Obviously, the Los Angeles Lakers season hasn’t gone the way anyone would have hoped. Even with the losing, however, many have been extremely critical of how the team has handled Kobe Bryant.
Kobe has officially announced that he will retire at the end of the season and the rest of the year has now turned into the ‘Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour.’ If anyone is deserving of it, Kobe is that player, but honoring him has seemed to be the main priority of the franchise, even at the expense of developing the team’s young core.
Kobe is second on the team in minutes per game (trailing Jordan Clarkson by less than a minute), and is the team’s leader in shot attempts per game by a wide margin, despite his inefficiency this year. Meanwhile, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell have found themselves on the bench and have mostly deferred to Kobe, despite an obvious need to gain experience during this season, particularly down the stretch of games.
A potential turning point seemed to come in the team’s overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves when Russell and Randle led the team down the stretch while Kobe did not play in the fourth quarter or overtime. After the game, it was revealed that Kobe himself told head coach Byron Scott to leave them in, effectively benching himself.
Most people on the outside believe that Kobe’s minutes and usage should be limited, but who is responsible for making sure that happens is the question. So, we asked our panel of experts who they believe the onus should be on to limit Kobe’s minutes and shots: himself, Byron Scott, or the front office? This is what they had to say:
Jabari Davis (@JabariDavisNBA): While it probably shouldn’t come down to a player being wholly responsible for managing his own minutes and style of play, it has become entirely evident that Bryant must do this for the betterment of the team and to make it more likely that his body lasts throughout this farewell tour.
Admittedly, while the questions about whether Coach Scott’s approach could still be successful in today’s NBA were absolutely valid, I was in the group of people that at least expected him to be able to assist with a relatively smooth transition between Bryant’s era and the next due to their history and apparent mutual respect for one another.
Even though there’s no “changing” Bryant’s approach at this stage, I did expect Scott to be able to at least maintain more of a balance than this. Coach Scott, himself, has acknowledged the difficulty with managing Bryant and curbing his personal enthusiasm and expectations of the 20-year-veteran on multiple occasions. Certainly not an enviable task, but someone is going to have to make the adjustments.
The rumors of a ‘meeting of the minds’ between the front office and head coach following this current road trip were somewhat interesting given the timing. Although a change at the position probably shouldn’t be expected -what’s the true upside to doing it mid-season? – it would be nice to see everyone on the same page and at least the presentation of a unified front for the remainder of the season.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): If this were a normal season then I’d say Byron Scott should be responsible for limiting Kobe’s shots. But it’s no secret that the Lakers will benefit more from a poor season so that they can keep their top-3 protected first round pick. In fact it seems like Byron Scott is doing everything he can to ensure the Lakers finish with one of the worst records in the league – including giving Kobe the green light.
I don’t expect Kobe to limit himself in anyway, especially when it comes to his shooting. He’s never been shy about attempting and making impossible shots. This year his shot selection is more questionable because he hasn’t been able to hit the shots that he usually drains.
His body may be putting limitations on him but his heart and mentality haven’t changed. Kobe will keep shooting and Byron Scott and the front office will allow him to do so. Lakers fans should enjoy the Kobe show during his final season and not fret too much about the negative effect it may have on the team’s record.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Byron Scott should dictate Kobe Bryant’s minutes, period. Scott is the head coach, and that’s his duty. The problem is that Bryant has controlled Scott to a certain extent this season, and that has impacted the development of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and possibly other young players on the Los Angeles Lakers as well.
It wasn’t until Bryant told Scott to let the young guys play with the game on the line against the Minnesota Timberwolves that people were able to get a glimpse of the future. Russell played great once able to run the show, and his confidence is bound to improve the more he’s put in that position.
I’m a Kobe fan. It kills me to watch him struggle, and I haven’t come to grips with the fact that it is his last season, but it is time to move on. Russell and Randle need to develop, and Kobe will have to take a backseat for that to happen.
Coach Scott should call the shots as long as it is a good balance of developing the team’s young players and saying goodbye to arguably the greatest Laker of all time.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): In a normal situation, the onus should be on the coach to limit the minutes of any player on the team, even if that player is one of the greatest to wear your uniform. The problem is that Scott seems to be more of a Kobe fan than his coach and will allow Kobe to do as he pleases in regards to his minutes.
Kobe will have his moments when he is fine with letting the kids go for the win on their own, but I don’t expect that to be a consistent thing as Kobe is going to want to have some great moments down the stretch of his final NBA season.
As such, the only way to guarantee that Kobe is limited and the development of the young core is priority is for the front office to make sure that is the case.
With a meeting supposedly taking place once this road trip ends it is possible that this very subject will be the main talking point between the front office and Scott. Bryant surely deserves to be honored like he has been, but there should be some kind of limit put on him and I think it will take the higher ups to make sure that happens.