Archive for the 'Kobe Bryant' Category

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Howard, MWP Out at Brooklyn; Kobe In

It was a busy Tuesday morning in New York City, as the Lakers learned they’d be without not only Dwight Howard (right shoulder), but also Metta World Peace (suspension), though Kobe Bryant would play through a sprained elbow.

Howard told reporters that while the shoulder he initially injured on Jan. 4 against the Clippers and aggravated at Phoenix last Wednesday had improved slightly, it still hurts and is not something he wants to make worse, so he decided against playing at Brooklyn.

World Peace was suspended for one game without pay for an incident with Brandon Knight during Sunday’s victory at Detroit, leaving the Lakers even more short-handed up front.

Howard and MWP are two of the team’s three most physical players, though the Lakers will have the third in Bryant, who sprained his right elbow while dunking on Knight but will start against Brooklyn, one of the NBA’s more physical squads.

World Peace will be available for Thursday’s game at Boston, while Howard remains a question mark.

Mamba vs. D12! (Not)

This is how Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard handled reports of a locker room incident between the two of them that never actually occurred:

Using the @KobeBryant Twitter handle he started on Friday (already up to 587,000+ followers), Bryant sent the picture out moments before dismissing any notion of an altercation to assembled media members.

@DwightHoward retweeted the photo from his own Twitter handle moments later, agreeing with teammate Steve Nash that the supposed tiff between him and Bryant was merely something at which to laugh. Howard, however, will miss at least one week due to an injury to the right shoulder that he’s icing in the photo before being re-evaluated.

Kobe’s Postgame Quotes

Below is a transcription of Kobe Bryant’s postgame quotes after one of the better individual performances of the season – 36 points on 15 of 25 shooting with five steals while primarily guarding Chris Paul (11 for 25 shooting) – came up just short, the Lakers trimming a 19-point fourth quarter lead to two before ultimately losing by six.

KOBE BRYANT
Q: On the loss and assessing where the team is at in terms of needing time to gel and yet not having time because of their standing:
Bryant: You got to just lock in and keep pushing forward. We played extremely well, we played well in the fourth quarter defensively and we just kind of got to rely on that a little bit.

Q: On what the team can take away from their fourth-quarter play on the defensive end:
Bryant: We have to watch the film and try to understand the adjustments that we made from the first three quarters. A lot of it was really in transition. They’re extremely athletic and they did a good job running, getting out, getting momentum points and getting some easy baskets.

Q: On his performance and trying to pull the team together with his play:
Bryant: I was just playing my game and just doing my job. Just trying to be patient and trying to make big shots when we needed them, and make the right plays defensively.

Q: On his frustration level right now:
Bryant: It’s pretty frustrating. We just have to get really intense, serious and really focused.

Q: On Chris Paul’s performance down the stretch:
Bryant: He’s very smart and he’s crafty. To his credit, he made some pretty tough shots – the shot at the (end of) the half and then the shot that he made that made it a six-point game – but superstar players will do that.

Q: On his assessment of the team’s offensive/defensive performance:
Bryant: It wasn’t good enough. Whatever grade I give, the bottom line is it wasn’t good enough, so we have to do better.

Q: On using Pau Gasol at the high post:
Bryant: I don’t know. I’m not really sure. But we have to figure that out and we need to go through him a lot, a lot more – a lot, a lot more. He needs more touches on that elbow, more touches on the post. He’s not a scorer type of a person, and he’ll be the first to admit that, but he can make plays for others from down there, he can control the game from down there and we have to figure out a way to get him more active.

Q: On how that can change:
Bryant: A lot of it is tough because you have him and Dwight (Howard) in the game at the same time. Where are you going to put Dwight? So, you have to figure out that spacing, but he needs to have the ball, for sure.

Bryant: Pau (Gasol) just has to continue to be patient. Obviously, he’s frustrated and he has every right to be, and I’m frustrated for him. But that’s something we’re going to have to solve because we won’t get to where we want to go with him not playing at maximum potential or not using his maximum potential.

