But Bryant’s wrong. Because as long as Mike D’Antoni remains head coach of the Lakers, the pieces will never fit.
Last season D’Antoni, to the disgust of every Lakers fan, pretty much broke apart each piece as he tried to force the players to conform to his offensive system. D’Antoni literally broke the most important of those pieces — Bryant — by playing him more than 45 minutes per game for five consecutive games until his Achilles ruptured.
I’ve already proven why D’Antoni’s the worst coach in the NBA. And although the Lakers signed some younger, more athletic players to complement D’Antoni’s system, the best players on the team, i.e. the most important pieces, conflict with D’Antoni’s system.
At 35 years old, Bryant’s no longer the high-flying, explosive player he once was and now relies on his post-up game, jump shooting and footwork. Pau Gasol likewise is one of the best post-up players in the NBA. And even Steve Nash, who’s largely to thank for D’Antoni’s success with the Phoenix Suns, is too slow and hobbled with injury to execute D’Antoni’s system effectively.
When Bryant said the pieces fit better, what pieces, exactly, was he referring to? Probably the least important and most recent pieces on the Lakers roster— players that the Lakers signed to minimum, non-guaranteed or partially-guaranteed contracts, like Marcus Landry, Elias Harris, Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly and Shawne Williams. If you are Googling these guys to find out who they are then you get my point.
Sure, the Lakers also signed Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Chris Kaman, but how important of pieces are they? Young, Farmar and Kaman may be good players and the Lakers certainly got them at a good price, but all three have served as role players rather than leaders throughout their career. Young averages 23 minutes per game, Farmar 20 and Kaman the most minutes of the three at 29.
In other words, the only pieces that fit in D’Antoni’s system are the pieces that matter least.
That’s not to say that Young, Farmar, Kaman and the Lakers bench aren’t important to the Lakers’ success this year. But if the Lakers want to make it to the playoffs, let alone contend for the NBA Title (that’s right, Metta World Peace isn’t the only one who thinks they can do it), then the Lakers need Bryant, Nash and above all Gasol to play some of the best basketball they’ve ever played.
But I’m wondering whether D’Antoni’s system will allow them to do so. Which is why, even though Bryant thinks the pieces fit better without Howard, they actually don’t. Because the person supposed to put the pieces together doesn’t know how to.
Lucas Rubio is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlayerzLeague.