The question of how Kobe Bryant will adjust to playing with the new, elite talent around him has led a healthy percentage of Lakers-related conversations since the team traded first for Steve Nash, then Dwight Howard. Bryant is, to say the least, a dominating figure in any number of ways both on and off the court. Can he accommodate two more perennial All-Stars?
As ESPN.com's J.A. Adande writes, high-end teammates could be the perfect recipe for a collaborative effort:
"If this Lakers thing is going to work, they'd better hope the wisdom of Steve Jobs applies to basketball as well as it did to business.
I'm reading Walter Isaacson's well-done biography of Jobs, and was struck by the profoundness in one simple quote. After Jobs returned to Apple for his second tour as CEO, he drew a lesson from his past and tried to surround himself with as much talent as he could, regardless of the egos. (Yes, tech geeks have egos too.)
"The Mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that, A players," Jobs told Isaacson. "People said they wouldn't get along, they'd hate working with each other. But I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn't like working with C players."
And that's what it comes down to with the Lakers, isn't it? All five starters -- Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace -- have been A players on their teams during their careers. If they all view each other as equals, communicate on an A-to-A level and appreciate working with peers, this can function.
In a brief interlude from the crush of reporters at the Lakers' facility on media day, I handed my cell phone to Kobe to let him read the Jobs quote. He studied it and said, "That describes my whole career."
Monday, I noted when surrounded by Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton (all Hall of Famers, though only O'Neal was still truly an elite player at that point) during the '03-'04 season, Kobe's usage rate dropped under 30 percent, the one time that has happened since '99-'00. So small sample size notwithstanding, there is some precedent to the notion Bryant gives more when he's surrounded by more.
(And nine seasons later, I would argue Kobe has a better understanding of leadership and team dynamics, along with a vastly heightened sense of his own basketball mortality. There isn't time to screw around arguing over shots.)
Obviously, the dynamic of this year's team is still to be determined, but as Adande notes, the Jobs philosophy -- that it's because Kobe is playing with A-list guys he's likely to mesh well with them -- could be the key to making it work successfully.