Kobe Bryant has to stop

Ball Don't Lie

Mocking Kobe Bryant’s shot selection has acted as a gleeful exercise for NBA observers since the spring of 1997: Bryant’s rookie year, when the teenager was either charged with or decided to personally take several ill-advised jumpers down the stretch of Los Angeles’ Game 5 loss to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semis. Elden Campbell missed 12 of 13 shots in that game, and Lakers not named “Kobe” were embarrassingly incompetent at defending the pick-and-roll, but Bryant’s airballs and 4-14 shooting mark were given the most blame.

In the years since, it’s been just fine to contain multitudes regarding Bryant: Kobe does take lots of terrible, inefficient shots, but he also makes quite a few of them and remains one of the greatest players of his generation.

This year, however, stands as less charming. The Lakers were never going to make the playoffs and Bryant is to be credited for his usage alone – it takes a special NBA athlete to be able to get off 22.4 shots per game at age 36. Sunday evening’s Lakers loss to the Sacramento Kings, though, was downright embarrassing. And all because of Kobe.

With the Lakers up 13 points midway through the third quarter, Bryant decided to close out the Lakers/Kings contest in this fashion:

Each time we thought Bryant had topped himself with a terrible shot, he dug in deeper and continued to toss them up. Attempts that wouldn’t have been appropriate even in Bryant’s prime were served as his go-to moves, as this one-man flotilla completely shot the Lakers out of a game they eventually lost by seven.

Kobe finished with an 8-of-30 mark from the field, keeping his most ardent admirers happy with 25 points accrued from those 30 shots. Bryant turned the ball over nine times. His defense was Kobe Bryant-esque – two cool steals but plenty of blow-byes.

Following the contest, as you no doubt are already aware, Lakers coach Byron Scott floated the idea that a fatigued Bryant should sit a contest or two in order to rest the legs that decided to shoot 30 times. From Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears:

When asked if Bryant's offensive struggles were due to fatigue or being aggressive offensively, Scott said: "That's fatigue. I think that goes hand in hand. I'm going to think about it tonight and sit down with Kobe tomorrow and we'll talk about it. We'll come up with a solution and try to figure out the next few games and what we want to do."

Bryant responded:

"I don't have much of a choice if the body is feeling the way it's feeling right now," Bryant told Yahoo Sports. "You got to be smart. You got to make sure you get enough return on your investment. With the amount of work that I do and put into my body and to get my body ready, for it to be sore as it is right now, sometimes you do have to consider sitting down.”

If you’re a mindful Lakers fan, this should be infuriating.

Kobe Bryant reminding us that one has “to be smart,” even as he’s taking some of the least-intelligent shots available.

Byron Scott refusing to stand up to his former teammate and current buddy in the hopes of remaining Bryant’s ally, citing fatigue as the reason Kobe Bryant ran up and down the court for nearly 38 minutes while tossing up 30 shots. He’d have tossed up more had he not turned the ball over nine times.

Over the last fortnight, seven games, Kobe Bryant has averaged 22.5 shots per game – right in line with his season average. He’s shot 31.6 percent from the field over that spell, the work of a madman.

The Lakers stink, though, right? Kobe has to do this in order for this team to survive, correct?

We’re 27 games into the season. It’s time to start paying attention to stuff like this:

The idea that Bryant has to carry some imaginary load is ridiculous. The Lakers have proven they can be more than a competent (numbers-wise, quite good actually) offensive club when Bryant is off the floor.

The Lakers’ numbers with Bryant sitting might be pumped up because they’re sometimes working against second-string reserves, but the Lakers are usually working with second-stringers themselves during that scenario. Yes, Kobe’s situation stinks, but that doesn’t mean he needs to be jacking up a league-leading amount of shots per game mark while shooting 37 percent from the field. And don’t start on the idea that Kobe can play point guard – he’s working with a 1.4 assist to one turnover ratio this season.

One of those second-stringers, Nick Young, managed a quite efficient 26 points on 14 shots in the loss on Sunday, without turning the ball over. When it came time to talk about resting Kobe, this is what he offered, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

"Hats off to [Bryant], still going out there every night and trying to do his best," Young began before offering his solution. "Just give me the ball, and that's what could happen. I'm always down to take over the load. Let me, let Wayne [Ellington] take a couple shots. But majority, just give me the ball."

Bryant "still goes out there at night and tries to give his best. We need Kobe out there, and he knows it. But he don't need to kill himself. That's what I'm here for."

Again, when Nick Young is acting as your voice of reason, it’s time to look in the mirror. That goes for Kobe, Scott and the entire Lakers front office and ownership group.

The basketball cognoscenti had a lot of fun goofing on Bryant’s shot selection on Twitter on Sunday evening, but at some point, though, this stops being funny. Yes, some Lakers fans can be annoying, and those fans certainly have decades of dynastic basketball to warm themselves with in light of a losing season. Sacramento Kings don’t want to hear Lakers whining when the team is just 4 1/2 years removed from its last (and second straight) NBA title, when the Kings have made it to the third round of the playoffs just once since moving to California.

Rest is not the answer, and rest is not what Kobe’s going to get. The Lakers (who signed Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million deal to keep their fans happy) aren’t going to sit him in front of the home crowd on Tuesday against Golden State, and they’re certainly not going to sit him in a nationally televised Christmas Day contest against the Chicago Bulls and upstart off guard Jimmy Butler on Christmas Day.

Kobe Bryant is 36. He may be a psychotic competitor and he may be working for a terrible team, but as one ages one is supposed to accrue intelligence as the years pile on. Bryant is working with the sort of shot selection that would get a player half his age pulled from an AAU or high school game.

This has to be the low point. Somebody needs to put a stop to this. It starts with the guy with the ball in his hands.

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next