"I just can't make a shot," Kobe Bryant said after Sunday's defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.
With the loss, the Los Angeles Lakers fell to 0-3 on the season. Bryant is shooting 31.4 percent from the field and 20.7 percent from the field.
"I suck right now," Bryant said as he anointed himself as the "200th best player in the league."
Right about now, Bryant is far from the 200th best player in the NBA. In his previous, highly criticized season of 2014-15, Bryant shot 37.3 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from distance. Back then, he still averaged 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, too.
Through the first three games of the 2015-16 season, Bryant has averaged 9.7 three-point attempts, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Essentially, he is generating less offense, taking more difficult shots and missing more often. Before attempting to extrapolate these averages over a season, one should remember that a three-game sample is hardly conclusive.
Still, it is a horrendous start, and Bryant's awful shooting and shot selection have significantly contributed to the Lakers' losses.
"Just playing like $@%# right now, that's all," Bryant cursed his play.
He did not offer excuses, nor did he attempt to rationalize his play. Lakers coach Byron Scott is quick to remind those who inquire that Bryant's mere presence on the court makes the other team adjust defensively. Bryant is not as generous as Scott at the moment.
"I'm getting shots I want. I just got to make them," he insists.
Not a man who speaks uncontrollably or finds the need to add words that are unnecessary, this 37-year-old professional answers a question about whether he's frustrated with a single word: "Extremely."
For Bryant, the problem is not his young teammates. D'Angelo Russell's slow start to the season has never been a point of negativity in the locker room nor in the press conferences. Even in his frustrated state late on Sunday night, Bryant credits the 19-year-old point guard.
"D'Angelo is putting me in the right spots," he says.
On the topic of Julius Randle's historic stat line, Bryant speaks about Randle without a hint of surprise by calling the 20-year-old "extremely talented."
Randle finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and four steals, which made him the second youngest player to ever fill the box score with those types of numbers going back to at least the 1985-86 season, probably further than that.
Bryant says about Randle, "He's one of these players a year from now, we'll see him having an unbelievable jump shot. We'll see him having an unbelievable right hand. He's one of these players that's going to stay in the gym, he's going to continue to work on those things and develop them, stay in the gym. He's going to continue to work on those things."
Bryant, who seemed convinced by Randle's talent as a 19-year-old before the rookie suffered a leg break and sat out a full season, sounds even more sure of the 20-year-old after watching his dedication to recovery and working out in the gym over the summer.
Randle had a double-double before halftime on Sunday, so Bryant's finger correctly points at the mirror in this early season.
"At some point, you got to say the hell with all (the excuses about tired legs) and figure out how to get the ball in the hole," he says.
However, the "Black Mamba" is not all doom and gloom on the season on the first day of November. Three games in, Bryant is not giving up. He's getting angry but remains conscious of the greater picture. Has he ever been this self-critical before? "I've done it before. As time goes on, most people tend to forget about that, but I've done that before."
In his 20th season, Bryant has confidence that he can bounce back, "Preseason, I was in a good rhythm. It's just a matter of trying to get back."
An upset Bryant adds, "Next game."