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Player of the Week: Kobe Bryant

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March wasn't the kindest month for Kobe Bryant. He shot the ball pretty poorly overall, shooting just 38.7% for the month in 17 games. Of those 17 games, only three of them were games that Kobe shot less than 20 shots. If there's one thing we know about Kobe, it's that his self-confidence will never waver. There are some moments we'd wish his belief in himself was tempered just a bit, but overall, Kobe's insistence on continuing to play "his" way is his most professional trait.

As frustrating as it is watching Kobe shoot 3-21 like he did in a win over the New Orleans Hornets, I admire his unflappable lack of self-doubt that allows him to start the game 0-15, yet still have no hesitation nailing the three-pointer that gave the Lakers a lead that they would never relinquish. Of course, if he misses that shot, we'd all be ready to crucify his stubborn ways. But he made it, and we all marvel at his determination in never thinking he won't make his next shot. With millions of fans dissecting every shot attempt, being able to shut all of that out and follow up terrible shooting nights with huge clutch shots and performances against the Warriors, Nets, and Clippers is a quality that we should all be in awe of. Just when people are ready to pile dirt on his coffin, Kobe always seems to be able to string together a bunch of great games that leave you speechless. It's not that he decides to play differently or "smarter," he just has this awesome will that seems to just raise his play. The shots he hit this week are the same shots he missed in New Orleans, and the same shots he missed most of March. Whether or not he should take them is a post for another day, but when Kobe is nailing Kobe shots, there is nothing sweeter to watch.

Before the inevitable letdown loss against the Rockets, Kobe was sublime in torching any Clipper assigned to him, as he led the Lakers to a big win over a supposed rival in a game that could have wrapped up a top-3 seed in the West. It was his professional response to that terrible start in New Orleans that had me ready to give Kobe yet another Player of the Week. He just continues to shake shit off that would leave most players in search of answers. Kobe's only answer is to play better, and he usually responds well after terrible games. So far this month, he's averaging about 3 minutes less per game. Here's hoping more rest will keep Kobe from falling into slumps as the playoffs arrive. Especially since he had to sit out the Phoenix game to show that Andrew can't carry a team yet with an injury.

Hey Mike, rest Kobe more, free Goudelock.

This award was almost snatched away by Metta World Peace. Remember when it seemed like Metta was done? It wasn't so long ago that the point guard and small forwards positions were absolute weaknesses for the Lakers. Offensively, the Lakers solved the point guard issue, and with Matt Barnes also playing well, time has changed the Lakers' fortunes at the three. Now about that bench...

Here are Kobe's stats for the week:

In 4 games, he averaged 30.75 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in 36.8 minutes per game. He shot 56.6% of his shots from the field, including 56.3% from three-point range, and shot 83.3% from the free throw line.

I'd like to end this by taking the time to get something off my chest...

Would Andrew Bynum please shut the fuck up and just play basketball?

I don't know if he's just feeling his star too much, or just your average stupid 24-year old? I feel he's playing the best basketball of his life (kinda*), but why does it have to come on the heels of some of his worst behavior? Is he so emboldened by the fact that the Lakers didn't pull the trigger on Dwight Howard (if it was ever really there?), that he knows he's virtually untouchable and feels the need to let everyone know? He wants to be considered the best center in the NBA, and he's not that far off from that title as we thought he was, and he has an opportunity to get there. NBA fans and writers are a fickle bunch. With Dwight being an even bigger asshole, Bynum has the opportunity to validate his rise to stardom and turn the public's mind on who might be the best center in the NBA. Right now, no one wants to root for Dwight, and Bynum sure isn't capture anyone's eye being a dick.

One thing he's failing to realize is that his constant bouts of immaturity are going to label him throughout the league, and refs are going to view him with a reputation that Rasheed Wallace could never shake, and Metta World Peace still works damned hard to change. His star is going to be tested with the whistle (or lack of) and he needs to be aware of this. Never mind the fact that if he's getting cheap fouls or technicals, he hurts his team as well.

I just wish he would tone down the attitude, and get back to playing focused basketball. He's the key to the Lakers returning to championship glory and he knows it. His play backs that up, but his maturity makes those aspirations a huge question mark. Once again, when he's given the chance to carry the team, in last night's game vs. the Suns without Kobe, the Lakers were run off the floor by the Suns. Maybe when his ego comes back down to earth, he'll include himself in huddles, stay focused and get back to playing the world-class defense that could easily lead the Lakers back the Finals. He hasn't built up the benefit of doubt that some of us afford Kobe. He needs to realize this for his own sake, plus the team's (and ours). We love what he gives the Lakers, but there's still a ways to go with him.


4/1 vs. Golden State Warriors

4/3 vs. New Jersey Nets

4/4 @ Los Angeles Clippers

4/6 vs. Houston Rockets

4/7 @ Phoenix Suns