“Watching the players and looking at their body language, they are going to have to make a decision about Kobe in the next week or two. It’s got to come to a head,” Johnson said. “You’ve either got to trade him or come out and say you’re going to keep him. Even Kobe needs it. He missed nine free throws [Tuesday]. It’s on his mind too.”
Of more concern was their lack of ability to make free throws on their home floor:
The team missed 18 of 45 attempts from the free-throw line. Bryant, an 86.8% free throw shooter last season, went 18 for 27.
Coach Phil Jackson said it wasn’t a big concern, especially after the first game. But he thought his club needed more practice in the venue.
“We haven’t shot enough down there at Staples,” Jackson said. “We’ll have to go down there and shoot a little bit earlier to get a feel for the backdrop.”
Derek Fisher pointed out that they missed 18 free throws and didn’t play their best game yet still had a chance to win.
“There were more positives than negatives,” Fisher said.
After using 43% of the Lakers offensive possesions in the opener you have to look at Kobe and wonder should he be passing more or should the other guys be doing more when they get the ball?
On one side, is it simply a matter of a lack of confidence in the other Lakers? Are the other Lakers intimidated by Kobe? Shaq and veterans like Fox and Horry would never have tolerated Kobe not passing like this, then again they would not just have passed the ball back to Kobe when he gave it to them. They wanted to take the big shot. Fisher certainly has never shied away from a big shot, but what about Walton? Or Bynum? Or Odom?
Is it possible for Kobe to take these guys under his wing and turn them into more confident, more clutch players? Or is that the responsibility of said player?
My frustration grew Tuesday night as the team fell more and more into “pass and watch” mode as Kobe started dominating the ball more and more. I might be in the minority that enjoys ball movement and easy baskets over a spectacular play by #24, but here’s a breakdown of the 4th quarter possessions, and it doesn’t shed a favorable light on the other four guys on the court.
The defining sequence for me came on the back-to-back break aways late in the fourth that jump started the comeback. Both times down the floor Bryant led the charge and had help, but instead of making the extra pass for an easy deuce, Kobe went up for the impossible dream trying to make the circus bucket and a free throw. Forum Blue & Gold points out that:
This is not a new problem, and the question of whether Kobe or his teammates are primarily at fault has been an issue for going on three years now (and is in some ways at the heart of Kobe’s frustrations). But the answers are not simple.