"Point the finger at me," Kobe Bryant said on Sunday following the Lakers’ loss to the Toronto Raptors.
The Lakers lose because they don’t know how to win as a team. Individual talents win awards, but teams win trophies and championships.
This Lakers team does not know how to win, so blaming Kobe Bryant for the Lakers’ failures only makes sense only if the team as a whole is included along with number 24.
The Lakers have looked to Kobe Bryant to guard opposition point guards in recent weeks to great effect. Also, they have asked Bryant to carry the team offensively all season long.
Well, he has carried the offensive load to the tune of being the highest scorer in the league, but his team currently has the 12th best record in the Western Conference, and their play is representative of the fourth worst team in the West.
With the highest payroll in basketball, the Lakers are significantly closer to the bottom than the top.
"Point the finger at me," Bryant told reporters after the loss to Toronto. "Let me take all that."
He explained that he welcomed the blame for everything in order to allow his team to focus on playing basketball on the floor.
"This way, we don’t have to worry about that as a team," he said. "That’s part of my responsibility."
Unfortunately for Kobe, this is a team sport and the other part of his "responsibility" is winning. Losing in basketball comes down to five people on the floor, nine people on the bench, six advisors in suits, one athletic trainer and one head coach.
Just as winning is a team product, losing is also a team product.
After the loss to the Toronto Raptors, head coach Mike D’Antoni was asked how frustrated he was. He answered, "Coaches' locker room, a lot, but I don’t know about the players."
There is a serious problem with regards to communication between Mr. D’Antoni and his players. One player he has no problem talking to, presumably, is Steve Nash. Nash orchestrates the offense on the floor, and he has had incredible success with this coach in the past.
Nash is not near the levels he was producing six years ago, but who apart from Kobe Bryant really is?
Nash is delivering nearly three assists for every turnover since returning from injury, and that is right in line with his career average. However, he is an aging shadow of the Steve Nash that won back-to-back MVP awards over Kobe Bryant six years ago.
Nash may not be at the top of his game, but he still shoots greater than 50 percent and delivers nearly nine assists per game. Nash and the offense are not why the Lakers are losing.
The NBA is a league designed to help scorers, and Kobe Bryant is one of the best to ever score a basketball. He is shooting nearly 47 percent on the season. The Lakers boast the league’s top scorer and the league’s fifth-highest scoring offense. The reason that the Lakers are the fourth worst team in the West is defense.
As easy as it may be to blame Kobe’s poor off-the-ball defense—and he does deserve considerable blame—Kobe is not the only reason the Lakers are losing.
The Lakers’ defense is porous at best—often non-existent. This team plays defense like a team that deserves to win—not wants or needs to win.
Kobe, more certainly than most, wants to win. So, don’t blame Kobe Bryant for the Lakers losing; blame everyone on the team and blame defense.
After losing to the Raptors, forward Earl Clark echoed that: "Look yourself in the mirror and man up. You got to play defense. You cannot just outscore everybody."