Q: On the difference with the spacing on offense, Gasol playing with Bynum and Howard:
Bryant: It’s pretty different. They do different things. Andrew (Bynum) you can move to the elbow to shoot the ball and things like that. The dynamics are a little different, although it was tough for Pau (Gasol) and Andrew to play together as well.

Q: On the dunk in the first quarter over CP3:
Bryant: I honestly was running, I jumped, the explosiveness was there and it shocked the s— out of me, and I just decided to dunk it.

Q: On starting games slow:
Bryant: I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s something that I will have to figure out, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s getting loose. Teams come out a little fresher, come out a little more energized, you see them run the court and get a lot of dunks in transition, and it takes us a while to get our motor going to creep back in games. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know.

Q: On running pick and rolls late in games:
Bryant: Our pick and roll situation is fine. Steve (Nash) is incredible at it and puts guys in situations to be successful. Whether they make the shot or not, that’s on them. But he makes all the right decisions and I’m very comfortable being on the back side of that, and making guys pick and choose.

Q: On Chris Paul being clutch:
Bryant: We all make some and miss some, but the most important thing is guys who aren’t afraid of that moment. That’s what the most important thing is you have that and you’re not going to be afraid of that moment. You kind of ride or die with that success, and he’s not afraid of that.

Q: On what is lacking in games where he has to carry the load:
Bryant: We did a pretty good job tonight. We gave them some free throws down the stretch, which helped them preserve their lead, but we made the right plays. Guys had shots that didn’t go in for them. That’s the nature of the beast. All we can do – and all I can do, and all Steve (Nash) can do – is just be responsible and make the right play.

Ham on Kobe and Jordan

Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham spent some time guarding Kobe Bryant after a recent practice, watching helplessly at times as Kobe scored on 15 of 20 possessions.

Bryant’s been scoring on everybody this season (30.3 points per game to lead the league on 47.9 percent shooting), and Ham doesn’t claim to be the fleetest of foot right now. But he’s as strong as a bull, and has NBA defensive principles down cold. That didn’t stop Bryant from swishing fadeaways, pull-ups and leaners or getting to the rim at will and finishing with either hand.

When Ham was an NBA player himself, starting in 1996 until finally retiring in 2005, he spent some time guarding the one player he said was as difficult as Bryant: Michael Jordan.

Here’s how Ham described the task of defending two of the greatest 1-on-1 players of all time:

Q: On the similarities and differences between KB and MJ:
Ham: I think Kobe is a far better pure shooter. I think they’re both equal in having initial moves, counter moves, and then if you stop the initial and counter, they have an escape move. They’re totally identical in that aspect. Mike was probably stronger, but Kobe is more fluid. Take nothing away from Mike (because) he had an amazing, amazing arsenal of moves, but Kobe is a lot more fluid. He’s never off balance and he can shoot with either hand, which just makes it really tough on the defender.

Q: On advice trying to slow Bryant down:
Ham: There is no way. You just hope he gets tired. Take a hard foul. You try to neutralize him in some kind of way, but there’s no stopping him. The only thing I can try to do is slow him down. Just switch my feet up when I guard him. When I see him about to crank into a move, I’ll move my feet, but that doesn’t often work either. Once he figures it out, he’ll time you. Once you’re in the process of switching your feet or ready to stand up, he’s gone. He’s quick with it. Pump fake, jab step, take off. You get low to take off, he’s raising up to shoot the ball. That’s Kobe.

Lakers on Christmas Day

- In 1947, the NBA played its first games on Christmas Day (3 total) and including this year’s slate of games, the league has seen a total of 222 Christmas Day games in all.

- The Lakers relationship with Christmas Day games dates back to 1949 and the team’s second season in the NBA. On December 25, 1949, the Lakers hosted Ft. Wayne,
defeating the Pistons 72-58 in the team’s first ever Christmas day game.

- Now in their 65th NBA season, the Lakers have played on Christmas Day 38 times, second only to the New York Knicks (47), going 20-18 in those games.

- With 20 victories, the Lakers trail New York by two for most Christmas Day victories by a team in league history. Overall, the Lakers are 12-9 all-time when home for the holidays while going 8-9 in away games.

