Kobe Bryant: Heavy Minutes and Offensive Burden Not a Problem for Black Mamba

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIDecember 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24, Darius Morris #1, and Jodie Meeks #20 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk up the court past Shaun Livingston #14 of the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center on December 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Being asked to carry the weight of an offense on his shoulders is nothing new for Kobe Bryant. The 17-year pro has done it time and time again for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Mike D’Antoni is simply resorting to the most basic of human instincts—survival. Feeding the Black Mamba is the only way to keep his team afloat, and he’s riding him as hard as he can at the moment.

It isn’t a bad call, either.

Bryant is currently on the very top of his game, posting the fourth-best player efficiency rating in the league with a 25.81 PER. It’s hard to call it peaking, but that’s a term that comes to mind.

His NBA-leading 29.5 points per game have come on a career-best .602 true-shooting percentage. His most impressive stats have come over the past 10 games, as he’s averaging 40.7 minutes per game and scoring 33.8 points over that span.

Those MVP-like stats have come at a critical juncture for his Lakers franchise. The team was heavily believed to be title contenders after several key preseason signings.

Now, injuries and trade rumors surrounding Pau Gasol have kept the big man on the shelf, and the Lakers have suffered in more ways than one as a result.

Steve Nash will eventually return, but how much of a difference will the 39-year-old point guard make?

Defense and offensive scoring options are slim for the Lakers at the moment. Beliefs that those concerns will end with the return of Nash are highly optimistic.

While it may take more than one guy to compete in the NBA, Bryant is doing his best to voice his argument to that statement.

Despite coaching changes, injuries and trade rumors, the one constant through all of it is Bryant.

His scoring, leadership and sheer will to win can be enough to lift the Lakers out of mediocrity and back into title contention. Limiting him or worrying about overworking him isn’t something that he understands.

Words like "rest" and "failure" aren’t in his vocabulary.

Bryant has said he won’t play forever because he wants to go out on top.

He might as well go out guns blazing, doing what he does best: carrying his team and lighting up the scoreboard.

Who knows? Maybe it will help spark a turnaround for the up-and-down Lakers.