Kobe Bryant to focus on strengthening legs over the summer
The patience and perspective Kobe Bryant gleaned from Phil Jackson points to his insistence for the Lakers to maintain an even-keel reaction to wins and losses.
Bryant tries to strike a balance between demanding more of his teammates and allowing them to figure out how to correct their own mistakes. And the two often sit together at the front of the team plane, with Bryant picking Jackson's brain about basketball.
Nowhere, however, has Bryant adopted Jackson's philosophical approach to basketball. So as he reflects to himself during private moments, rarely does his mind focus on anything sentimental. "What I think about," Bryant said, "is shutting up those [people] that say that I’m done."
Bryant, of course, refers to the press and general public who believes his excellence at age 32 won't be around much longer. He's conceded the reality that his 40,163 career minutes force him to adjust his game, such as his decision five years ago to work primarily in the post to save energy. But by no means do the aches and pains surrounding his surgically repaired right knee, arthritis on his right index finger and sprained left foot and ankle give him pause as to whether he has enough left in him. That's why Bryant's off-season will prove critical, knowing the uncertainty surrounding a possible labor stoppage could give him an advantage in his achy body recovering. But don't expect Bryant to spend that time simply resting.
Said Bryant: "This is a good summer for me to train and get strong."
It's an answer even fervent Bryant supporters may not want to hear considering his surgically repaired right knee kept him out of most practices, the sprained left ankle sparked uncertainty with his effectiveness and his overall performance dipped drastically. His regular-season averages of 25.3 points in 33.9 minutes per game marked his lowest statistical output since the 2003-04 season, and his playoff averages of 22.9 points per game in 35.4 minutes per game marked his lowest mark since the 1999-2000 season.
But the logic behind Bryant's insistence on playing this off-season goes beyond his competitiveness and stubborn streak, although he refuses to get surgery to ease the arthritis surrounding his right index finger because he doesn't want to get caught in rehab should a potential lockout suddenly end. Bryant plans on devoting most of his summer working to increasing the strength of his legs and performing injury-prevention type exercises so he won't have to hold back as much as he did during the 2010-2011 season.
"When you're older, it’s a lot harder to shut down the engines and then regenerate that all over again," Bryant said. "It’s easier to stay consistent so you never fully lose it."
He couldn't do that in the 2010-11 campaign after spending part of the off-season receiving arthroscopic surgery in his right knee. The rest and the surgery helped his knee, but he entered training camp with very little strength around it, meaning he had to spend practices building up that strength at the expense of solidifying team chemistry.
"This off-season gives me a chance to really go to another level," Bryant said. "There’s a difference between feeling healthy and as strong as I can be. I feel like I could do everything I wanted to do. But there’s another level I can get to."
-- Mark Medina
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