- This will be the Lakers 14th straight Christmas Day game dating back to 1999.

- Among Christmas Day opponents, Phoenix (6), Detroit (5), Boston (4) and Miami (4) top the list of teams the Lakers have faced on December 25th.

- Surprisingly, despite the Knicks and Lakers being the two teams that have played the most Christmas Day games in league history, this is just the second time the two teams will have met on Christmas Day. In their only other meeting, the Lakers traveled to New York on Christmas Day in 1963, defeating the Knicks 134-126 behind 47 points from Jerry West and 27 points from Elgin Baylor.

- This Christmas, Kobe Bryant will be playing in his record 15th game on December 25th, further surpassing the old mark of 13 games held by Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal and Dolph Schayes. Bryant (349 points) ranks 2nd all-time in Christmas Day points scored behind Oscar Robertson (377 points).

- Additionally, Bryant ranks 2nd in assists (81) on Christmas Day behind Robertson (145), ranks 4th in steals with 15 and is tied for 2nd in three-point field goals made (11) along with LeBron James and teammate Steve Nash (trailing Chauncey Billups (13)).

- Nash also ranks 13th in assists per game (8.4) on Christmas Day while Dwight Howard ranks 10th in rebounds per game (15.3), 3rd in blocks per game (3.50) and 3rd in all-time total blocks (14) on Christmas.

Doug Collins on Kobe & Meeks

Prior to L.A.’s Sunday evening game in Philadelphia, Sixers coach Doug Collins had some thoughts comparing Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, as well as reflections on his former starting shooting guard, Jodie Meeks.

Bryant leads the NBA in scoring in his 17th season, which apparently doesn’t surprise Collins, who saw similar will power in Jordan.

“They’re geniuses,” he said. “They’ve seen everything, they don’t waste any energy, they know from night to night who’s guarding them, where they want the ball, how they’re going to get it there, where they want their teammates when they get it. They’re brilliant.

They just don’t go out and play. There’s a sense of purpose to everything they’re doing. That’s why when they have guys like this, you admire how they do their job.”

Fair enough.

As for Meeks, Collins put the two guard into his starting line up in 114 of the 159 games he played in Philly, and could not have been much of a bigger fan.

I love Jodie Meeks. I’ll never forget the day Jodie came into my office our first year together. I don’t think he had dressed the first few games. He said: ‘Coach, what do I have to do get my uniform on?’ I said this is what I need from you. I think (Andre Igoudala) hurt his wrist or Achilles. We went up to NY, put (him) in the game, played well, gave us great energy and shot the ball (well). He’s one of the most professional guys I’ve ever been around my entire life. He’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever been around. We miss his professionalism, his speed, we miss everything about him.

Meeks is averaging 15 points per game in his past five for the Lakers, capped by a season-high 24-point effort at Washington in L.A.’s Friday evening win, but has done far more than shooting. His current coach Mike D’Antoni said he really loves how hard Meeks has been competing, sharing that his work ethic and energy on the floor – for a guy known mostly as a shooter – is fantastic.

Meeks will be called upon once again for the short-handed Lakers on Sunday, with only 10 players available. Jordan Hill (back spasms) joins Pau Gasol (knee tendinitis), Steve Nash (non-displaced fracture) and Steve Blake (abdominal surgery) on the shelf.

Bryant On The Record in D.C.

Kobe Bryant took questions from media members after L.A.’s win at Washington for several minutes, before stopping to chat with United States Attorney General Eric Holder.

Among the topics discussed were how Bryant’s body is feeling playing big minutes through back pain and general soreness, going home to Philly to play (Sunday), former teammate Andrew Bynum, how the Lakers should increasingly use Pau Gasol inside when he returns and more:

Q: On why the team was able to get over the hump:
Kobe: We had better ball movement. We moved the ball very, very well. We changed sides of the floor, and guys took shots that were available. Jodie (Meeks) played lights out, Metta (World Peace) played well and Devin Ebanks came in and played well. That’s what’ll happen in this system if we continue to move the ball and guys continue to attack and take opportunities that are presented to them.

