Within two days, Kobe Bryant morphed from failing toward becoming an honors student.
The Lakers’ star always strives to become the valedictorian in the school of basketball. But after spending eight months out of the classroom because of a shattered left Achilles tendon, Bryant needed a crash course to catch up on his studies.
As the Lakers’ 114-108 loss Tuesday to the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center indicates, it’s clear so far that Bryant’s success hasn’t directly coincided with the team’s. The Lakers conceded 56 points in the paint. The backcourt in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined for 48 points. The bench in Markief and Marcus Morris combined for 37 points. The Lakers are also 0-2 ever since Bryant’s return, dropping to a 10-11 record and a 12th place standing in the Western Conference.
But with Bryant posting 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting, three assists and three turnovers, it marked a stark improvement from his opening night line that entailed nine points on 2 of 9 shooting, four assists and nine turnovers. That’s why Bryant slid his self-imposed grading system from an F to a B.
“I feel I did a much better job tonight,” Bryant said.
Bryant showed that in several ways.
He opened the game showing he somehow found the fountain of youth again, throwing down a a baseline dunk after dribbling past P.J. Tucker. Bryant also showed off his athleticism by going up for a layup after Pau Gasol connected him on a no-look pass.
“Going to the basket is something I didn’t know I’d make it above the rim or not,” Bryant said. “But I figured I’d just try.”
Bryant managed, though. Was it possible because of another overseas trip to Germany? Hardly. A mere two days after suggesting his 225-pound frame at eight percent body fat was still too heavy, Bryant said he already dropped five pounds. He then joked his wife, Vanessa, “hates me” for dropping weight after playing merely one game.
“I felt a lot lighter,” Bryant said. “It’s crazy. I dropped some weight already. I can tell the difference in how I move. I still have some more pounds to go, but I felt a lot better.”