If you have watched Kobe Bryant over the last couple of weeks, you have seen a different player from what you have come to expect. Because of injuries, Kobe is playing worst than any other time in his career. Despite this, Kobe is playing through the pain to help his team. The question I have though, is whether or not he is actually doing a disservice to the Lakers long term.
Throughout his career, Kobe has always kept his injuries out of the public’s eyes. If a reporter ever asked about an injury, Kobe would give a look as if to say, “dude, are you really gonna bring that up?” He has never been one to use them as an excuse and I respect him immensely for it. However, I think that this time things are different.
Over the past few weeks, Kobe hasn’t been able to hide his pain. He has admitted that his back spasms are the most painful things he has ever had to experience. In addition to that, his broken finger causes pain that you can see after just about every shot. Now, it would be one thing if these injuries weren’t affecting his game, but they are.
Kobe is shooting less than 40 percent over the past 10 games, eight percentage points below his career average. He is only averaging 23 points per game and is actually taking more shots to get them. I understand that he needs to score to help his team win, but shooting that poorly isn’t helping as much as he might think.
Whether or not he is helping LA now is a question, but not what is the more pressing issue. Instead, I want to focus on the long term affects of the injury. A broken finger needs time to heal, something that playing every night isn’t going to provide. If Kobe keeps playing, that is never going to get better and we all know that the Lakers have NO shot to win it all with Kobe playing this way.
The NBA regular season is so long and drawn out that missing a few games isn’t a big deal. This is even more so with the Lakers because they are so much better than every other team in the West. LA currently sits three games ahead of Denver for best of the West, and that is only because they are slipping with Kobe’s injury.
In order for the Lakers to repeat, Kobe needs to take two weeks off. He would be back with plenty of time to lock in the number one seed (in the event that Denver passed them). More importantly though, he would come back with fresh legs, and the ability to shoot without pain.
For everyone who thinks that the Lakers need Kobe right now, I actually disagree. Kobe has said publicly said that the team needs to help him out more, and what better way to force it upon them by not playing. If Kobe sits, guys like Gasol, Odom, and Artest are automatically forced to take over because they can’t rely on Kobe. They spend two weeks getting back into championship form, and then they get their star back. The bottom line is that the talent around Kobe should be good enough to win without him anyways.
The biggest hurdle in this plan is getting Kobe to actually sit out. The guy is stubborn like a mule and really wants to play. The only way I see him sitting is if Phil Jackson makes him. It will be tough, but it really needs to be done. After all, the goal is to win in June, not in January.