The individual accomplishment is something to behold, especially when you consider the storied history of the Lakers franchise. But on a night when his team lost and his coach and All-Star teammate criticized him for taking too many shots, Bryant probably wishes it went down a bit differently.
Kobe's 44 points against Memphis didn't exactly come on a bunch of forced, wild shots that left his teammates wondering why they were even there. In fact, Bryant shot 16 of 28 from the field (over 57 percent), which included his knocking down four of seven from three-point land. Yet for some reason, this was the game that Phil Jackson and Pau Gasol picked to call him out for shooting too much and not involving his teammates.
Jackson told the team at halftime, when Bryant had 23 of the Lakers' 50 points, that Bryant was "forcing the action." Jackson also said in the halftime locker room, alluding to the 29 points Bryant needed in the game to pass Jerry West: "Let's get him over the hump, so we can play team ball again."Then it was Gasol, who has been vocal about his lack of touches in the past, piling on his coach's comments after the game:
Gasol was asked about Bryant's new record and offered politically correct – and believably authentic – commentary ("I'm proud of him; I congratulate him") before adding the kicker: "Now we can focus on winning games again."It's not that Jackson and Gasol are wrong; the Lakers would definitely be better off if Gasol (and Andrew Bynum, for that matter) got more touches offensively. But they sure picked a curious night to mention it.
There were two three-game stretches in January alone where the team would have been well-served in telling Bryant to rein it in a little. He shot 33 of 90 from the field over three games against Houston, the Clippers and Portland, and the Lakers lost two of the three. To start off this recent road trip, he went 31 of 79 against Cleveland, New York and Toronto. And again, his team dropped two of the three contests.
There's no question that the Lakers are at their best when Bryant facilitates a little more and gets everyone involved in the offense. It's just that pointing this out on a night where he drops 44, shoots exceptionally well, and the team might have lost the game because Kobe did pass to someone else on the final possession might not be the best time to do so.