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Kobe Bryant wants to adjust how he scores

February 17, 2012 |  1:37 pm

The shots rarely go in for Kobe Bryant these days, but he remains insistent they'll find its way.

"We'll free me up a little bit more," Bryant said after shooting 37% in the past month. "Get some more screens. Get me some easier looks so I don't have to look at traps all night."

The Lakers' team balance has swayed overwhelmingly toward Bryant's end. He's logged a 38% usage rating, his highest since the 2005-06 season. He leads the league in scoring. Bryant also holds that honor in field-goal attempts. Lakers forward Pau Gasol sounds ready for a change, but not the same ideas Bryant envisioned.

"I don't think at this point he's going to find out other ways to have better looks," Gasol said. "But obviously our offense has a variety of options and it's good to explore different ones."

And at the center of that debate involves Lakers Coach Mike Brown, whose talk about a balanced offense while continuing to find better looks for Bryant mostly steers toward the latter.

"That will be something we have to continue to look for and continue to do the whole season," Brown said. "That's no different."

Of course, it's not different. The Lakers had this debate early in the season after Bryant shot six of 28 from the field in the Lakers' New Year's Day loss to Denver. He responded by receiving pre-game injections on his strained ligament in his right wrist, shooting more off-the-ball than in isolation sets and logged at least 40 points in four consecutive games.

The Lakers host the Phoenix Suns Friday at Staples Center in a game that brings this topic full circle. After all, Bryant dropped 48 points in Lakers' 99-83 victory Jan. 10 against Phoenix and brought more clarity that he wouldn't shoot less. He'd just shoot more effectively.

Things have evolved since then.

The first part involves his health. Bryant no longer wears any protection on his right wrist. Bryant hosted a Mandarin cultural exchange program  at Gertz-Ressler High School Thursday as part of his foundation efforts, and I shook hands with him twice after talking with him. The hand felt incredibly strong.

The second part involves his supporting cast. Andrew Bynum appears more capable of handling double teams. Gasol has shown more aggression in the post. Although the Lakers' progress could prove fleeting, they have shown improvement in three-point shooting from January (25%) to February (30.5%).

By watching a replay of the Lakers' 84-76 victory Sunday over Atlanta where he went five of 18 from the field, the answers lie in both Bryant's need to find better looks and the Lakers need to remain balanced.

After Gasol set a pick for Bryant at the top of the key in the first quarter, Bryant met a double team at the right elbow and hoisted a fallaway 16-footer. So much for Gasol standing open on the left elbow. After catching a rebound off Joe Johnson's missed three-pointer, Bryant fired a three in transition. So much for attacking the basket considering the Lakers had a 3-on-1 fast-break advantage. And instead of driving down an open lane past Joe Johnson in the second quarter, Bryant settled for a 20-foot jumper.

In fairness to Bryant, a few of his shots still came off great looks. Before meeting a double team, Gasol fired a pass to Bryant on the far-side perimeter that gave him a open trey. Even though Bryant missed, Gasol attacked the glass and made a putback. So too did Bynum after Bryant's open jumper off a Metta World Peace double team in the post clanked off the rim.

The Lakers star's play has largely determined, for better or for worse, the teams success. This time against Atlanta, it didn't. But in future games it might.

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