Q: On how the team came out defensively in the first quarter:
Kobe: We talked about getting back in transition. That’s really been our Achilles’ heel, and we did a good job of (tonight). They got back in the game by us making careless turnovers and that led to easy points for them. They seized the momentum, then we came back in the second quarter and got it back.

Q: On his back:
Kobe: It’s pretty stiff. It was better going into (Washington’s) game than it was New York’s game, so that’s very encouraging.

Q: On if he knew when his back flared up:
Kobe: Running a lot and getting old. It kind of comes with it. You sleep one time and all of a sudden, your back is jacked up.

Q: On late-game execution:
Kobe: We just read the defense and what they’re doing. If they’re going to come down and double, we just kick it, and then move the ball and get penetration. That’s what we’re trying to do – change sides of the floor and get penetration. You saw a couple times there we went to Metta (World Peace) cause he had the advantage, and he attacked on the perimeter, then myself and then obviously Dwight (Howard) at the end.

Q: On playing heavy minutes:
Kobe: I’m not tired. I’m sore, but when I play, I’m in really, really good condition. I’m just not tired. If you have the opportunity during the game to sit me, you can sit, but I’m not tired.

Q: On going back to Philly and playing:
Kobe: It’s always special. I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s always been fun. Now it becomes even more significant because it’s coming toward the end.

Q: On how things will run through Pau Gasol when he returns:
Kobe: If you’re a guard, you don’t really have to do anything. If you have a shot, you pull it. If you don’t, you go or you pass it. It’s pretty simple. When Pau (Gasol) gets back, we’re going to play through him a great deal. Probably at the start of the shot clock, we’ll move around the perimeter, this that and the other. Last 10 seconds of the shot clock – when we don’t have anything – we’ll post him up. Then he can make plays and make guys better, which he’s fantastic at.

Q: On Dwight Howard fitting in the system:
Kobe: What Mike (D’Antoni) wants him to do is just hit the ball – go set screens, roll down the paint and free guys up. He’s really good at that – by him rolling down the middle of the lane, he makes guys better. At the end of the game when he posts up and they come and double, kick it out and make guys better. If they play you straight up, shoot the ball. If they double you, kick it (out).

Q: On Jodie Meeks’ all-around play:
Kobe: He’s extremely, extremely aggressive. He doesn’t shy away from contact. He loves taking on the challenge on defensively, playing in passing lanes and staying in front of guys. Again, guys that have games like that – he’ll have games like that consistently by us continuing to move the ball and sharing the ball.

Q: On former teammate and current (injured) Sixers center Andrew Bynum:
Kobe: He can do everything. There’s really nothing he can’t do. The biggest thing for Andrew is his health. That’s the only thing that’s limiting to him. When he gets healthy, they have an incredible, incredible center.

Q: On handling those injury issues:
Kobe: He’s pretty even keeled. When he was here, I didn’t have to tell him much. He’s pretty even keeled guy. But he has a temper, which I always enjoy. He was kind of always on edge. I just hope he can get healthy.

Q: On the turning point for Bynum:
Kobe: Coming into the 2010 season, he was ready to make his mark. He got himself healthy and he was determined to have a great year, and he was able to do it.

Q: On if he’s excited about one win:

Kobe: I am actually. I am, I am. I’m very happy to win one damn game.

Q: On if it’s imposing to think of winning two in a row:
Kobe: Coming into tonight, yes, but hopefully we can put something together. I thought we had a pretty good feel of how Mike (D’Antoni) communicated how he wanted the offense to flow in moving the ball, if you have a shot take it and if not, continue to let the ball hop – and we got the message. We did a pretty good job of it. That’s why you saw Jodie Meeks had a big game and Devin Ebanks came in and made big plays.

Q: On the performance of the bench:
Kobe: I think they played extremely well. We got guys that are really stepping up and showing us something in their professionalism and being ready to go – (Devin) Ebanks in particular. He hasn’t been called on virtually all year and his number gets called tonight to step in the starting lineup and he did a fantastic job.

