Both the Lakers coaching and training staff have their reservations on Bryant. They know that in order for him to be at full strength, he’ll have to tone it down to conserve his energy for when it matters the most—during the postseason.
At 32 years of age, Bryant knows he’s not getting any younger or faster. The team, however, still depends on Bryant to be great. This season, the times that Bryant has felt the need to take over the game by attempting to lift the team on his shoulders, he’s been unsuccessful. He tried to exert his will against the Spurs a couple of weeks ago, but missed 13 shots in a row, the most ever in his career.
Bryant still puts up 20-plus point nights on a nightly basis, but that only attributes to his greatness. He’s a smart player, knows every spot on the floor, finds those spots and goes to work. Forget the playoffs for a second and realize that Bryant has played most, if not all 82 games for multiple seasons. The mileage is what’s making him take a step back.
Despite not having much lift on his shot, he’s been able to find other ways in which to be productive for the Lakers. Instead of going over people he goes around them, gets into the seams, draws a double and does a little bounce pass to a teammate or an up and under step-through to get his shot off. Yes, there have been times when Bryant has actually gotten to the rack and powered up, but very seldom does he go that route.
That’s the beauty of the Bryant of late. He’s got enough shots in his arsenal and enough focus to still be considered a force for the Lakers, broken fingers, bad knees, tendonitis and all.