Bryant's role as a leader has been at its highest level this year. He was critical of the Lakers trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for almost nothing. However, the Laker star was confident in the direction the team was going.
Last week, Bryant called out the front office again. This time it was for their handling of Pau Gasol. The indecision of trading the seven-footer has affected his performance, according to Bryant. This led to a closed-door meeting for players only. The message of this meeting was to keep the team together and ignore talks outside the locker room.
Bryant knows his team is more limited than in the past. If he wants to win another championship, he knows he will have to use his leadership skills to help his teammates get the confidence they need to play better.
Bryant has put up another stellar season of statistics. He is leading the league in points per game, averaging 28.4 points. He is also averaging 5.8 rebounds to go with 4.9 assists.
Those stats are good enough to put him in the conversation for MVP. In 2008, when Bryant won the MVP award, he had similar stats. Across the board, his numbers from this year are only down by a few percentage points compared to his MVP year.
Voters for the MVP award love to look at numbers. They will also look at those numbers and think about who has put them up. At Bryant's age, he is less likely to post those kind of numbers. Voters will look at it as something even more special because of his age. This should help Bryant in getting a second MVP award.
If there is one thing Bryant has a reputation for it's being clutch in the fourth quarter. When the game is on the line, fans, players and coaches all say that they want Bryant to be taking the last shot.
Bryant showed why he is clutch this year with his performance against the Toronto Raptors. With one minute to go in the game, Bryant hit a three-pointer and followed that up by stealing the ball and passing it to Metta World Peace to give the Lakers a one-point lead.
After Toronto took the lead back, Bryant made a baseline jump shot with less than four seconds remaining in the game. If he continues to have performances like that, it will propel not only the team but also his MVP chances.
Bryant is a nine-time All-Defensive first team and has a reputation for his good defense. This year his defense has been more of the same.
Along with coach Mike Brown, Bryant has led the Lakers to having one of the best defenses in the league. At the All-Star break, they are sixth in the league in points allowed at 91.4. Also, they allow their opponents to shoot just 41.9 percent a game, which puts them at third-best in the NBA.
The old motto is that defense wins championships. Bryant plays great defense, which has helped them win championships in the past. This season, the Lakers have a struggling offense that is inconsistent. The defense played by Bryant is contagious throughout the locker room and has helped LA win close defensive battles.
The Lakers are in the hunt for a good playoff spot because of their defense, which is led by Bryant.
This one will be the most interesting to see play out. As of now, the Lakers are seven games back of the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference.
However, the Lakers are just three games behind second-place San Antonio Spurs. If the Lakers can move up in the standings to second or third, it will greatly help Bryant's MVP chances.
The MVP winner usually comes from a player on a winning team. At the moment, the top three teams in the NBA are the Thunder, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. Those three teams have the aforementioned players of James, Durant and Rose.
Getting the Lakers to that level will keep Bryant in the conversation at the end of the year. At the halfway point, he is a contender, no doubt about it. However, fans and voters want to see winners. If Bryant does not lead the Lakers to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference, he will lose votes.
Bryant has the capability of leading his team to one of the top seeds. If he does, expect to hear his name being mentioned as a top MVP candidate.