Despite having to deal with a number of injury issues as a team and despite their best player dealing with a broken index finger on his shooting hand as well as back spasms, the Lakers still have the best record in the Western Conference this season. While they have some head scratching losses and haven’t looked like the same dominant team from a season ago, they still have one of the best records in the NBA. One of the reasons they have been so good this season is the play of Kobe Bryant. Despite dealing with health issues, Bryant hasn’t missed a game this season for Los Angeles and he is still doing his best hero impression at the end of games for the Lakers. Last night Kobe went 16 of 28 from the field, scored 44 points and despite losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant became the Lakers all time leading scorer surpassing Jerry West. What a tremendous accomplishment for Kobe Bryant. He is still just 31 years old, has a lot of basketball ahead of him and is still playing at an elite level. There are still more points left to be scored for Kobe Bryant.
At this point in his career, being the Lakers all-time leading scorer and passing a name like Jerry West is a tremendous accomplishment. When you look back at the history and see all the names that have played for Los Angeles, it makes it even more impressive. I know there have been a number of great players in the franchise’s history and I haven’t seen all the Lakers play because I’m only 26 years old, but the Black Mamba is the best Laker that I have ever seen.
Kobe Bryant joined ESPN 710 in Los Angeles with Mason and Ireland to talk about the play of the Lakers this season, dealing with the injury that he is dealing with, what it would mean to him to break Jerry West’s scoring record and whether or not he wants the team to make a trade before the deadline.
On the overall play of the Lakers this season:
“We’re doing okay. We could do much better though. The last couple of games, I’ve felt like we’ve been playing with the right energy and playing more focused and with a sense of purpose on the road. It’s just a matter of just improving in those departments.”
On whether or not there is anything that he has done with his finger to get more adjusted:
“I’ve been able to adjust the splint a little bit and make it a little bit more comfortable. The finger’s getting better and also the other injuries that I was dealing with – the little nagging ones that I was dealing with – those are gone now as well. I’m playing with more energy and I’m having some of that dynamic stuff that I was playing with at the start of the year, the movements are coming back.”
On whether his finger affects him more on offensively or defensively:
“Defensively. My steals have suffered because basically I have to try and deflect the ball with just one hand which is my left hand. My right hand is hardly ever involved in the play so you end up defending with one hand.”
On why the Lakers are so good with Pau Gasol in the lineup:
“Because he’s that final piece that we needed. When you put him into the lineup everybody else falls into their natural positions. Nobody else has to play outside of character or play in a position that they’re not comfortable playing in. Pau makes sure that everybody is lined up the right way and it helps out our bench depth tremendously. You get to slide Lamar (Odom) to that second unit which helps the second unit immensely so all those things fall into place when he’s on the floor.”
On the potential of breaking Jerry West’s record as the Lakers all-time leading scorer (interview was before he broke the record):
“It’s really special. I don’t really follow milestones closely at all, but this is one that I wish I could do at home, do at Staples Center in front of the home crowd. I’ve just been very fortunate to play with one organization for a such a long time. To ever set that record, it’s very special.”
On the key to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum playing well together:
“I think its playing with the energy and effort of running the floor. I try to tell them all the time that I need you to get easy baskets, as many easy baskets as you can get as opposed to constantly trying to back the ball down because you get worn down doing that as the season goes on. You see me a lot of times getting the rebound, pushing the ball and I’m looking for Drew (Andrew Bynum) and Pau to get as many easy baskets as they can. Lobs over the top, running in transition, spot up jump shots and things of that nature. I think when that happens they get into a better rhythm offensively.”
On Ron Artest not playing too well for the past month:
“Everybody talks about me playing through injuries but he’s as tough as I am. He’s playing through injuries as well. He’s got two fingers that are jacked up and he’s got plantar fasciitis in both of his feet. He’s playing through some tough things right now. It’s just a matter of him playing, contributing where he can and getting healthy at the same time.”
On whether or not he thinks the Lakers need to make a move at the trade deadline:
“No. I love my guys. I love my guys. I love how we’re built and I love what we have and I’d love a chance to repeat with the group that we have here right now. Obviously Mitch (Kupchak) has to do his job and I won’t get in the way of that but from my personal standpoint, I love the group and crew that we have.”