Which Version of Kobe Bryant Do LA Lakers Need in 2013-14?

Heading into the 2013-14 season, the Los Angeles Lakers will need a new version of Kobe Bryant in order to enjoy a successful season.

Any conversation that starts with Bryant must invariably lead to a discussion about his Achilles injury. It is questionable whether he will be ready for the start of training camp, but he has been shattering the recovery timetable, which is a great sign for the Lakers.

One might wonder if he will be physically limited when he returns, but after looking at the effects of the injury on other players, it seems Bryant has a great chance of regaining his old form given the adjustments he has made to his game during his career.

The 2-guard is arguably the greatest scorer of his generation and he was quick to provide reminders of this during the course of the 2012-13 campaign by reaching the 30-point threshold 35 times.

However, his point totals often mask his gifted playmaking skills. Bryant’s ball-handling, coupled with his grasp of defensive concepts, allow him to orchestrate the offense and generate high-percentage shots for his teammates.

This ability is a both a blessing and a curse for the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. When he chooses to call his own number, he is labeled a gunner. On the flip side, there have been instances where he has chosen to get his teammates involved and it resulted in murmurs creeping up about him quitting on his team.

This explains the fascination with Bryant’s shot count. In his lone season playing with Dwight Howard in Los Angeles, much was made about the fact that the Lakers had only won 18 of their 43 games when the two-time Finals MVP attempted 20 field goals or more.

The context that resulted in Bryant’s numerous shots was often ignored. There were times where he fired up far too many contested jumpers, but there were also situations where he dragged an anemic offense out of a funk and gave it ...

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