Kobe Bryant has missed most of the past two seasons as he’s suffered both a ruptured Achilles and a torn rotator cuff, and his head coach, Byron Scott, has absorbed no small amount of criticism for the heavy minutes he played last year prior to his latest injury. Something will have to give in that department if the Lakers want Kobe to go out on a high note in what could be his final NBA season.
But being the competitor that he is, Kobe will want to play as much as possible. This presents Los Angeles with a unique problem. Actually, two problems. The Lakers have an embarrassment of riches at the two-guard position that includes Kobe, Nick Young, Lou Williams and possibly Jordan Clarkson depending on the configurations they decide on. It’s going to take some creativity on Scott’s part to tinker with the lineups, and Kobe has recently floated a few possible solutions that could be intriguing to watch once the season gets underway.
One potentiality includes Kobe sliding over to the forward position to allow for a small, speedy backcourt pairing of Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. Here’s what Kobe said to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times at training camp this week:
Apparently, this isn’t just some hair-brained idea they’re bandying about. They’re already experimenting with it in training camp, according to Bill Oram of The Orange Country Register.
And why not? It’s a strategy that has all sorts of ostensible benefits for everyone involved. It would allow both Clarkson and Russell the playing time and opportunities they need to develop, and it would help free up more minutes for scorers like Young and Williams off the bench. The other hope is that reducing Kobe’s overall workload could have positive effects on his health over the course of a grueling 82-game season.
But as Russell has learned this week, Kobe not only likes to shoot the ball; he likes to operate off-the-dribble. Taking the ball out of his hands comes with a huge caveat, i.e. whether or for how long he will be content with what would ultimately be a reduced role in the offense.
A lot of folks out there – including Paul Pierce – don’t believe Kobe’s pride and ego will allow him to accept such a role. Training camp is one thing, but when the Lakers start to hit some inevitable rough patches as the season wears on, we’ll find out just how long this little experiment will last.