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Kobe Bryant is averaging a career-high 48.2 percent shooting from the field while averaging 28.6 points per game. Furthermore, the Black Mamba is shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range and is shooting a career-high 87.0 percent from the free-throw line.
However, the one knock on the Mamba's offensive performance are his four turnovers per game.
All of these numbers point towards an elite level of efficiency from the veteran. The turnovers can be attributed to the offensive struggles the entire team is currently facing in terms of conforming to D'Antoni's system.
Despite the Lakers' early-season struggles, there is no doubt that Bryant's offensive output has not been been lacking.
Averaging his highest amount of points per game since the 2007-08 NBA season, Bryant has shown that attention to conditioning and fundamentals can prolong a superstar's elite level of production.
Despite the constant criticisms regarding his ball-stopping tendencies and the numerous isolation plays Bryant has per game, the Mamba's two championships without Shaquille O'Neal are evidence enough that him being the focal point of an offense works.
Bryant's five rebounds and close to two steals per game are right where his career averages are.
Thus, there has been no dropoff statistically for Bryant on the defensive end.
However, it has been apparent that Bryant isn't the same perimeter defender he used to be earlier in his career. He is still a very good perimeter defender, but age and mileage has hindered his ability to delegate an equal amount of effort on both ends of the court.
It appears as if Bryant's efforts on offense have mitigated his efforts on defense. Thus, it appears as if Bryant is sacrificing his defensive proficiency for his offensive efficiency.
Although he may still be destined for another All-Defensive selection due to his reputation, Bryant's defensive prowess no longer warrants him the label of a true defensive stopper.
He has often been late on rotations and has even been scolded by Dwight Howard on the court for missing rotations or being late on help defense.
Though this may be the case for the time being, if the Lakers are able to rediscover their offensive prowess under Mike D'Antoni, perhaps Bryant may be able to refocus his efforts on the defensive end of the court.
Bryant has never been a motivational leader.
The Black Mamba has guided his championship teams through intimidation. Furthermore, his ability to lead a team by example has been the true hallmark of his intangible impact.
However, in the past two seasons, his arrogance in regard to the ability of his team may have hindered their collective killer instinct. Though this confidence comes with believing he is the best, Bryant's temperament in this regard often fluctuates between pure frustration and confident indifference.
Either Bryant is going to jump down his teammates' throats or he's going to overlook some major problems.
Consider the fact that Bryant did not see the danger signs when the Lakers stumbled out of the gates under Mike Brown.
Recall how Bryant's initial indifference turned into intense frustration (i.e. Kobe Death Stare).
The Black Mamba is going to continue to be the Black Mamba. However, consider what Charles Barkley continues to stress.
Barkley emphasizes that players like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and even Michael Jordan to some extent, do not make the players around them better in the same way players like LeBron James and Magic Johnson do.
Concurrently, Bryant isn't the greatest locker-room motivator. However, his drive and his will should continue to be a good example for his teammates.
FINAL GRADE: B+