It’s staggering to realize what’s been going on with Kobe Bryant lately.
He’s the reigning MVP of the NBA playoffs, which means he’s been recognized as perhaps the best basketball player in the world. Only LeBron James would have a legitimate claim otherwise.
But in the first few weeks of the Lakers’ season Bryant has done something even he never did before. He’s a guard who has taken on the challenge of being an almost unstoppable post player.
In the absence of injured centers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, Bryant has set up in the post and scored and scored and scored.
He had 41 points three times, and the remarkable thing was that he rarely shot from long distance. In one game he attempted 30 shots, and none were three-pointers.
How has Bryant added this dimension to his game 14 years into his NBA career? He never stops trying to improve. He never reasons that he’s good enough.
So Bryant sought out Hakeem Olajuwon this summer. Olajuwon has no connection to the Lakers but he was a great post player. Bryant wanted instruction on how to get favorable post position and how to operate from there.
Obviously he learned well.
The interesting question is what will happen to the Lakers’ offense when Bynum and Gasol return. They certainly will take over the post, one of them anyway. But with the big guys out of the way Bryant has learned he can benefit from having the post area to himself.
I guess the big guys will resume their normal roles, but Coach Phil Jackson might call more post plays for Bryant now that he sees the mismatch that creates.
I think Bryant was joking when he responded to a question about whether he’d give up the post by saying: “Are you kidding?”
Seriously, Bryant has outgrown his younger years when it was all about himself and being the league’s top scorer was important to him. He’s become a guy who places winning championships above everything else.
He will do what’s best for the Lakers. But his ability to control the post area makes him a better player than we realized.