Kobe Bryant seemingly can do it all. He makes one-legged fadeaways. He sinks shots over multiple defenders. He drives to the basket with fierce athleticism. He nails jumpers after using his crafty footwork to create separation.
Don’t expect Bryant to dunk like he did last season with ease. Don’t look for Bryant to win a track meet. Don’t anticipate Bryant single-handedly carrying the scoring load. With the Lakers star rehabbing his surgically repaired torn left Achilles tendon, however, he likely will have to resort to a new bag of tricks.
One of those includes Bryant’s work in the post, something he tried to hone in on four years ago when he worked with Hall-of-Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon.
“Kobe is a genius. He understands. He loves the post,” Olajuwon said in an interview with Nice Kicks. “He told me you big guys have it easy because you have the post. I would never leave the post. If he could stay there all day, he would stay in the post.”
It wouldn’t be a bad idea if Bryant does that for the 2013-14 season. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Bryant went 55.1 percent from the field on shots from the post. Yet, his usage rate in the post (13.1 percent) marked a stark decrease from the shots he generated on isolation plays (28 percent) and pick-and-rolls (20.5 percent). The reason for that disparity? Bryant remained effective at creating his own shot. He took over point guard duties both when Steve Nash missed 24 games because of his fractured left leg and midway through the season in hopes of jumpstarting the offense. The Lakers also needed to leave room for Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to operate in the post, something that never reached equilibrium.
Bryant worked out with Olajuwon after winning the 2009 NBA championship against the Orlando Magic, and his usage in that are increased.
“I learned a great deal obviously from him in the post game, recognizing double teams and how to deal with those,” Bryant said during the 2010-11 season.
After using post-ups for 14 percent of his offense in 2008-09, Bryant used post-ups 22 percent of the time the following year where he won another NBA title. The approach came in handy considering Bryant nursed a right knee injury that eventually required surgery and then an innovative procedure in Germany the following year.
“He wanted to get more fluid in the post,” Olajuwon said. “When you see the last couple of years, he’s been back to the basket and in the post.”
With his athleticism likely diminishing, it’s a safe bet Bryant will take a similar approach. All for one simple reason.
“It’s always the detail that separates the great players from the greatest players,” Bryant said two years ago. “It’s no different with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Michael [Jordan] and the others, it’s the attention to detail that separates those guys.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org