DENVER — His workload dwindled and his free time opened up, giving Kobe Bryant several moments of self reflection on how he will counter punch against Father Time and persistent double teams.
When he sat three games last week, Bryant restored some of the energy that he expended through two months this season that produced 24.1 points albeit on a career-low 37.5 percent shooting. But that time away from the court also prompted Bryant to look at how he can play more efficiently by finding easier sweet spots and elevating his teammates around him.
So in what Bryant likened toward becoming an “old school Oscar Robertson,” the Lakers’ star returned to the court with a less-is-more approach. That meant taking fewer shots and making more passes. That meant offsetting his lost athleticism with a deliberate approach by backing down his opponents in the post instead of exploding to the basket. That meant Bryant offering his second triple double of the season, his 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in 32 minutes fueling the Lakers’ 111-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday at Pepsi Center. Incidentally, the strategy offered Bryant the gas mileage equivalent to a Prius instead of a Hummer.
“I’m making some adjustments and focusing on being a point two. It takes less effort and less energy,” said Bryant as he rested his legs in a bucket of ice by his locker afterwards. “I’m a natural scorer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t evolve.”
Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott and Bryant stressed that this identity switch reflects more of the circumstances around him than actually changing his scoring mentality.
“He has a great feel for the game and takes what the defense gives him,” Scott said. “Tonight was one of those nights where they tried to get it out of his hands. He did a great job of reading the defense and finding the open guys. I don’t think he’s out there trying to save anything or pacing himself. That’s not his style. He’s taking what defenses give him.”