Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What’s more true: Kobe hogs the ball too much, or Kobe’s teammates aren’t helping him out?
David Aldridge: The latter. Watching them Sunday, he had no choice. Artest was on Pluto, and KG did yeoman work keeping Pau Gasol from his favorite spots, and Kendrick Perkins was able to body up Andrew Bynum without help. Now, I think by the playoffs, Bynum will have his legs under him, and that will make a big difference. But now, if Gasol isn’t rolling, the Lakers are a one-man show. It’s still a great show, by the way.
Steve Aschburner: I used to be as vigilant as any Kobe critic for those nights, weeks or months when he would neglect his Lakers teammates and force things. Or worse, when he would bullheadedly pass … and pass and pass to prove a point. But now Bryant only “hogs” the ball as a reaction to insufficient help from his mates. Michael Jordan would have slapped one or two of these guys by now on the practice floor.
Fran Blinebury: While it’s true that Kobe becomes Kobe, the alpha dog against the world, in difficult situations, the truth is that an overall roster that doesn’t match his overall drive (never mind ability) is more to blame. In short, Jerry West was right.
Art Garcia: Kobe is Kobe. He’s not gonna change and he shouldn’t change. Show me someone else on the Lakers that has near the … ahem … that Eddie House pantomimed Sunday in Oklahoma City. Pau, Lamar, Fisher, Bynum and Artest, especially Ron-Ron, need to show up for Showtime. Kobe has his faults, but this isn’t his fault. Otherwise, let Mitch Kupchak shake things up.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The teammate thing. Look at the fourth quarter Sunday. As big a game as the Lakers can play in January – against the Celtics, at home, needing to show the two-time defending champions can start stringing together wins against elite teams – and no one else stepped forward. That was telling, in all the wrong ways for L.A. Kobe’s reputation works against him in this conversation. But it doesn’t tell the real story.
Shaun Powell: Both are true. Kobe hogs the ball when his teammates don’t help out. One leads to the other, and it will cause the Lakers’ championship string to snap if they don’t figure it out in time. Whenever the Lakers act passively, and every one of the supporting cast has been guilty at one point or another, Kobe lapses into his worst habit. But if we’re sitting here sweating Laker issues, it must be February.
John Schuhmann: A little bit of both. At times, he definitely gets tunnel vision, where his teammates might as well start running back on defense once he gets the ball. And for the Lakers to be at their best, he’s needs to trust them like he did when he gave the ball up to Ron Artest with a minute to go in Game 7. Some of his teammates aren’t playing as well as they have in the past, but others are. StatsCube says he’s assisting at a slightly better rate than last year, so I wouldn’t say that a distrust of his teammates is the Lakers’ biggest issue at this point.
Sekou Smith: What else does anyone want him to do? He goes for 41 and no assists in that loss to the Celtics and if I hadn’t watched Pau Gasol shooting fadeaway jumpers around the basket during crunch time I might lean toward Kobe hogging just a little too much. If he had anyone else he could turn games over to for extended stretches I don’t think Kobe would have a problem doing that. He’s had to bark at his teammates for not taking open shots this season. Five years ago Kobe might have been guilty on second-degree ball hogging. But not now.