Many of us have attributed Kobe's higher minutes to the fact that he has less help. But is that really true? We still have Blake and Fisher. We got rid of Shannon and replaced him with Morris/G-lock/Kapono. Really, the major change has been in our frontcourt as Odom is gone.Let me present my theory:
Last year: Kobe Bryant plays lower minutes, sits out extended stretches, is happy about it, and compares himself to MJ who used to do that towards the end of his Bulls stint. Everything seems cool. Kobe even talks about eventually becoming "Mariano Rivera" and just coming in to close games when he's old.
Fast-forward to the playoffs: The team doesn't support Kobe. He helps to lead them past NOH (remember those monster dunks he put on?) and can't seem to get everyone together against the Mavs. That and the fact that Gasol got punked by Dirk and the Mavs were ridiculously hot from three-point range.
After the playoffs: Kobe is predicted to have a decline. He even lets reporters know that he feels disrespected. He feels that his team isn't ready to keep up with him anymore. He's lost faith to some extent. Jackson is gone. Mike Brown is in. Odom is gone. A bunch of new comers have arrived. The systems are totally different. What's the natural response?
Kobe decided: I've got to take the team on my back until they catch up to me or we get someone to help. That's why Chris Paul would've been a great piece. He'd have really lowered Kobe's usage rate and Kobe would have been comfortable sitting out longer stretches. But right now, Kobe wants to prove the doubters wrong. He isn't on a championship team. He's on a team with a lot of questions and he has decided to be the answer.
Just like always. Except that he's a lot older now. And more injured. I'm not scared that Kobe will start playing awful or tired. I'm most scared that his body won't do what he wants it to do. That's why I'm becoming convinced that the Chris Paul trade could have saved us. Instead, we're leaning on an older and more fragile Kobe. IF we get Howard, I think we'll still be title contenders but we need to get a PG/SG in the deal.
The issue is not that the team doesn't have help. It didn't have help for Kobe last year. It's that Kobe doesn't trust his team yet. And understandably. New coach. New systems. New bench. player turnover. In order to save Kobe from early injury, we need to give him legitimate backup - something he's never had for the last 4-6 years.
Thoughts? This is my first FanPost so let me know how I did.