Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the NBA. But in the last two games, it has been his passing that has helped the Lakers look more like the team many predicted they would be at the start of the year.
Bryant racked up 14 assists for the second straight game on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, leading the Lakers to an impressive 105-96 victory. The shooting guard added 21 points and nine rebounds, and it was also the second straight game where he finished just one rebound shy of a triple-double. He had 14 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in a dominant 102-84 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday.
In an interview with USA Today's Sam Amick after the win over the Thunder, Bryant talked about his new role of facilitator:
"It's trying to evolve and figure out what we need as a ballclub," Bryant said of his new style. "Instead of me being a finisher, I'm just really facilitating and drawing the defense in and making plays. I game-planned for it, and it seems to be working."
The question now of course is whether Bryant can sustain this type of assist production. He has been a gunner his entire career, as illustrated by the stat that he has only finished with more assists than field goal attempts four times when playing over 30 minutes. So it would certainly not be surprising if he reverted to his natural tendencies at some point. But Bryant is also a very smart player, and if the Lakers continue to play well with him in the facilitator role, perhaps he's more inclined to keep this up.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni seems to think that he will:
"I think he likes (playing this way)," D'Antoni said. "I think he's happy as hell."
Perhaps the Lakers have found a solution to some of their woes?