As if Kobe Bryant needs any more motivation.
Perhaps with uncertainty lingering regarding his torn left Achilles tendon, Bryant was considered the second best shooting guard in the NBA behind Houston’s James Harden in an anonymous survey of all league general managers posted on NBA.com. The majority of those front office personnel (56.7 percent) picked Harden as the top two-guard in the NBA, while Bryant finished in second (20 percent). That marked the first time in the survey’s 12-year history that Bryant wasn’t considered the NBA’s best shooting guard.
“I would say right now they’re right because Kobe’s out,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “He’s got a torn Achilles. Harden’s probably better than him with a torn Achilles. But when he’s back, you should ask the GMs again. Maybe they got messed up there.”
The league general managers still considered Bryant the NBA’s toughest player, perhaps considering he managed to hit two free throws and walk off on his own accord after suffering the Achilles injury that still sidelines him to this day. Still, Bryant also ranked in second place (32.7 percent) behind Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (39.3) as the player NBA general managers would want to take the last shot of a game. Meanwhile, both Steve Nash and Bryant finished second and fifth, respectively, as the player with the most basketball IQ.
Bryant recently changed his Twitter avatar to “1225″ presumably in reference to ESPN ranking the Lakers 12th in the Western Conference and Bryant as the 25th best player.
To what degree has this outside skepticism fueled Bryant?
“He’s got a lot to prove. It just adds to it,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t think he needs any motivation. He just wants to be the best ever. That’s his motivation. He’s pretty much an alpha dog. I’m not worried about him trying to find motivation.”
The Lakers, instead, are more worried when he will return.
After Bryant performed some shooting and jogging drills before the Lakers’ preseason loss last week to Golden State in Shanghai, D’Antoni said the Lakers’ star hasn’t advanced in his rehab. The Lakers also haven’t offered any updated timetable on his return. The Lakers host the Clippers in their season opener next Tuesday at Staples Center.
“You prepare without him here. When he comes back, we’ll adjust to him and have guys in different spots,” D’Antoni said. “They’ll all find their niche. It’s not like we’ll play differently. The ball will go to him more and guys will have to adjust playing off of him. But you can’t do that until he comes back.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org