The Los Angeles Lakers lost once again on Dec. 19 to the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-103, giving them an 8-18 record this season. While NBA veteran Kobe Bryant tried to take the final shot, he missed, fueling speculation that the chance to score the game-winning point should have gone to someone else.
According to Zach Harper of CBS Sports, the Lakers decided to give the ball to Bryant with about six seconds remaining on the clock in Friday's game, which obviously fell short. Although point guard Jeremy Lin had second thoughts on that decision, he expressed his reaction in a diplomatic manner.
"How many game winners has he hit like that?" Lin asked, referencing Bryant. "I'm obviously rooting for him to hit that shot. I thought it was a good look. It was a very, very hittable shot. That's just a matter of time before he starts hitting those game winners."
However, Lin clearly understood why the Lakers gave Bryant the ball when the team was under pressure to win, even though at times Lin wished he would also be given the chance on the court.
"I like game winners too," Lin said. "I would love to shoot some. But I get it. That guy is kind of the king of game winners. He's going to hit that shot. He'll figure it out. That's why he is who he is."
According to CBS Sports, Lin has only taken three shots in similar situations, hitting one of them during his run with the New York Knicks back in the season of 2011-12. On the other hand, Kobe is just 1-of-6 from the field.
"The only other Lakers' player to take a shot in these situations is Nick Young, who is 1-of-2," Harper wrote. "His big make came against the San Antonio Spurs as the winning attempt. Lin hasn't been afforded the opportunity to be the hero in a situation like this."
Even though he missed the shot, Bryant told Baxter Holmes of ESPN that he had no regrets making that decision.
"It was the shot I wanted to get," Bryant said following his nine-point performance on 3-of-15 shooting. "I was trying to figure out if I had time to draw contact. It just threw me off a little bit."
Bryant, 36, admitted that he was quite tired when he took the shot. ESPN noted that he has previously done this several times this season, his 19th year in the NBA.
"Yeah, I didn't have my legs," Bryant said. "Pretty frustrating. I've got to figure it out."
ESPN reported that Bryant shot 1-of-5 in the fourth quarter, while Lin shot 3-of-5. Lakers coach Byron Scott defended his decision to play a game-weary Bryant instead of tapping Lin's potential.
"32,000-plus points," Scott said, referring to Bryant's career total.
Although Bryant had limited practice training within the two days before Friday's game, Scott believed that his best player may have pushed too hard during that session. However, the Lakers coach indicated that he was not concerned about that issue.
"He wanted to compete in practice and get guys going," Scott said. "Ultimately, that maybe kind of bit us in the butt a little bit. Maybe I just have to say, let's just take the whole day off, instead of coming out and getting shots or doing some of the things that he did."
In his defense, Bryant admitted to ESPN that he could have pushed himself too hard on Wednesday.
"Maybe," Bryant said. "It's a balancing act, right? Just trying to figure out when to do it, when not to do it. I'm just trying to figure out proper rest and all that other stuff. I'm just trying to get a good system, trying to start getting some consistency in these legs."
Despite the setback, Bryant has come to realize that the fate of the Lakers this season may depend on how he can condition his aging body to keep up with the rigors of the basketball court.
"Hopefully I can figure something new out tomorrow," Bryant said. "It's just trial and error."
Jeremy Lin drops a flashy no-look dime to Carlos Boozer: