The shooting woes, the limited minutes and the pressure to perform are hogging the early season headlines for the Los Angeles Lakers whenever Kobe Bryant is discussed. Bryant’s body is finally showing the wear and tear of playing through countless injuries spread across some major minutes being logged in the preseason, regular season, postseason and even the Olympic Games.
Thus far in 6 preseason contests, Bryant is just a shadow of the Black Mamba we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing perform at the highest level night in and night out. Averaging just 19-minutes per contest, Bryant is shooting a pathetic 27% from the field, 15% from three point land and is dropping just 11 points-per-night while dishing out 2 dimes against 4 turnovers. These are numbers that would embarrass Tyronn Lue.
Not much weight can be placed on his preseason performance. Bryant’s mobility has improved in each game and he even had a vintage Mamba moment during a 19-point third quarter onslaught against the Jazz just last week.
Phil Jackson has already stated his desire to see KB24 play limited minutes early in the season. Of course PJ wanted the same thing in Europe only to see Kobe play 24 minutes in Barcelona including a demand to be put back into the game in the second half. Such is the nature of Bryant, one of the fiercest competitors the game has ever seen.
Not one to disappoint paying fans, Bryant regularly plays through pain and injuries that require rest and rehabilitation. So determined to play is Bryant that I even openly questioned if he was too competitive.
Most don’t anticipate Bryant playing the front end of a back-to-back tilt with the Golden State Warriors. Even if Kobe doesn’t sit out Thursday’s contest you can bet he’ll play Friday as it is the last tune-up for the regular season.
With Andrew Bynum on the mend, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will be expected to pick up the slack as Bryant continues to get his legs under him. This is precisely why Dr. Buss is so willing to go above and beyond the luxury tax threshold. He knows his team can’t be a one man show so showing Pau and LO the money was a necessity for moments like this.
Most NBA superstars would be content to sit out the initial weeks of the season while they adjust but not Bryant who is on a quest to draw level with Jordan. While his game is still rounding into form, Kobe’s competitive nature is burning as bright as ever and that just might be enough for the Lakers to weather the early season storm.