Kobe Bryant’s Unselfishness Key to LA Lakers’ Playoff Push

On the surface, Kobe Bryant's 5.3 assists per-game average doesn't raise many eyebrows. That could be because it's just up from his 4.7 career average, or because we've never considered Bryant much of a passer over the course of his NBA career.

But make no mistake. It's Bryant's passing—not his ability to score in bunches—that will breathe life into this Los Angeles Lakers team as it pushes to make the playoffs this season, even though he continues to post an impressive 27.4 points per-game average.

The Lakers are in the middle of their best nine-game stretch of the 2012-13 season. Behind a spark on both offense and defense, LA has managed to go 7-2 over this stretch and beat Oklahoma City, Utah and Brooklyn—all current playoff teams.

It's no coincidence that this success comes during the middle of one of Bryant's greatest nine-game stretches at passing the ball. Since the Jan. 25 matchup against Utah, in which Kobe totaled 14 assists and 14 points, he's been a passing machine, and the LA offense has improved leaps and bounds because of it.

The next game, he also dished out 14 assists, and the Lakers beat the Thunder on a big stage. As ESPN's Numbers Never Lie reported on Twitter, it likely wasn't a coincidence:

Due to head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense and the current collection of Lakers players, that unselfishness needs to continue if the team is going to have any shot at claiming one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

As of Feb. 9, the Lakers sit at 24-27, good for 10th in the West. LA is 3.5 games behind No. 8 seed Houston and a full four games behind Utah for the final two spots. There's plenty of chances to get to that spot, but not enough to take this current success lightly.

Bryant has realized that D'Antoni's offense is about two things: Getting open shots quickly and trust in teammates to get the job done.

It's a far cry...

About the Author