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Friday, December 13, 2013
Updated: December 14, 3:28 AM ET
Kobe Bryant: 'I'm not worried'

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Lakers' 122-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday dropped them to 0-3 since Kobe Bryant's return from his Achilles tear, but the slow start hasn't fazed Bryant one bit.

"I'm not worried about it, to be honest with you," Bryant said. "We've seen worse. We forget kind of what we had to go through last year. I'm not really too concerned about it. I think our heart is in the right place. I think I saw a lot of positive things tonight; we just got to put it together for longer stretches. We'll be fine."

The losing streak dropped L.A. to 10-12, or 13th in the 15-team Western Conference. Bryant was justified in his statement about last season, however, remembering how the Lakers fell to 17-25 at one point in January before rallying to finish 28-12 and make the playoffs.

Bryant -- who is averaging 11 points, 6.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 6 turnovers in 26.7 minutes per game since his return while shooting 38.5 percent from the field overall (including an 0-for-5 mark on 3-pointers) -- was similarly optimistic about the direction his own game is going.

"I'm moving a lot better," Bryant said after finishing with 4 points, 13 assists, 2 steals and 7 turnovers in 23 minutes against the Thunder. "It will get to a point soon where I'll be able to play a little bit more and be out there on the court maybe 30, 35 minutes or something like that. It's not ready for that yet, but it will get there."

Bryant was just 2-for-6 from the field Friday but promised he would be looking to score more in the future.

"Once I start playing a little bit more, that number is going to go up," Bryant said. "The points will go up. I'm not too concerned about that. I think the most important thing is our flow and how we play and how we manage the game. My points, I can always put the ball in the hole."

With the Lakers playing without Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) for at least the next three games to finish out their four-game trip, the team will continue to rely on Bryant to distribute the ball and look to score.

"He's got to do both and he knows that," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He'll feel the game and he'll get better every game. I think he's gotten better every game. There was some really good stuff that he did."

Bryant said the intrigue in him, the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history, taking on point guard duties is misplaced.

"You guys get wrapped up in this whole point guard thing," Bryant said. "I was point guard for three straight championships. So, it's not a big deal to me. But, timing, when to roll the big guy out, when to find him, when to slip it in those areas, it's getting there. It's getting there. We'll be fine."

D'Antoni said he expects Bryant to be a playmaker and sort out the scoring and passing load on a game-by-game basis.

"I don't think you can pre-program it," D'Antoni said. "I think he has to read the game. If he takes 20 [shots], if he takes three, he's got to make plays and he'll do that. I think he feels like sometimes he can't jump over guys, his legs and stuff, but each game goes by, he'll get more comfortable physically and we'll do a better job around him. He's fine. He's the least of our worries right now."

Bryant had a chance to test his legs in the first quarter, stripping Jeremy Lamb for a steal at center court and streaking down toward an uncontested hoop, but he chose to go for a layup rather than a dunk.

How far down the court did he decide against dunking it?

"Oh, as soon as I stole it," Bryant said with a smirk. "I mean, for what? It's early in the game. I'm still not even loose. I'm not [dunking]. I'll just take the two points."

Bryant is taking the same cautious approach when it comes to ramping up his playing time as he tries to balance the urge to help his team with the patience needed to fully reintegrate his body into the throes of NBA basketball after nearly eight months on the sidelines.

"It's tough, but physically it's not ready for that yet, so even though it's tough, I can feel it's not ready," Bryant said. "But, we'll just have to hold the fort down in that time and try to stay within striking distance and go from there."