Banged-up Kobe comes through again
LOS ANGELES - Concussion. Broken nose. It just doesn't seem to affect Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers' incomparable star put up another remarkable performance, shredding the Kings for 38 points in the Lakers' 115-107 win Friday night.
In two outings since suffering his second major injury of the season -- the latest one during the All Star Game -- Bryant has scored 69 points with 15 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Lakers have scored 100 or more points two games in a row for only the second time in 36 games.
Friday night Bryant was efficient from the floor, hitting 13 of 24 shots in 37 minutes.
Bryant is still wearing an uncomfortable mask to protect his broken nose, sustained when the East All-Star Dwyane Wade hammered him in Sunday's showcase. Bryant also came away with a concussion, nausea and a sore neck. But he's playing through the pain and discomfort—again—and coming up with some of his best performances in an already excellent season.
"The Masked Murderer," said reserve forward Matt Barnes, who had 10 points in 16 minutes off the bench. "I think he's even better when he's hurt. He's got to (focus) in a little more, and he takes nothing lightly (anyway). There's no doubt in my mind that as long as he can walk and move, he's gonna play—no matter what the problem"
Which is what sets the 14-time All Star apart from his NBA colleagues.
Players in all sports perform injured on a regular basis. A sore back; twinge in the knee; headache. Most guys suck it up and play. Bryant, however, seems to thrive while battling injuries.
He spent most of the first two months of the season adjusting to a torn ligament in his right wrist; It happened in an exhibition game with the Clippers, but Kobe played 35 minutes in the opener at home against Chicago. The Lakers lost to the Bulls 88-87, but he scored 28, grabbed seven rebounds and added six assists. And in spite of the wrist and the latest injury, he's the league's leading scorer, and has missed no significant time.
It's not the first time in his career that Bryant has excelled while battling a significant injury.
Twice in less than a month during the championship season of 2010, Bryant went down with back spasms and an injured left ankle. In the game following the back problem, he torched the Clippers for 30 points, two rebounds and three assists. Against Memphis on that sore ankle—which bothered him on and off for the rest of the season--he collected 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
However, Bryant reacts with little bravado when he's asked about how hard it is to keep playing through injuries.
"Yeah, it's a little tiring, with the energy it takes to battle through (them)," he said. But I'm alright. I'm gonna keep on trucking, keep on playing. That's the only thing I know how to do."
Which could be some bad news for the Miami Heat, who arrive in Los Angeles for a nationally televised battle against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
The Lakers' offense seems to be coming to life for the first time under new coach Mike Brown, and they have a defense good enough to slow down any team in the league. And even though they're close friends, Bryant will have a point to prove to Wade. The Heat are coming to town after a one-point loss in Utah, and might be vulnerable.
"I'm looking forward to it," Bryant said. "It's going to be a lot of fun and there's a lot of high-energy (that will go into) that game. It's a good opportunity for us to measure...to see how much we've improved since the (98-87 loss) the last time we went down to Miami."