Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers motions from the bench as Kobe Bryant #24 comes up the floor; D'Antoni's offensive system is designed to create more open shots for Bryant and company, especially once Steve Nash returns.
Kobe Bryant put on a show for his hometown of Philadelphia Sunday night. He scored 34 points on 12-21 shooting with six assists and four rebounds. Bryant hinted that he may only get one more chance to play in front of the Philadelphia fans.
"Next year could be my last time playing in front of this crowd," Bryant said with a smile on his face.
If this is Bryant’s penultimate season, he is putting on quite the show.
With nearly a third of the season complete, the Black Mamba is shooting his career best in field goal percentage (47.8). From behind the arc (38.0), he’s only three-tenths of a percent behind his best season shooting three pointers (38.3 in 2002-03). From the foul line, Bryant's making 86.5 percent of his free throws. Kobe is noticeably shooting better than he has in at least five year, if not ever.
All this is coming with Steve Nash sitting on the sidelines in a suit. Bryant's shots should only get easier with Howard, Gasol, and Nash drawing the defense’s focus and properly spacing the floor in head coach Mike D'Antoni's system. With the best yet to come, 2012-13 should be a career year for number 24 in every shooting category.
"I’m surprised I have the energy to play this well," Bryant said after the win against Philadelphia. "A lot of that has to do with diet and really being committed to it. I mean, I came to Philly and I didn’t have a cheesesteak.”
Now, that is sacrifice.
No coincidence that the Lakers offense looked smoother with Kobe Bryant being more efficient and taking fewer shots. He attempted only 21 field goals on Sunday—well below the 26 shot attempts Bryant was averaging the five games prior.
Without Nash around, Bryant gets the ball nearly every time down the floor, and sometimes, the ball never leaves his hands. This is not a difficult concept to understand when one considers Bryant is a career shooter and an all-time top five scorer.
"I like shooting. I like putting them up," he said clearly and enthusiastically when asked if he liked having the ball in his hands. "It doesn’t matter how it comes."
Perhaps, everything will not be instantly fixed when Nash finally returns in the couple weeks. Likely, the team may need some time to gel. However, Bryant is looking forward to limiting himself to the role he considers to be his greatest strength — shooting.
Bryant is putting up the best shooting numbers of his career, and the best is yet to come.