HANG TIME TEXAS – Do you really expect that someday you’ll hear about a leopard walking into a salon and asking the stylist to change his spots?
So then, why should anyone think a 6-for-28 night in Denver would make Kobe Bryant think about shooting less?
Kobe, after all, is Kobe, as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles reminds us:
“I do what I do. If guys are open, I kick it to them, if they’re not, I shoot it,” Bryant said. “I play my game.”
Bryant, playing with a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right (shooting) wrist that he suffered during the preseason, started off the season averaging 27.8 points on 48.1 percent shooting through the Lakers’ first four games but had difficulty with his accuracy over the weekend. He averaged just 16.5 points on 12-for-26 shooting (26.1 percent) in a back-to-back against the Nuggets that the Lakers split 1-1.
Through the first four games of the season, when Andrew Bynum was sidelined with a suspension, Bryant averaged 20.3 shot attempts per game. In the two games since Bynum came back, Bryant’s shot attempts actually increased to an average of 23.0 per contest. Meanwhile, Bynum has averaged 23.5 points per game on only 15 attempts per game and is shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
“We always start inside-out,” Bryant said, when asked about Bynum and Pau Gasol‘s effectiveness on offense. “If you mean (to ask me) if I’m going to shoot less, the answer is no. It starts with me. I do what I do and we play off of that. That’s not going to change.”
All that’s missing is a corncob pipe and a can of spinach to be Popeye the Sailor in short pants: “I yam what I yam.”
The Lakers will be back at home tonight for a Fan Night matchup with the Rockets on NBA TV (10:30 ET), still trying to find the right balance in an offense that’s been, well, bizarrely unbalanced through the first half-dozen games. How else would you describe a situation where Kobe’s shot attempts have actually increased in the two games since the big man Bynum has returned to the lineup after serving his suspension?
Oh yes, typical.
What we’re seeing is the early evolution of the Mike Brown-Bryant relationship. Where Phil Jackson might have used a weekend where Kobe made just 26 percent of his attempts in two games to a deliver a subtle message with a measured comment, the new boss is not yet comfortable in the deep water of Lakerland to rock the boat.
Meanwhile, tonight’s opponent will give Gasol an opportunity for an up-close look at the team he could have been anchoring if commissioner/general manager David Stern hadn’t exercised his veto power on the three-way trade that would have landed him in Houston with Chris Paul going to the Lakers.
What Gasol will see is a Houston team that is being re-built on the run under new coach Kevin McHale. As Jonathan Feigen says in the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets are very much a work in progress and have most of their chores to do on defense:
The Rockets have strived to work in (Samuel) Dalembert and bring back Patrick Patterson from his ankle surgery behind starters Jordan Hill and (Luis) Scola; Gasol and Bynum have rolled.
“It’ll be tough,” Patterson said. “They’re taller than us. We have to be more physical than them. If that’s what it comes down to, who is going to be tougher on the court?”
The Rockets have given up more points in the paint than any other team and by a wide margin. They allowed an average of 54.5 in their first four games, 4.5 more than second-to-last Sacramento.
The Lakers’ average of 46.1 points in the paint is eighth in the NBA, but they rank third in terms of the percentage of scoring that comes inside. And four of their six games came without Bynum, with his return making the Lakers more of a force at the rim than when the season began without him.
The Rockets have also added big men on the fly, but Bynum, unlike Dalembert, went through training camp and, unlike Patterson, was healthy. Dalembert and Patterson have practiced for a week.
Houston could have spent the season angrily re-living what might have been if they’d have been able to fit Gasol into the lineup and then used that addition as a stepping stone to lure free agent big man Nene to form what could have been a formidable front line. But the Rockets still have an athletic and interesting lineup that might be able to make a playoff push in the unsettled Western Conference, especially with the defending champions struggling in Dallas and San Antonio taking a blow with the injury to Manu Ginobili.