It was Kobe Bryant’s idea to swap defensive assignments for Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bryant guarded Russell Westbrook instead of Thabo Sefolosha. Derek Fisher checked Sefolosha. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Bryant approached him and said, “I’d like to guard Westbrook.” Jackson added: “It takes a much higher activity level (to guard Westbrook). It’s every play. There’s no time off on defense. It told me what his determination was, whether his knee was better or not (I don’t know).” Bryant has been troubled for months by injuries to his right index finger, left ankle and right knee.
Westbrook scored 15 points on 4-for-13 shooting in Game 5.
“I enjoy the challenge,” Bryant said of checking Westbrook. “He’s been playing sensational, and if we’re going to be eliminated I don’t want to go into the summer thinking I could’ve done something about it, so i accepted the challenge.”
Asked how he stayed with the rookie, the 31-year-old Bryant said: “Just being a savvy old dog I guess.”