By now you’ve surely heard about Kobe Bryant’s 48 points he put up in a win over the Suns on Tuesday. You likely are also aware that Bryant is playing through torn wrist ligaments in his shooting hand, and that perhaps he’s been shooting too much, to the detriment of this Lakers team.
The fact that you are thinking it is probably one of the reasons for Bryant’s most recent streak of domination.
In the five games since that fateful 6-for-28 shooting performance in Denver, Bryant has averaged 36 points per game, while shooting better than 51 percent from the field. But the pinnacle came in the performance against Phoenix, and Steve Nash was as impressed as anyone with what he saw.
“It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen,” Nash said after Wednesday afternoon’s practice. “Not only because he had 48 points, but I thought Grant [Hill] guarded him incredibly well. He still made just shot after shot — contested and difficult shots. It was incredible.”
Hill actually did a decent job on Bryant to start the game, as Suns head coach Alvin Gentry was quick to point out.
“Grant guarded him the first eight minutes and he had four points,” Gentry said. “The last three minutes of the quarter he had 13. Obviously once you get a guy going like that, he gets in a comfort zone.”
Bryant has said that it’s personal when it comes to the Suns, and ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande took it a step further by speculating that Bryant’s ire might be directed specifically at Nash:
Kobe keeps saying how much he hates the Phoenix Suns.
But there’s almost nothing left from the Suns teams that knocked the Lakers out of the first round of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. The coach is gone, the general manager is gone, every other player is gone … there’s even a different guy doing tricks in the gorilla suit. The only one who remains is Steve Nash. The same Steve Nash who won the Most Valuable Player award over Bryant in 2005 and 2006.
“I don’t like them,” Bryant said of the Suns. “Plain and simple, I do not like them. They used to whip us pretty good and used to let us know about it, and I. Will. Not. Forget. That.”
If it is personal for Bryant, Nash certainly wasn’t willing to add anything to that internal fire Bryant already has burning for the Phoenix organization.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” Nash said. “I don’t know what his thought process is there. He had a great game, so if it’s personal, it was very, very ‘personally’ great.”
Nash said after Tuesday’s game that Bryant is “the best player in the world.” He stood by that assessment on Wednesday, while specifically giving Kobe the edge over LeBron James.
“I didn’t change my mind over night,” he said. “I mean, LeBron’s neck and neck with Kobe. But Kobe just, time and time again, has proven what he can do. He’s a finisher, he’s a scorer, and he’s a great competitor.”