So many question marks surround Kobe Bryant’s season-ending injury to his left shoulder, and none of them will seem clear until he presumably returns for the 2015-16 season.
But Nuggets coach Brian Shaw has unique insight, his relationship with Bryant staying strong after working with him on the Lakers both as a player (1999-2003) and an assistant coach under Phil Jackson (2005-2011).
Shaw initially sensed the difficulty it would become in Lakers coach Byron Scott restricting minutes to Bryant. With Bryant suffering his third major injury for the third consecutive season, would be more inclined to play with more restrictions in his 20th NBA season?
“No. His competitive nature is always going to come out,” Shaw said. “He’s going to want to be out there on the floor when it matters and to make a difference.”
Scott has said he would like to play Bryant in the 20-minute range and sit him on back-to-backs after averaging 35.4 minutes per game this season. Bryant also sat in eight of the final 16 games before his injury to rest.
But instead of adopting that approach, Shaw sensed Bryant will become more of a facilitator. He took on that role later in the season, but he initially carried a large role. Hence, that explains why Bryant averaged 22.3 points on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting.
“He’s always had a willingness to do it. But his patience is short when he’s trying to facilitate and other guys aren’t hitting shots,” Shaw said. “I know that better than anybody does. If he comes out and is in a mode where he’s passing and trying to get everybody else involved and their shots aren’t falling, he’s going to stop passing and he’s going to do what he needs to do to keep his team in contention.”