NBA Pivot Points: Kobe Is Still Capable of Shouldering the LA Lakers' Burdens

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer INovember 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers around Julian Wright #32 of the New Orleans Hornets on November 8, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Imagine, people were sure that this would be the year that Kobe Bryant would take a back seat to the young guns in the NBA. Most felt that due to the construction and dynamics of the Los Angeles Lakers, that Kobe's numbers would dip accordingly.

Boy were we wrong, and maybe MVP wrong, because Kobe is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, in fact he is expanding his game.

He is shooting a career best 49 percent from the field and is averaging a league best 33.6 points per game, hardly the type of numbers for a player who is willing to take a back seat to anyone.

That's not the most impressive part. It's common knowledge that Kobe spent some time with Hakeem Olajuwon during the off season in an attempt to work on his footwork in the paint.

He understood that his post-game was no more than average, and who better to learn the nuances of the paint than from the seven foot center who moved with the grace of a ballerina.

Bryant got his chance to move down low with the injuries to Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol and the results were telling. In the seven footers' absence, Bryant put on a show and reminded us why he is one of the greatest to play the game.

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There was Kobe posting up 7-foot-2 Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, spinning on his pivot, then reversing, and then putting up a perfect shot off the glass.

There he was against the New Orleans Hornets, completely abusing helpless Devin Brown on one post move after another. Watching Kobe post Brown, then execute a perfect spin to the rim for the alley-oop was like Olajuwon re-visited.

Of course Kobe was nowhere near as refined as Hakeem in the paint, but his willingness to learn, and then apply his lessons is what makes Bryant who he is.

Bryant, like Michael Jordan before him realizes that in order to stay relevant in the NBA your game has to have the ability to evolve and adapt, especially when tenure begins to rob you of your athleticism.

The development of a post game is a natural progression for a player like Bryant who still has the pride and ego to want to remain in the upper-echelon of players.

It's not like his game has been confined to the offensive end either, because Bryant has been an absolute terror on the defensive end of the floor.

Much of that has to due with the addition of Ron Artest which allows Bryant to concentrate more fully on his man and to guard the passing lanes at will.

That has translated into Kobe being among the league leaders with almost three steals per game, and a return to the lock-down defense that Bryant has been known for.

Even though the Lakers were playing the lowly Hornets and the dysfunctional Grizzlies in the past two games, the possibility of the Lakers losing one or both of those games was very real, especially minus Gasol and Bynum.

Kobe's will didn't allow that to happen, as he was more than willing to accept the challenge, and in the process he showed us new elements of his expansive repertoire.

So when discussing the dominance of Bryant what should you turn to? The fact that he has had three games in which he scored 41 points, two of which were back-to-back? How about his lights-out shooting percentage?

Maybe we can dwell on the nugget that his lowest point total of 20 points coincided with the Lakers only loss. Of course you can turn to his dominance on the defensive end in which he has shown his aggressiveness of old.

People will say that they are tired of hearing about the exploits of Bryant, but it is refreshing to discuss a player in reference to the continued evolution of his game rather than the constant distractions of his off court antics (i.e. Allen Iverson)

To date there is only one other player in the NBA who is currently carrying his team with the consistency that Bryant has shown, and here's a hint, he resides in the city of Miami.

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