Kobe Bryant’s Inability to Play with Olympic Teammates Previews Season to Come

An underlying subplot of Team USA's exhibition season has been the curious play of Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant.

After being the unquestioned team leader during the United States' gold medal run in Beijing, Bryant has seen his play subdued to say the least in the five exhibition games.

In 2008, Bryant led Team USA by taking 104 shots in the team's eight games—21 more than second-place LeBron James.

During the 2012 exhibition season, Bryant came in a shocking fifth with just seven shots a game (35 total), including an inexplicable three-shot performance in Team USA's battle with Spain.

From the outsider's perspective, it could look like Bryant has finally settled into taking a backseat approach. That he recognizes LeBron James and Kevin Durant are Team USA's best chances to win gold and he's satisfied with a secondary role. That Kobe Bean Bryant is draping the flag over the stat sheet and is just one of the guys this time around.

Spoiler alert: That's not likely.

No one can erase 16 years of NBA DNA overnight. Not even the magnificent Kobe Bryant.

It's far more likely that Bryant was using Team USA's exhibition season as his own personal experiment.

You see, signing Steve Nash means next season will be the first in well over a decade where Bryant won't be L.A.'s primary ball-handler.

The triangle offense which Bryant ran for 11 years under Phil Jackson (and even the offenses under Rudy Tomjanovich and Mike Brown) simply used the point guard as a vessel to get the ball up the court. Once past midcourt, the ball nearly always went directly into Kobe's hands. Bryant would then either set his post players up in an isolation set, find a roaming gunner for three or take the ball himself.

But the offense almost always ran through Kobe.

Nash hitting his apex of effectiveness for the Lakers likely means the days of Kobe Br...

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