Kobe Bryant has taken a ton of criticism for everything related to his shooting in his farewell campaign. Regardless of if you love him or hate him, most NBA fans agree Bryant has shot too much, badly, and just about any other negative descriptor you can think of. Everyone, that is, except the Lakers' young players.
"Kobe is an all-time great and he's here for a reason," Julius Randle told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. "He's going to do what he's going to do. Our thing is to control what we can control. Everybody is going to miss shots. You can't worry about that."
Randle's fellow sophomore, Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, agrees. "Kobe's been in every situation and we're all confident he can make his shots... Even if he's more fatigued with his legs, we still have confidence in him."" said Clarkson, who is starting at Bryant's previously traditional spot of shooting guard after Bryant moved to small forward to accommodate him.
Larry Nance, Jr. also had some thoughts to share on Bryant's shooting in an essay about his rookie season on the Player's Tribune:
I hear some people saying, "Kobe should just step aside." That he's hurting the development of our younger players. He's not. It's funny to me, because he's the third leading scorer in NBA history. You're gonna tell him which shots to take and not to take? C'mon. This is what Kobe does. For me, it's the biggest honor to be on the same court, to call him a teammate. I don't look at it as, Aw, man! He's stunting my growth! I try to learn as much as I can from him. On the bench. On the court. In the locker room. I'm listening to every little tidbit of knowledge he gives out.
Nance gave an example of a specific time "Coach Kobe" took an interest in helping him:
Our last game before the trip was at home against Indiana. We were on the bench together when Metta World Peace got a steal. Kobe looked at me and said, "You see Metta? You need to watch him every possession, because defensively, he is it. And you can do that."
I just think it's cool that he thought I could become a Metta World Peace-type defender. In my mind, I already I believe defense is what I do and where I can make an impact. If Kobe believes it, shoot, it must be possible.
Clarkson even argued that it was up to the rest of the Lakers to set the table more for the 37-year old. "We have to make things easier for Kobe," Clarkson told Medina. "We can't necessarily throw it to him automatically. Then he doesn't have to do his thing."
It's nice to hear Kobe's teammates going to bat for him, but ultimately Bryant does need to ease back on the gas pedal as he draws closer to his finish line, because no 19-year NBA veteran should be leading their team in usage rate. But at least the young players' respect for Bryant has prevented this potentially fractious issue from dividing the team.