Once teammates Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant could be vying for a championship together if Scott can land the Lakers coaching job, but their newly tailored partnership would be largely dependent on the transformation of The Bean’s game. After sitting with the front office, Scott let it be known that Bryant wouldn’t have free reign to do Kobe Bryant things under his watch. At 35 years old, Bryant shouldn’t be counted on doing vintage Bryant feats, but no one has told the Black Mamba as much. For him, being Kobe Bryant is as much about identity as it is about proving a point.
If Scott were to become Kobe’s coach, he would be met with the same obsessive work ethic and hardheadedness that jointly makes Bryant great and his own worst enemy. Scott didn’t provide much in terms of specifics, simply stating that Bryant’s “gonna have to change his game a little bit and he knows that. He knows me and I’m an old-school type of guy.” Like when under D’Antoni, one would assume that a modified role would include increased facilitation of the ball. But also paired with a major concern over minutes–Bryant’s age and recent health concerns need to be priorities–and a lesser place for Bryant in offensive and, principally, defensive schemes. For a long time now, Bryant just hasn’t been the defender he once was. In the 2011-12 season, for example, his Defensive Rating (106) was worse than his Offensive Rating (105).
Scott won’t be the only person met with the responsibility of tailoring Bryant’s game to his age, health concerns, and depleted roster. Any coach who takes on the job out in Tinseltown will be pegged with winning games while winning the battle with Kobe’s ego. This is a guy, who at the ripe age of 34, averaged 20.4 field goal attempts per game—by contrast, a 25-year-old MVP-year Kevin Durant averaged 20.8 field goal attempts this season.
Which brings up an important point: a lot of what will determine if someone like Scott will be able to sculpt Bryant into an effective basketball player that helps you win games is the surrounding talent.
Not one soul believed XN when we predicted this season’s Lakers to be the worst team Kobe ever played on. And the damage might not be done. Even with a major free agent pickup, the Lakers are in a prime position to wallow in limbo for years to come. As a proud winner, Bryant might find it doubly hard to sacrifice his game when it isn’t contributing to W’s anyway. Before Scott expects a miracle in L.A., he better expect a deeper roster for Kobe to trust in, or else, the Mamba’s game ain’t changing and neither are L.A.’s losing ways.
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