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Kobe Bryant adjusting well with his shot

January 9, 2012 |  8:55 am

Night after night, Kobe Bryant receives a set of pregame injections to dull the pain he feels from the torn ligament on his right wrist.

After another day's work, Bryant then wears what appears to be an oversized oven mitt that keeps the throbbing wrist warm and stable.

"I'm baking cookies," Bryant said with a laugh. "Imagine that."

Bryant is managing to cook up something appealing for the Lakers and their fans. The pain in his wrist is hardly noticeable on the court. In the Lakers' 90-82 victory Sunday over the Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant delivered what Coach Mike Brown described as an "outstanding game," with 26 points on 11-of-22 shooting and nine assists. And it came with one defining image that would give even the most observant fan the impression that nothing bothers him.

After performing three jab steps, two pump fakes and two dribble baseline drives past Memphis forward Rudy Gay, Bryant slammed home a reverse dunk. 

"It felt good," Bryant said afterward about the play and the wrist, in typical understatement. "It felt fine."

Of course, Bryant has showed many times he can play through pain. More surprising is his instant adjustment of his shot, four games after his 6-of-28 clip last week against Denver prompted Brown and Bryant to go over where on the court he focus his offensive effort. Since that time, according to Hoopdata, Bryant has been most effective at shots 10 to 15 feet from the basket (where he's shot 12 of 19) and 16 to 23 feet away (21 of 32). 

Against Memphis, Bryant showcased his closing abilities with two late-game mid-range jumpers. Running plays off the post instead of in isolation helped free up teammates better. That resulted in beautiful set-ups, including a lob to Pau Gasol, a pick-and-roll play with Troy Murphy and a swing pass to Steve Blake that resulted in a three-pointer.

"The coaching staff has made a quick change in things," Bryant said. "They've put me in the spots on the floor where I'm more comfortable. It's natural."

Should this pace hold up, it's more likely Brown will reach his goal in hoping to play between 33 and 34 minutes per game instead of the 38 minutes he logged against Memphis. Of course, part of that hinges on whether the Lakers can reduce their 27 turnovers, and part of that points to Bryant's wrist prompting him to average four per game. But it also hinges on how efficiently Bryant shoots and whether the Lakers provide enough of a supporting cast to ease his burden.

Lots of that predicates on where Bryant shoots the ball.

"We're not putting the ball in his hands and telling him to dribble, dribble and go make the play. He's catching the ball in the post a lot of times where he's not running a lot of times," Brown said. "Our spacing is good. When he gets doubled, he's making the pass. That's exciting. He's trusting his teammates and making the right pass to the right guy. Guys are stepping up and making open looks. We're not asking him to generate or facilitate for everybody. It's the doubles he gets through the course of the game."


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Mike Brown makes Matt Barnes starting small forward spot permanent

--Mark Medina

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