Kobe Praises Walton’s Improved Play

While fans may be surprised by Luke Walton’s breakthrough performance in the Lakers’ First Round sweep against the Nuggets, Kobe said he saw signs of improvement long before the forward averaged 14 points in the four games–third best on the team–in the series.

“He had a stretch last year where he was playing extremely well,” said Bryant, reminding everyone of Walton’s emergence as an all-around threat when Lamar Odom was injured at the beginning of last season.

Although he struggled with injuries and inconsistency during the 2007-2008 season, averaging only seven points and four assists, Kobe said that it wasn’t due to a lack of ability.

“I think for him, it’s a matter of confidence with him,” said Bryant. “Sometimes, he’ll get down on himself and be a little hard on himself…more than he should be. There’s been some times this year when after a game, after a tough loss where he went one for six or zero for six and I’ll tell him, ‘Look, Luke—I went five for thirty. Shake it off.’ You’ve just got to stay in his ear a little bit, keep him confident because he has all the tools, he has all the gifts.”