Lakers planning to have Kobe Bryant defend opposing teams’ top players
The Los Angeles Lakers are in desperate need of a boost on defense. Mike D’Antoni’s team has greatly underachieved and is five games below .500, and the main reason for that is that L.A. ranks 26th in the NBA defensively with nearly 102 points per game allowed.
On Sunday, the Lakers held their opponent to under 100 points for only the third time in their last 12 games in a 113-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. One of the reasons for their success was the job Kobe Bryant did defending Cavs star Kyrie Irving, who was held to just 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting. D’Antoni said on Monday that having Kobe defend an opponent’s top player is something that will continue.
“I think that really helped us,” he said according to ESPNLA.com. “It helped us against the Clippers with Chris Paul. (Bryant) wants to take the challenge, and it really helps us. He disrupts the whole offense on the ball. He’s done that a couple games, so we’ll continue to milk that one.”
While Bryant is known as a tremendous one-on-one defender, he is also 34 years old. One would think that defending superstars every night would tire him out and have a negative affect on his play offensively, but Steve Nash agrees that the philosophy will help the team.
“Kobe’s a guy that likes a challenge, so to give him a challenge I think sometimes is best for us,” Nash said. “Sometimes when he maybe is guarding someone who isn’t going to demand his interest, he can wane a little bit. But when we put him in a position where he’s challenged, he can be phenomenal.”
Kobe did score 23 points in addition to shutting down Irving, so obviously he is capable of doing both. Still, you have to wonder what type of toll that will take on his body over the course of the season. Then again, anything that keeps D’Antoni from making suicide jokes is probably worth doing.