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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • BLOG: Bryant assists could extend career

  • Don't look now, but Kobe Bryant might have just revived and extended his career.
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  • Don't look now, but Kobe Bryant might have just revived and extended his career.
    The five-time World Champion, who hit the 30,000 point mark earlier this season, was starting to look a bit tired.
    It seemed as though, Bryant would always be the lone scoring option for the L.A. Lakers, and, further, that it would take near Herculean efforts to create space for those shots.
    The team would always count on Bryant to ice games with clutch baskets as the clock wound down. They would pretty much count on him always—in every situation.
    And with the Lakers sliding sideways and backing up, in terms of season record, it seemed that the only solution to the team's woes was going to be another heaping helping of shots by No. 24.
    Bryant changed that formula with the help of his teammates in a recent win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
    Instead of looking to score, Bryant looked to assist, and his teammates responded. Bryant still scored well, but he added 14 assists. Against New Orleans on Tuesday, the trend continued, as Bryant hit for 11 assists.
    Keep in mind, the Lakers star was averaging less than five assists per game. He still is, despite the two-game infusion of 25 assists.
    No one could really blame Bryant for holding on to the ball. Through most of his post Shaquille O'Neal career, Bryant has repeatedly tried to set up teammates for scoring chances, only to watch shots miss. And, eventually, he would have to take over the action again.
    Why not hold onto the ball? Skip the ill fated attempts at assists.
    With new talent on the court, and without much time to gel, the Lakers were struggling. Bryant was tiring. And the team was getting frustrated.
    Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were supposed to ignite the Lakers back toward championship play. They were not doing that, in part because Bryant found it hard to change his "only scoring option" mentality.
    When Bryant began to dish assists against Oklahoma City, players displayed a readiness to score.
    Bryant broke his bad habit and the Lakers are hoping he'll have no reason to revert to hanging onto the ball.
    No doubt, after three straight wins, the Lakers' players are feeling less frustrated. Maybe this squad is starting to develop some chemistry.
    No one is saying the team will make a big push into the playoffs. It's possible that the Lakers will be on the outside looking in when the postseason arrives.
    But the latest Laker developments bode well for the future. And that's what this was all about anyway.
    The Miami Heat had to go through this process two years ago when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade to form what many thought would be a "Super Team."
    Page 2 of 2 - How would the team play together? They had to answer that question. And they suffered through a rough year.
    A year later, they claimed the NBA title.
    The Lakers could end up on a similar course.
    There's just too much talent for the Lakers not to succeed. And Bryant's move toward assisting looks to be the answer to the Lakers' pre-championship question.
    The burden will be less shouldered by Bryant, which means the Laker star will be fresher later in games.
    And with the ball moving around, it's bound to find Bryant's hands at the game's most critical moment. Bryant will be even more deadly then.
    And as the seasons roll by, Bryant might be able to keep his career going.
    At the previous rate, it seemed that Bryant was grinding to a halt. Retirement seemed just around the corner.
    Now, he's feeling better.
    The Lakers are feeling better.
    Championships should follow.
    And as for that all-time scoring record, don't get too comfortable Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant's chances of catching you just went way up.

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