The confounding Lakers lost last night to the Clippers by five after going into the fourth quarter down 16. The loss dropped them to 15-17, 11th in a Western Conference that has roughly 11 solid contenders for the playoffs. While the team is still working to develop chemistry and Dwight Howard's back is clearly still bothering him, the disappointment can scarcely be blamed on injuries any more: the line-up, which, depending on how the rest of Howard's career plays out, features four likely Hall of Famers and a fifth that was once considered an MVP talent, is fully intact. This is the squad, and it has been since Steve Nash returned on Christmas day. This team, the one that sounded unstoppable before it stepped on the court, has played four games since its Christmas win over the Knicks and gone 1-3.
Throughout Los Angeles's struggles, Kobe Bryant has been more Kobe Bryant than ever. He's averaging as many minutes as he has since the 07-08 season, more points than he has since the season before that, and just under 22 field goal attempts per game, the most in the league by a full attempt. That statistic actually underrates the number of possessions he uses each game, because he's also fourth in the league in free throws attempted per game and tied for fifth in turnovers per game. His usage rate leads the league. Bryant has been the game's high-scorer in the Lakers' last 12 and the Lakers' high-scorer in their last 14—25 of 32 games overall.
So, a team of all-stars and Hall of Famers which should be formidable has led to Kobe Bryant's best—or most stubbornly heroic—individual season in a while, and a bad record. Dwight Howard, your thoughts on the crosstown rivals that beat you last night?
"Look at the difference between our team and theirs," Howard said. "They just play together. They share the ball. Everybody's excited when something happens. We have to be like that to be a great team."
Howard is currently playing with one of the best distributors of all time in Steve Nash and a brilliant passing big man in Pau Gasol. Tough to figure what's keeping the ball out of his hands.
Maybe Howard could tell Kobe to pass him the ball on Twitter? He sounds receptive—just tag it #mambatweets.