball floor. Sprained ankle? He’ll play on . Broken hand? He’ll dunk on Jaron Jackson. Torn ACL? Let me make a couple free throws and win the game. He simply has the will that supersedes his athletic abilities and his skill level.
Now that Kobe Bryant is healed and training, every Laker fan wants to see the Kobe Bryant of a few years past. That guy was still capable of 40-point nights. That guy played well over 45 minutes a game just to make sure the Lakers got into the playoffs. He showed more toughness and resiliency than the rest of the roster. He has the respect of the team for that ability.
Next year, Kobe Bryant’s role may change. It wouldn’t be fair to expect 27 points per game from the get-go. It would be fair to see him in a Paul Pierce-type role. Paul Pierce needed help on the Celtics. The Celtics were able to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett through a series of trades. Ray Allen provided the perimeter spacing. Kevin Garnett took care of the painted area on both ends of the floor. All Paul Pierce had to do was go to his spots in the half-court set, and go to work. Isolation plays worked best for Pierce. It’ll only work better for Bryant. Bryant’s skills are far too varied along the perimeter. He’ll always be able to create a shot. More importantly, he’ll be able to use his post game from 15′ and in. People forget that his post game is arguably the best in the NBA. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Bryant play.
Bryant would be fortunate to thrive in that role. The Lakers would relieve him of responsibilities on both ends of the floor. He wouldn’t need to be the dominant playmaker. He wouldn’t always need to defend the toughest player. His basketball IQ and size will help him be efficient in both areas.
Late in Kareem’s career, he had plenty of help. The Lakers went to him as a #1 option, and he came through with his sky hook. Magic provided the playmaking. Byron Scott and Michael Cooper gave him perimeter spacing. Rambis did the dirty work. James Worthy worked the opposite end of the floor.
Bryant’s new role won’t change to that kind of extreme. He will need to be put into a situation where he can succeed. That does mean finding the proper talent, the right coach, and having a healthy team throughout the season to build a sense of chemistry.
From that foundation, Bryant can take the team over the hump.