The Los Angeles Lakers are seeing a new and revived Kobe Bryant, but so far the changes have done nothing to pull the team from the Western Conference basement.
For a 27-game stretch, Kobe put the team on his back and played a grueling amount of minutes. Finally, with his body aching and his tank drained, Kobe took three games off just before the new year and returned energized, averaging 17 points and 8.5 rebounds in 32 minutes a game.
Kobe explained that he put a greater focus on being efficient, saving his energy by playing smarter.
"To score the ball takes a lot out of my legs. I'm making some adjustments... But also it gave me a chance to reflect. Breaking down my game. You see now I'm very, very efficient. I know exactly where I want to go. I get to my spots, I don't try to beat guys with quickness. I back them down, I get to my areas, I elevate over them. It's just old-school Oscar Robertson style."
The Los Angeles Lakers have committed to giving Bryant roughly 32 minutes a night, still a high number but in better range for Bryant. Coach Byron Scott said Kobe is also sitting out some practices to stay fresh.
Scott said the change in Kobe Bryant is an ongoing scenario, with the team still hoping to get him more than the roughly 21 shots he's been averaging in the last few games.
"He's just taking what the defenses are giving him. That's what great players do," said Scott. "The last two games, his shot selection has been great, but he hasn't gotten the number of shots we'd like him to get on normal basis -- but everything else has been up so you can't argue with that."
But the changes have done little to help the Lakers in the standings. The team has lost nine of its last 12 games, and remains at the bottom of the Western Conference, ahead of only the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The team's commitment to Kobe Bryant seems to be in conflict with some trade rumors surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. With Kobe announcing his intention to play only one more season after this one, some sources close to the team say the Lakers are shopping Bryant in the hopes of starting the rebuild as soon as possible.
[Image via Business Insider]