In a surprising move, Kobe Bryant has decided to step aside so that the Los Angeles Lakers can build towards the future, according to ESPN. Earlier in the week, he instructed head coach Byron Scott to reduce his minutes and role so that D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle can have bigger roles on offense and defense. Scott had been hesitant about scaling back with Bryant because he wanted his former teammate to retire on his own terms. Byron was highly-criticized by others for stifling the development of his younger players because of his extreme loyalty to Kobe.
There are 59 games remaining on the schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers. If Kobe Bryant wants to make sure that he gets to enjoy every single one of those, then reducing his minutes is a great way to ensure that happens. At 37, his body cannot take as much of a toll as it used to, especially after all the injuries over the past couple of years. Thus far this season, Bryant has averaged a little more than 30 minutes a game. Byron Scott needs to reduce that so that Kobe is playing closer to 20 to 24 minutes a night.
As of right now, Kobe Bryant is the third leading scorer in the history of the NBA. The Philadelphia native knew that it wouldn’t be possible for him to reach the top spot because Kareem Abdul Jabbar was ahead of him by more than 5,000 points with 38,387. Bryant was hoping that he could at least challenge for the second spot, which is owned by Karl Malone and his 36,928 points. Doing that would have enabled the Los Angeles Lakers to have the bragging rights that comes with owning the top two spots. Kobe can at least smile that he was able to surpass Michael Jordan in this category.
This is the opportunity that D’Angelo Russell has been waiting for all season. Coming into his rookie season in the NBA, the 19-year-old guard knew that Kobe Bryant was the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Lakers. Russell also knew how loyal Byron Scott was to Kobe. D’Angelo struggled to find a fit in the offense. That affected him on the defensive side of the ball as well. Scott has benched Russell as punishment, but with Bryant stepping aside, D’Angelo will now be allowed to learn through his mistakes and become a franchise player.
Julius Randle has been compared to former Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom because of his versatility on offense. In order to get to the level that the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year did, Randle would need the ball in his hands more frequently. It would have been hard for Julius to have developed his play making skills if Kobe Bryant was still taking over 20 shots a game. With a bit more freedom now, Randle can run isolation plays where he uses his athleticism to blow past the bigger forwards that he is normally matched up against.
Jordan Clarkson has quietly been the most consistent player for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. His efficiency has been one of the bright spots in what has been a gloomy season. Kobe Bryant stepping aside bodes really well for Clarkson as he is trying to convince general manager Mitch Kupchak to offer him a large contract when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Kupchak can offer Jordan as much as $88.5 million for four years, which would exceed what any other NBA team can pay the six-foot, five-inch, 185-pound guard. Clarkson’s 15.2 PPG average is solid but the Lakers would like to see more to be comfortable with locking him up.
Are you surprised that Kobe Bryant would have it in him to actually step aside for the Los Angeles Lakers?
[Featured Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images]