Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he doesn’t expect Kobe Bryant to adjust his game in order to “lure” free agents next summer, according to ESPN.
“Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles,” Kupchak told the press on Wednesday. “He’s going to play to try to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. But trust me, in January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.”
Kupchak is right.
Because if the Lakers want to win, Bryant needs to play the same way he did last season. Although ESPN’s Henry Albott criticized Bryant for being a “difficult teammate” and thus keeping the Lakers from signing other star players (most recently Dwight Howard), at 35 years old, Bryant still plays like one of the best offensive players in the NBA.
Last season Bryant had one of his best seasons of his career before rupturing his Achilles (an injury I blame Coach Mike D’Antoni for). He was one of the best scorers in the league, averaging more than 27 points per game. And contrary to the belief of all those “Kobe-haters” out there, Bryant’s ability to score is not attributable to any sort of ball-hogging. Last season Bryant shot better than 46 percent from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc. He’s just good at scoring. Really, really good.
But scoring’s not all that Bryant’s good at. Last season he averaged six assists per game, more than five rebounds and nearly 1.5 steals. And when some Kobe-haters once again tried to blame Bryant’s offense for the Lakers’ losses, Bryant responded by dishing out 48 total assists in four consecutive games.
Bryant’s not only the best player on the Lakers — he’s one of the best basketball players in the world. And he needs to keep playing like it. Luckily, Kupchak understands that.
Lucas Rubio is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlayerzLeague.