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Thursday, January 19, 2012
Kobe: L.A. to keep experimenting

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

MIAMI -- The Los Angeles Lakers have averaged just 80 points in their past two games after Thursday's 98-87 loss to the Miami Heat. For the man who once scored more points than that all by himself in just one game, the lack of offense has become glaring.

"It's under construction," Kobe Bryant said with a bemused laugh after scoring 24 points on 8-for-21 shooting against the Heat. "We're still working on the blueprints, actually."

So far this season, the Lakers have scored 100 points or more just once, while failing to top the 90-point barrier three times. Despite the Lakers' overall team field goal percentage (45.7 percent) ranking sixth in the league going into Thursday's game, there were warning signs of L.A.'s offensive ineptitude, as it ranked 19th in the league in points per game (93.27) and dead last in team 3-point percentage (25.0 percent).

The Miami game was more of the same, as the Lakers shot just 34-for-81 (42 percent) from the field and 6-for-20 (30 percent) from deep. If not for a 31-point fourth quarter that included a late push after the Heat were up by as many as 23 points in the final frame, it would have been worse.

"We tweaked some things offensively," Bryant said as way of explanation for the recent downturn. "We probably want to kind of go back to some of the things that we were doing a few weeks ago in terms of some of the spots I'm on the floor and things like that."

Bryant has gone south along with the Lakers' team scoring the past two games, scoring just 38 total points on 15-for-43 shooting (34.9 percent). The slump comes on the heels of an eight-game stretch for Bryant in which he averaged 38 points while shooting a combined 112-for-224 (50 percent) from the field, with the Lakers going 6-2. Lakers coach Mike Brown admitted after the Lakers' 73-70 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, a game in which the Lakers shot just 38.2 percent as a team, that he had added new offensive plays the day before and his players were still adjusting to them.

"We're still experimenting," Bryant said. "We're still trying out different things. It's like we don't have any practice time so we're kind of experimenting on the fly, which we've had interesting conversations about in terms of trying it on national TV, but this is what we have to do. It's a process, and we just kind of have to stick to it."

The Lakers have yet to have a full-contact practice since training camp ended prior to the season opener on Christmas Day.

"There's a lot right now [to be fixed on offense]," Brown said. "We have a better feel, a decent feel of what to do in terms of a second and third option when a play is getting a little out of whack, but we're not quite there yet. Versus better defensive teams, it really shows because it's not as fluid, it's not as easy because they're up in us and now you got guys up in you and it's physical, and you may be thinking about something else as opposed to, 'Hey, just continue to run the play. They took this option away; go to the next. This guy is here, so I need to move here so our spacing is right.'"

After spending the bulk of his 16-year career learning Phil Jackson's triangle offense and knowing its intricacies inside and out, Bryant said relying on Brown's strong-corner offense has been "strange" but that he understands why his new coach is trying out different things through the first 16 games of the Lakers' 66-game schedule.

"He has to see what he has," Bryant said. "He knows what he has with me, but he has to see what he has with some of the other guys and what they can do and what they can't do. Being that we don't have any practice time, the only time that he can see that is during the game."

Bryant believes that by going back to the offense the Lakers were running when he was on his hot streak, he will be able to help L.A. secure leads so it can experiment with new plays and different sets without sacrificing wins.

"We're going to have to get back to what we were doing a few weeks ago, if anything just to get us some more cushion," Bryant said.

The two-time Finals MVP seemed confident the team would revert to what was working for him earlier in the season.

"We'll go back to doing some things that we were already doing in terms of comfort and spots on the floor and guys playing off of it and things of that nature," Bryant said.

Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher preached the importance of not relying too heavily on Bryant, however.

"We're trying our best to get away from just giving Kobe the ball and expecting him to save us every night and to have to shoot a lot of shots in order for us to score points," Fisher said.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.