It was fair to feel like the Lakers could quickly lose hold of the rope this season when Anthony Davis went down with his injury. The Lakers had relied heavily upon him to compete this season and he had delivered in a big way.
Without him, a number of players that had not yet otherwise were going to need to step up and deliver in big ways. As we’ve since seen, that has in fact happened with perhaps no role player making a bigger jump than Thomas Bryant.
Inserted into the starting lineup, Bryant has brought an energy and production level that no one in the front court outside of LeBron James and AD had shown. It’s the former of those two attributes that has persisted throughout his career and has made him such a fan favorite this season.
In a recent article by Kyle Goon of the OC Register, Bryant talked about where that energy level comes from while referencing the moment that changed his approach to games this season.
But his hustle shows up, too. Russell Westbrook and LeBron James have praised him for getting down the floor in a hurry in transition, always looking to be a target at the rim. It’s a trait Bryant has been known for throughout his career, but earlier this season, it seems he was spurred on by an internal critique.
“It’s funny, one game, the vets actually said, ‘We don’t play hard. We’re not playing hard enough,’” he said, declining to specify which game in particular. “So I always put that in the back of my head whenever we step out on that floor, I need to give it my all no matter what. Whether it’s the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, it cannot change.”
It’s not entirely new from Bryant, who has shown this level of play previously in his career, but his knee injury raised legitimate questions about whether he could reach this level again. Nonetheless, the 25-year-old has revitalized his career in Los Angeles and is optimistic about his future, as he also told Goon.
How would Bryant, who is shooting with career-best efficiency (72.1% eFG) and starting for a team on a five-game winning streak compare his recent stretch to the rest of his career?
“I would say it would just be the start of it,” he said Saturday night, a glint of confidence in his eyes.
Since AD’s injury, Bryant has been a part of some of the Lakers most productive lineups. The three-man grouping of Russell Westbrook, LeBron and Bryant have played 72 minutes together and has a net rating of 21.5.
It’s probably a stretch to save Bryant saved the Lakers season, but it isn’t a stretch to say he’s been a huge part of their revival. If the Lakers are able to make a run and potentially even the playoffs at season’s end, Bryant will be a large reason why.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.