In this most unpredictable season where the Lakers have looked old and tired, Kobe Bryant has appeared young and restless.
And when it came time for the Lakers to beat up on a reliable punching bag in the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bryant literally carried that role to new heights.
The 34-year-old guard Kobe Bryant shot, soared and dazzled his way to 33 points on 13 of 22 shooting in only three quarters.
“I’ve been in attack mode since the [All-Star] break,” Bryant said. “It’s go time.”
Go time it is.
Bryant opened the game with a right-handed dunk over Nikola Pekovic. A quarter later, Bryant sped past Ricky Rubio for another dunk. Just before halftime, Bryant went in for a reverse layup. Bryant’s not surprised this happened after shedding 16 pounds this offseason. But he is surprised this happened by immediately showing his athleticism despite only having pre-game warmups to loosen up his body.
“I can get to the rim a lot more,” Bryant said. “We’re more spread so I can attack the basket. My passing and teammates knocking down shots opens up the floor more. I’m a lot stronger and healthier this time around than I was last year.”
But that’s not all Bryant did.
He provided marksmanship, shooting 4 of 8 from three-point range. Bryant provided leadership by doling out five assists. He provided efficiency by shooting a high volume of shots without forcing the issue.
“There may have been a time where he was a little more explosive, but hes explosive enough to do the 95 percent of things he’s always done,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said. The 5 percent of those things are unnecessary. Hes doing other things now that he couldn’t do before. He’s almost as good as hes ever been.”
Yet, some remain unimpressed.
When asked to judge Bryant’s dunks, Lakers center Dwight Howard suddenly turned serious.
“I’m not going to say anything,” Howard said.
“I don’t have anything.”
But what’s Bryant doing to attack the basket so consistently?
“That’s what he’s supposed to do,” said Howard, who may have been miffed he posted only 11 points on six field goal attempts. “He’s supposed to attack the basket and score. if he doesn’t attack, he’s not playing the way he normally plays. I wouldn’t expect nothing less than to attack the basket and try to dunk. that’s cool. But those weren’t dunk contest dunks out there. It’s one hand or two hands. It’s pretty simple.”
So what would impress Howard?
“If Chris Duhon dunked,” Howard said, “I would be more impressed.”
What about Steve Nash?
“I don’t see Steve getting close to the net,” Howard said. “I would laugh if he dunked.”
Regardless, Bryant had the last laugh.
He posted 22 points by halftime. Bryant scored 11 points while playing the entire third quarter. He then
iced his knees for the entire fourth quarter, a well deserved rest after scoring in every way imaginable.
“I don’t know what he’s doing [but] it’s good,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said of Bryant’s resurgence. “He’s got a lot of energy.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org