Why Steve Nash’s Return from Injury Will Allow Kobe Bryant to Score Even More

Here's a scary thought for 29/30ths of the NBA: Kobe Bryant might just be getting started.

After his Los Angeles Lakers demolished the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, Bryant was asked about how things might change for him and his teammates once Steve Nash returns from a fractured fibula. His answer (via Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News)?

“I’ll be scoring a lot more. I don’t have the [sic] facilitate as much. Everybody can kind of go to their natural positions. It enables me to do what I do best, which is to put the ball in the hole.”

Because he's not scoring enough as is, right?

At present, Kobe's leading the NBA in that category with 26.9 points per game. This is nothing new for the bucket-happy Black Mamba—he spent most of the 2011-12 season atop the heap before Kevin Durant usurped his supremacy down the stretch.

What is new, though, is the efficiency with which Bryant is piling 'em up this time around. He's scoring nearly as frequently while taking 5.4 shots per game fewer than he did last season, when he led all of basketball with 23 hoists a night.

His shooting percentages—from the field (.510), from three (.415), from the free-throw line (.874), true shooting (.635), effective field goal (.565)—aren't just up; if they hold, they'll stand as new career-highs for Kobe.

By a mile. At the tender age of 34. With a foot injury that's been nagging him since the preseason.

To be sure, Bryant still reverts to "hero ball" from time to time, not always to the most pleasant effect. And it's not as though he's stuffing the stat sheet—including 5.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists—without some negative repercussions. His 3.7 turnovers would set a new career mark, and his usage rate of 30.3 percent, while down from recent years, makes him the fourth-biggest "ball hog" in the NBA—the third-biggest if you don't cou...

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