Kobe Bryant tries to stay patient

Updated: December 13, 2012, 12:47 AM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is trying to stay calm -- for now.

As the Lakers enter Thursday night's game against the New York Knicks with a 9-13 record after losing five of their last six games, Bryant is trying to stay as patient as possible during, what he has called, one of the most frustrating stretches of his career.

"I'm a bit of a psychopath when it comes to that and I don't expect my teammates to have that level of concern, but I hope that they're feeling determined and not discouraged," Bryant told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday. "That's something that we'll talk about, because there's a difference. ... It's human nature to get discouraged by things -- 'We're not as good as we thought we were,' and this, that and the other -- but I think at that moment is where you have to dig deep and become more determined and say by any means necessary we're going to get this thing done, we're going to turn this thing around, and it has to be a group thing."

Bryant vented some of his frustrations after the Lakers' 100-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday but generally has tried to stay positive as the Lakers adapt to new coach Mike D'Antoni's system.

"I think I'm doing a pretty good job sitting on my lily pad and meditating through this process," Bryant said. "I think I'm doing a pretty good job of just trying to stay as patient as I possibly can. I'm trying not to forget the things that I've learned throughout my career of going through tough stretches. Just really focus on the game and focus on the mistakes we're making through the course of the game and how to correct those mistakes."

The Lakers are making plenty of mistakes this season, far too many for Bryant to enumerate.

"You can make a lot of excuses, but still all in all, none of them are sufficient enough," he said.

Yet the biggest culprit many, including Lakers great Magic Johnson, continue to point at is the system the Lakers are running. Whether it was Mike Brown's system, before he was fired after a 1-4 start, or D'Antoni's system, neither seem to suit the Lakers.

Bryant, however, is not willing to blame the system for the Lakers' struggles, especially with Steve Nash sidelined since the second game of the season with a fractured fibula in his left leg. Nash is expected to be out at least two more weeks. Pau Gasol has missed the last five games with tendinitis in his knees, and Steve Blake has been out more than a month with a torn abdominal muscle.

"It kind of remains to be seen, how well we're going to play, in the system, in the up-and-down system," Bryant said. "Now granted, Steve (Nash) is not in the offense. He's the conductor of the offense. He's the one that's familiar orchestrating it. Are we the fastest team in the league? Not close, but you don't necessarily have to have speed to be an effective running team."

Despite the Lakers' struggles, Bryant seemed confident D'Antoni would be able to adjust his offense to fit the Lakers' personnel.

"I think Mike D is a very, very smart offensive coach," Bryant said. "He's not a man that is stuck in doing it one particular way. If it's not working, I'm sure he's open to mixing things up. I know that. He wants to be successful more than anything. It's not just about implementing his system. What's the end goal? The end goal is to win a championship. It's not playing a certain way."

Bryant I'm a bit of a psychopath when it comes to that and I don't expect my teammates to have that level of concern, but I hope that they're feeling determined and not discouraged.

-- Kobe Bryant on Lakers' struggles

In addition to getting Nash back, Bryant believes that a re-energized Gasol also will help the Lakers. He echoed the sentiments that Johnson made Tuesday, saying Gasol needs to be in the post more and that the Lakers need to cater the offense to the strengths of Gasol and Dwight Howard.

"Mike said when he got here, to us, it's going to be a learning experience for me as well," Bryant said. "This is him addressing the team. He said, 'If you feel like I'm not using you to your strengths, if I'm not using you in the post as much as you like, let's talk about it and we can figure it out.'"

Bryant believes D'Antoni and Gasol will figure it out when Gasol returns to the lineup.

"I think he's the key to the whole thing," Bryant said of Gasol. "I think his ability to post the ball and make plays from the post and from the elbow, his shooting ability, his decision-making ability, we're not going to find that any place else. ... Now, it's on him to make sure he comes back in tip-top form, in tip-top condition, that his mind is in the right place, to play with the aggression and the moxie that he played with in 2010."

The one superstar on the Lakers, besides Bryant -- who hasn't missed any games this season -- is Howard. He is averaging 18.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game but is shooting a career-low 48.8 percent from the free throw line as teams implement the "Hack-a-Howard" strategy at the end of close games.

Howard, for the most part, has not responded well to the strategy as he continues to struggle from the free throw line.

"I think you have to look at both of us," Bryant said. "His free throw shooting has been poor, but as the two guys who are driving this team, the one thing we can do is minimize our mistakes. His free throw shooting hasn't been very well. My turnovers have been too high. So we have to try to shore those things up. It's his responsibility to take care of the line when he's fouled, it's his responsibility to step up there and knock them down. It's my responsibility to take care of the ball."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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