HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Kobe Bryant eclipsed the 30,000-point mark on Wednesday, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to do so. He has earned his place in history as one of the greatest scorers the game of basketball has ever seen.
But at the time Bryant scored points 30,000 and 30,001, his Los Angeles Lakers were losing to one of the worst teams in the NBA and Bryant was getting an earful from teammate Dwight Howard.
Apparently, the Lakers can’t win a game – they eventually blew past the Hornets in the third quarter – and make history without some sort of drama.
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register has the details from New Orleans …
Not too many people would dare point a finger toward Kobe Bryant’s face and back it up with strong words.
Dwight Howard did that Wednesday night to take a stand regarding the Lakers’ need to help each other on defense — specifically for Bryant to help Howard — and came away concluding it did a lot of good.
“I don’t have a problem with saying anything to anybody, and it should be that way,” Howard said after the Lakers’ victory over New Orleans. “We have to be able to talk to each other. We’re a team. We’re a family. And the more chemistry we develop that way, the better we’ll be as a team.”
Twice in the first quarter, Howard was visibly upset after he moved over to provide help defense against Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez, but no one — specifically Bryant — rotated over to help cover Howard’s assigned man, Hornets center Robin Lopez. The first time, Howard looked back at Bryant with an anguished look on his face and gestured at him after Lopez scored for a 12-7 New Orleans lead.
Here’s a look at that play, and it’s clear why Howard was upset…
Bryant is the man who should be helping on Lopez’s roll on that play, but he doesn’t move. Perhaps he was concerned about his man standing in the corner? That would be Al-Farouq Aminu, who is 2-for-8 from 3-point range this season.
More from Ding…
Three-plus minutes later, Vasquez penetrated past Chris Duhon again, Howard shifted over to help again, and Lopez was left all alone again with Bryant toward the corner near Roger Mason instead of in the paint. Lopez scored for an 18-14 Hornets lead, and although Earl Clark was the Laker in best position to help Howard, he yelled at Bryant about it — prompting Bryant to yell back at Howard and gesture back.
Here’s that play…
While it was obvious who was at fault on the first play, you can see why there’s a difference of opinion on this one. Bryant was denying Mason, who ran a flare cut, so he wasn’t just waiting on the weak side like he was on the first play. Clark, meanwhile, is in perfect position to bump the roll man, but instead recovers out to Ryan Anderson. Of course, Bryant did completely lose track of where the ball was on the floor by turning his head away from the play.
As Ding notes, Bryant was more conscious of the roll man later in the first half. On this example, he puts himself in position under the basket as the pick-and-roll happens on the opposite side…
Of course, Bryant jumps back out of the lane (perhaps to avoid a defensive 3-second call) just as the shot goes up, allowing the Hornets to crash the glass from the weak side. So, let’s just say that the Lakers’ defense is a work in progress.
Even though they’re 9-10, the Lakers currently rank eighth in defensive efficiency and are one of only four teams to rank in the top 10 on both ends on the floor (see table below). But the defense has been inconsistent and from possession to possession. Just four days ago, L.A. gave up 113 points to the Orlando Magic, who rank 28th offensively this season. The defense was a little better in Houston on Tuesday, but the Rockets hit a big three down the stretch when Bryant got caught up in a screen and then was slow to recover (1:12 mark of the highlights).
Bryant can be a bulldog (sorry, Doberman) one-on-one defender when he wants to be, but he’s certainly not a great by-the-book help defender. He’ll float, take chances and look for the big play. Howard, meanwhile is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and comes from the Stan Van Gundy school, where there are stricter defensive standards than what you’ll find in a Mike D’Antoni locker room.
So far this season though, the Lakers have been better defensively with Bryant on the floor (allowing 97.8 points per 100 possessions) than with Howard on the floor (99.5). Given the ups and downs of the team’s first 19 games, it’s difficult to take anything away from those numbers.
Any team with Howard on it really should be in the top five defensively. But that takes more than just a guy protecting the paint. It also requires five guys on the same page and a coach who will hold them accountable for breakdowns like the ones above.
Teams ranking in the top 10 both offensively and defensively
Through Wednesday, 12/6
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions