OVERVIEW: Shooting guard Kobe Bryant had another superb individual season, but it was his continued maturity as a team leader that stood out above his scoring average in 2008-09. Bryant led the Lakers to the NBA championship, pushing and prodding his teammates rather than waging war against them. He averaged 26.8 points in 82 games, his lowest since he averaged 24 points in 2003-04. He then averaged 30.2 points in the playoffs, guiding the Lakers past the Orlando Magic in five games. Bryant has an early termination clause in his contract, which means he could be a free agent at the end of the month. He said he’s not going anywhere, deflecting repeated questioning about his future with the Lakers. He said it wasn’t worth his time to discuss it.
QUOTEWORTHY: “Having gone through what we went through last year and having the goal in mind of trying to get back to this point, and to have the attitude of (trying) to become a better defensive team, a better rebounding team, and then to actually do it and to see it all happen, it feels like I’m dreaming right now.”
STRENGTH: Leading his team with deeds and words.
WEAKNESS: Still can do more to ignore calls and non-calls of referees.
CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2010-11, but can terminate his deal June 30.
Next: Andrew Bynum.