Much criticism has fallen on the shoulders of Kobe Bryant lately regarding his individual defensive performance. Of course, the whole Lakers team is circled by clouds regarding the general team picture and this season’s record. After lots of statements from other players, coaches and journalists, Kobe may have proven the best way that he is still capable of playing NBA All-Defensive Team-like defense.
You can question many things about Lakers’ defensive system. You can easily say that Howard is not the inside presence the team needs or that Mike D’Antoni is not utilizing the whole roster the best way possible. But to say that Kobe is not playing good D? Well, ask Brandon Jennings or Kyrie Irving about that. During the last games of the Lakers, Kobe was assigned to guard two of the most lethal point guards in the league and of course the best players of each team. How did he do? He held Irving to just 15 points on 7-15 shooting from the field. He is averaging 23.6 points per game on almost 46% shooting. Two days later, Jennings finished with just 12 points on 4-14 shooting while being guarded by Kobe. His numbers this season are 18.3 Points per game and 40% from the field. But it’s not just that.
Defense is way more than individual effort in basketball. Every team needs a good defensive tactics and a well understanding of how the system works in order to play effectively. This requires a firm setup from the coaching staff and a good execution from the players. Of course Coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t known for his superior defensive systems. But you can’t either blame Kobe for the team’s run this season. In fact, Kobe might be the only player who is playing like a true superstar and leader, as he is supposed to do, on both ends of the court. Yes he might have started to age and yes NBA requires all good players to be good athletes in order to compete. However Kobe has certainly not entered the stage of his career when he can’t compete any more at the highest level. This was made clear especially after the statements of both Irving and Jennings, who had the chance to taste a bit of Kobe’s defense the last two games. Both of them pointed out the great defense they faced and also stated that it was a huge factor for the outcome of the game. The Lakers came up winning both of these games.
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1020 S. Figueroa, Los Angeles, CA 90015
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