Kobe Bryant vows to keep shooting
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Hours after a disappointing 99-90 road loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in a game in which Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant shot just 6-for-28 from the field, new Lakers coach Mike Brown and Bryant huddled together on the team plane and reviewed the game tape during the flight back to Los Angeles.
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"I normally (watch tape on the plane), but watching it with the head coach is different," Bryant said. "I really enjoyed it because you get a chance to digest things, process things, go over things, talk about adjustments in terms or personnel and who to put on what spot on the floor and all that kind of stuff."
What they saw on the screen left Bryant defiant as ever about his decision making and the coach defending his star's shot selection following Monday's practice.
"I do what I do. If guys are open, I kick it to them, if they're not, I shoot it," Bryant said. "I play my game."
Bryant, playing with a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right (shooting) wrist that he suffered during the preseason, started off the season averaging 27.8 points on 48.1 percent shooting through the Lakers' first four games but had difficulty with his accuracy over the weekend. He averaged just 16.5 points on 12-for-46 shooting (26.1 percent) in a back-to-back against the Nuggets that the Lakers split 1-1.
Through the first four games of the season, when Andrew Bynum was sidelined with a suspension, Bryant averaged 20.3 shot attempts per game. In the two games since Bynum came back, Bryant's shot attempts actually increased to an average of 23.0 per contest. Meanwhile, Bynum has averaged 23.5 points per game on only 15 attempts per game and is shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
"We always start inside-out," Bryant said, when asked about Bynum and Pau Gasol's effectiveness on offense. "If you mean (to ask me) if I'm going to shoot less, the answer is no. It starts with me. I do what I do and we play off of that. That's not going to change."
Brown backed up Bryant's stance after their impromptu film session. Brown said he had watched cut-ups of a game tape with LeBron James when he coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, but never watched a full game tape all the way through with his prized pupil.
"When you look at (6-for-28 in the box score), you think 'Oh my gosh, there's got to be a ton of bad shots,'" Brown said. "But if you go back and watch the game you see some of the shots he took, there were a lot of shots he took -- (I know) because I coached against him -- he normally makes."
Brown said that Bryant's wrist, which still causes Bryant's right hand to swell up significantly two weeks after he sustained the injury, could be hurting Bryant more than he is letting on.
"He's got to continue to figure out how to stay in rhythm or how to get in rhythm with that wrist. He might not say it, but try to hold a microphone with a torn ligament, let alone shoot it and make sure you get a follow through," Brown told a group of microphone-toting reporters. "That's a bear. That's a bear."
When asked if he will tell Bryant to shoot less while he makes the adjustment to his wrist injury, Brown vehemently opposed the consideration.
"No, no, no, no, no. Kobe can make shots. That's what he's done his whole career," Brown said. "He's got a (right index) finger that he kind of went through the same thing with and he made shots against us (when Brown was coaching Cleveland) with that finger and he's going to make shots for us. The one thing I don't want to do is to tell him to stop shooting because he's going to work his way through it, just like he did with his finger."
Bryant initially deflected questions about his wrist by saying, "I don't make excuses," but eventually conceded, "It's a pain in the ass. It is."
Still, the man who became just the sixth player in NBA history to reach 28,000 points for his career during the loss in Denver, made it clear that his confidence was not shaken after a couple of poor performances.
"I had shots. If I have shots, I take them," Bryant said. "If I shoot the ball 40 times with good looks, that's what it is. (If I shoot it) 15 or 20 times, that's what it is."
Bryant added that he didn't realize that he had passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to set the record as the youngest player ever to amass 28,000 points because his thoughts were focused elsewhere.
"What I realized is I got to make some adjustments with this jumper," Bryant said.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.