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Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers has been the Lakers' most consistent and reliable offensive weapon during the first third of the season.
After Tuesday night’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Kobe Bryant has scored 30 or more points seven games in a row. Impressive as that may seem, Bryant has actually scored 30 or more points in nine of his last 10 games, and the lone under-30 game was a 29-point performance in a blowout victory over New Orleans. He has already scored more than 30 points in 15 games and topped 40 points on three occasions this season.
The current Kobe is starting to draw comparisons to the 2005-06 Kobe who averaged 35.4 points, scored 62 points in three quarters, and put up 81 points in a game. Although Kobe strayed a bit off the deep-end during the Lakers’ recent struggles by jacking up more shots than anyone other than Kobe would deem acceptable, this is not the 81-point Kobe.
Prior to Pau Gasol sitting down with tendinitis, Bryant was averaging 18.6 field goal attempts per game and making 9.1 of them for an impressive 48.9 percent average. Without Gasol and Nash in the lineup, Bryant took on more of the scoring burden by putting up more shots. In the eight games Gasol missed, Bryant averaged six more shot attempts per game and shot 45.9 percent from the field.
Thin team meant more shots and less efficiency for number 24.
On the season, Bryant is still shooting a career-best 47.7 percent, noticeably better than the 43.0 percent he shot last season. He is also shooting the three-ball with greater efficiency (38.1 percent) than he has in a decade. With Steve Nash expected to return within the week, Bryant’s shot attempts should stay at his season average of 20.7 per game—if not drop slightly lower.
Bryant is an easy character to villainize, but shooting is not his problem this season. Averaging 3.8 turnovers (most since 2004-05), playing too many minutes (38.4 per game), and not playing hard enough on defense are all warranted concerns. However, Nash’s return should cut down on some of the turnovers, winning should cut down on some of the minutes, and a balanced attack should lead to more defensive energy.
The Clippers being good, the Lakers losing too much, and the team passing on Phil Jackson are all valid complaints this season, but Bryant shooting is one thing Lakers fans shouldn’t bother whining about this year.