After playing 15 of their first 21 games at home, the Lakers went into last night's game against Dallas with a 15-5 record...the third best mark in the West*. Everybody's singing the Lakers praises these days, and Steve Kerr even thinks they're the best team in the league.* This season, "third best in the West" really means "third best in the entire league." The East is just that bad. Orlando currently has the best record over there, and, at 15-9, they'd be the 8th seed in the Western Conference. That's right: the best team in the East would barely make the playoffs out West. Ouch.They do seem to be more balanced this season. Lamar Odom is averaging a career-high 17.5 points and leading the team with 8.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. Luke Walton is on fire from the field (51.9 percent) and beyond the arc (51.4 percent). Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum are providing a solid "two-headed center" attack; their combined average is 16 PPG (on 57 percent shooting), almost 12 RPG, and over 3 BPG. And of course Kobe is, well, Kobe.Now, a lot of people attribute the Lakers improved play to Kobe's maturity and increased willingness to trust his teammates. Analysts have noted that Kobe isn't demanding the ball as often, and that he seems content to play within Phil Jackson's offense until it's time to assert himself. And for the most part, they're right.But...I watched last night's game. It was close until about midway through the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks went on a little run to go up by 10 points. And then "Dr. Bryant" snapped and reverted to his "Mr. Kobe" form. Or maybe it's just his inner Mamba. Whatever the case, he began bringing the ball up himself or demanded it as soon as it was brought over half court, then dribbled and juked and jumped his way to several questionable shots. He hit a couple, but he missed most of them, and the Mavericks padded the lead and won going away.Of course, the commentators placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Kobe's teammates. Tom Tolbert noted that the other Lakers had struggled all night. Although that's not quite true. Sure, Luke Walton was a corpse-like 3-13 from the field, but Vladimir Radmanovic was 5-9 and Jordan Farmar was 5-6. Of course, their minutes and shot attempts were limited, especially in the fourth quarter when it became "Kobe time."And yet again I'm forced to come to grips with the primary reason I cannot embrace Kobe as the "best player" in the NBA. Because, quite simply, he isn't. He's the best scorer for sure (or maybe, in some cases, he's tied with Allen Iverson). But he doesn't really improve his teammates. He gave up on them last night and just stopped passing the ball. That is not what great players do.For instance, take that that classic Game 2 of the 1986 first round series between the Celtics and the Bulls. You know the one where Michael Jordan scored 63 points in double overtime. Yeah, well, the Bulls lost that game. Why? Because Larry Bird trusted his teammates. Bird had a triple-double in that game, and he assisted on the go-ahead basket off a pick-and-roll with Robert Parish. Now Parish was a great player in his own right, but he was having a terrible game, and had spent most of it on the bench because of foul trouble. But Bird hit him with a pass when it counted, while Jordan was trying to do it on his own, and the Celtics won the game because of it.That's why it took Jordan seven years to get to the Finals. But he learned the lesson. My lasting memory of the Bull's first title will forever be Jordan pulling the defense to him and hitting a wide open John Paxson for five straight jump shots that finished off the Magic Johnson's Lakers. And that's just one example. Another is from Jordan's first comeback year, when he was dropping his famous double-nickle on the Knicks. One of the lost memories of that particular game is that Bill Wennington hit the game winner. On a pass from Jordan.For some reason, Kobe just doesn't get that. This is his 11th season in the league. Just think about that for a second. He's been in the league 11 years now. And he still hasn't totally figured out how to keep his teammates involved. Maybe he never will.The Lakers are lucky to have Lamar Odom. He's their most complete player, and he also serves as the facilitator that gets everyone else involved. Kind of like Scottie Pippen was for the Bulls during those times (and they happened) when Mike forgot how to pass the rock. And you could see last night how much the Lakers missed Odom (who is out 3-6 weeks with a sprained knee). It could be be a rough month without him, especially since the Lakers play six of their next nine games on the road. Although, seven of those games come against teams below .500 (mostly Eastern conference foes of course), and one of the two winning teams (Houston) is without its second best player (Tracy McGrady). So they'll probably weather the storm and keep the early buzz going.But trust me on this one: Mr. Kobe isn't going away. He's going to pop up from time to time, even if people don't immediately recognize it. And I can't help but think it'll end up costing the Lakers at crucial times, as it did last May when he went MIA during Game 7 of last year's first round loss to the Phoenix Suns. Which is great for me, since I hate the Lakers. So, yeah, I guess there really isn't a down side.Kobe can't stop trying to do it on his own.