When ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reported late last season that Kobe Bryant had his knee drained several times during the course of his team's 2010 run to the NBA championship, few were surprised. No NBA player has put on more miles since Bryant's 1996 debut, and no player has gutted through more injuries during that time than the future Hall of Famer. Put the two together, and you have a guy that clearly will do anything to play through the pain derived from a decade and a half of wear and tear.
Fast forward to 2012, this time with a bum wrist, and it's become more and more obvious that Kobe can't change. From the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding, in a must-read column:
Bryant has been taking a numbing injection to that wrist before every game in hopes of performing normally. Yes, it's that bad.
He does not want to publicize all the details of his wrist, which is usable only because the bones were not moved permanently out of alignment without the ligament to hold them in place. But it's now clear just how problematic the wrist is, and it's fair to wonder where all this will take Bryant.
Bryant walked out of Staples Center on Tuesday night with something that looked like an oven mitten over his right hand and wrist. He wears an immobilizing brace over the wrist when off the court, meaning take-for-granted parts of life such as texting on his phone or zipping his fly become rather challenging.
Of course, the "Kobe can't change" mantra applies to other, more frustrating things as well. Even with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the Laker lineup, no player took more consistently bad shots in the season's first week than Kobe. Though Bynum missed the first four games of the campaign, Bryant had no excuse for the litany of failed fadeaways and dodgy drives that marked his game right up until Tuesday night's sterling performance in the latter part of Los Angeles' win over Houston. With Courtney Lee out for Houston, and Kevin Martin hopeless, Kobe finally took it to the post, and dropped 37 points.
It took 6 1/2 games, though. Bryant far and away leads all active players (because, really, Donte Greene and Jeremy Lin aren't all that active these days) in usage rate so far in 2011-12 (the percentage of possessions you personally use up), and that's not good news for the Laker offense when Kobe is tying his career low in shooting percentage and racking up more turnovers per game than he ever has.
As it always is with Kobe, you admire the grit and want to knock on his noggin. He's a gamer, there's no doubt, but he needs to be a smarter, more efficient gamer. Because there's no reason that a team featuring Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should be a middling 14th in offense -- even with the presence of offensive zeroes like Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace using up possessions. If the numbing element working in Kobe's wrist can allow him to shoot, then it can also allow him to feed the post and cut away from the ball.
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