A lot of voting for post-season awards in sports… not just the NBA… is based on reputation. Kobe Bryant has a reputation as a pretty good defender who can lock a guy down if he wants. The problem is… he can't do that anymore. And I don't care that he was 1st team All-Defense. He's not that guy anymore.
His imploding effort on defense this season forced me to put him on this list, just to make sure we remember how good he used to be and how shaky the Lakers get on D when Bryant is as bad as he was this season.
Despite the Lakers’ excellent record, during the regular season it was clear that Kobe regularly took defensive possessions off, got stuck on screens, got lost in the flow, and didn’t get back in transition–often to complain about not getting a foul call on the offensive side.
In the playoffs, it only got worse. Why did Dallas get so many open 3s? Derek Fisher was one reason, sure, but Bryant, by my view, was blatantly lazy rotating after a couple of Mavericks passes.
Even when Bryant tried to summon his old lock-down self against Chris Paul for a few possessions in the middle of the New Orleans series, Bryant was no match for CP-3 and habitually allowed himself to get knocked off by a screen.
Which is what bad defenders do when they know they can’t stay in front of penetrator and want somebody else to guard the damn guy.
We saw Bryant cross that fateful line this year: From good defender to a bad defender, just like that.
Overall, Bryant was statistically the Lakers’ worst regular on defense–the Lakers gave up 4.1 more points per 100 with him playing than with him out and opponents shot 48.9% EFG when Kobe played vs. 45% when he was out.
In the basketball-card stats, Bryant blocked a career-low 12 (!) shots and had only 99 steals in 82 games, his lowest total since 2004-05, when he played only 66 games.
Obvious point: Bryant has a bad knee and various other nagging ailments; at 32, having just finished his 15th NBA season, he’s wearing down and now the toll is showing.
One stat that illuminates the accumulation: Bryant is only a few months younger than Stephen Jackson (both born in 1978), yet Bryant has played 21,186 more minutes, regular-season and playoffs, than Jackson has.
That’s the equivalent of seven 82-game seasons averaging 40 minutes a game (which nobody does) that Bryant has played MORE than Jackson, who himself has shown signs of wearing down for a few years now.
Bryant was voted on the first team All-Defense this year, as he is most years. Most years he has deserved it. Not this time. Not even close.
I'm not even posting this to crap on Kobe. I'm posting this to highlight the fact that Kobe Bryant doesn't have much time left. Kobe barely practiced and he played very little defense all in an effort to keep shouldering the offensive load. His body is breaking down. His time is winding down.
By the way, that link is from a list of the All No-Defense team. For those of you who had brought up Al Jefferson as a guy we might have tried to get… read this. I love Al… but there's a reason he hasn't become the perennial All-Star we thought he might become when he was in Green.