DALLAS -- As Jason Kidd, the last man off the court following this morning's shootaround, made his way out of the tunnel and into the American Airlines Center concourse, Kobe Bryant, still wearing his shades and a casual wardrobe from his signature line, was slowly swaggering his way to the Lakers' locker room.
"Hey Jason," Kobe shouted, "where's your cane?"
The two shared an embrace, and in a matter of hours the two will meet yet again on the floor to close out the first half of the NBA season.
Back in mid-January, when Derek Fisher's 3-ball with three seconds to play gave L.A. an ugly 73-70 win, it was Kobe looking older than his 33 years. He scored just 14 points on 7-of-22 shooting. This came after he had lit up Phoenix, Utah, Cleveland and the Clippers in succession for 40 or more.
"That was no 'D,' it was just that he missed shots," Kidd said. "Everybody missed shots that game, it was 70 to 73, so it wasn't a very high-scoring game or a pretty game. But we look for him to be Kobe tonight and not score just 14."
The Mavs, utilizing Shawn Marion, Kidd at times, others and their zone, have had pretty good success against Kobe recently. In the Mavs' 2011 playoff sweep, Kobe averaged 23.5 points on 45.8 percent shooting. After his Game 1 explosion with 36 points, he scored 23, 17 and 17. So in his last three games against the Mavs, Kobe is averaging 16.0 points.
Kobe's shooting percentage is down this season --44.3 percent and just 28.7 percent on 3s -- but some contend it's because he's so often left to heave tough shots late in the shot clock. This has not been a rhythmic Lakers offense under new coach Mike Brown, averaging just 93.3 points a game, ranking 22nd in the NBA.
Imagine if Kobe, averaging a whopping 38.2 minutes a game in his 16th season, wasn't the league's top scorer at 29.0 a game?
Kobe isn't attacking the basket as much these days, yet he's still fifth in the league in free throw attempts at 7.6 a game, which is third among non-centers (LeBron James, 8.9; Kevin Love, 8.9) and tops among guards. He took just one free throw attempt, and missed it, in the first meeting with the Mavs.
"He does attack the basket some, but he gets most of his shots on jump shots, and I would not presume to say that anybody can stop him from doing anything he wants to do if he really puts his mind to it," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We always try to make it hard on him. We always try to throw multiple guys on him, but, you know, he's great. He's one of the greatest ever and he's still phenomenal, so it's a tough job."