Q: On Steve Nash and how he’s trying to deal with everything:
Kobe: He’s trying to keep it together, he’s trying to keep it together. I can sense the frustration and the antsyness for him to get going. But he’s doing a good job of keeping it under wraps.

Q: On if he remembers short periods of time being off the court for so long and thinking he could help here or there:
Kobe: Oh yeah, it’s always a tough time because you really see a lot of things you can help out with and you’re anxious to get back.

Kobe Bryant Takes Questions

We put together Kobe Bryant’s quotes from last night’s locker room session and Monday’s practice session, with some editorial notes in select places:


Q: On if he feels for Dwight Howard’s free-throw struggles:
Kobe: He should look at it as an opportunity because once he conquers the ability to make free throws, the sky is the absolute limit for him. So he should really approach it as an opportunity.

Q: On pushing Howard for more:
Kobe: Honestly, there’s really not much for him to do. The thing about his intensity is, if he’s upset, it affects the team. So everybody’s mood changes and everybody becomes a little bit more serious. Truthfully, his biggest thing is conquering the free throws a little bit. If he makes those free throws, the guy would be averaging 30 points a night. That’s the thing people try to attack with him, and once he gets that down, there’s going to be no stopping him.

Q: On if it’s better for Dwight to be angry during games:
Kobe: It’s really not for him. He can play loose and do the things that he does. It’s just at certain times, it impacts some of the other guys. When you see him a little feisty and a little chippy, all the guys kind of get a little feisty. His biggest thing is mastering the free-throw line. He does that, there’s no stopping him.

Q: On the level of concern regarding the team’s lack of consistent play:
Kobe: The pressure is on me and Dwight (Howard) to really perform well. We’ll pick up for everybody’s else’s mistakes – whatever that may be – and he and I have to perform at a really, really high level night in and night out.

Q: On where he feels the team is at right now:
Kobe: We’re up and down. Some games we come out and we shoot the ball extremely, extremely well. On those nights, obviously the game is a lot easier for myself, it’s easier for Dwight (Howard), it’s easier for everybody because the floor can stay spaced because everybody is knocking down shots. Then there are nights where we don’t hit and it becomes a little harder, but like I said, we just have to make the easy ones.

Q: On how he feels emotionally:
Kobe: It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity. Pau (Gasol) has to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he’d like. But he just has to adjust. The reality is I’ve adjusted. I’ve never run this many screen and rolls in my entire life, but I’ve worked on it. I’ve worked on handling the ball, worked on coming off the screens and making plays. I’m used to being in the post much, much more, but you have to adjust. You have to master what it is that we’re trying to do here. Pau is talented enough and good enough to be able to do that.
Editor’s Note: This is maybe the 1,000th time in the past few seasons that Bryant has made a comment about holding either himself or his teammates accountable to making adjustments or changing their games or improving effort, etc. It’s necessary from his leadership position. He wasn’t calling Gasol out, simply sharing his opinion. Bryant is also aware that the tendinitis in Gasol’s knees has become an issue that has limited the Spaniard’s explosiveness and ability to move with the type of quickness he has at full health. That doesn’t excuse adjustments or simply playing better, but is an explanation for his career low field goal percentage. But 42 percent for a guy that has never shot below 50 percent does suggest such an injury affecting his performance.

Q: On keeping players connected when playing time is limited:
Kobe: Put your big boy pants on*. Come on, just adjust, just adjust. You can’t whine about it, you can’t complain about it. Like I said, I’m 34 years old and I’m running screen and rolls out there because Steve (Nash) is out my ass is running up and down the court more than I ever have my entire career. But you have to adjust to it. I stay after practice, I work on my ball handling, work on my screen and rolls and stuff like that. When you have the talent to adjust to it, you have to adjust to it.
*Again, this is a phrase Kobe has said over and over again about many of his teammates. He wasn’t specifically singling out anybody.

Q: On Mike D’Antoni saying he doesn’t want to “lose” players like Jordan Hill who aren’t getting minutes, or Gasol who’s minutes were cut in the fourth quarter in part because of his lack of athletic movement on the court (i.e. tendinitis):
Kobe: We’re not going to lose (Gasol). That’s just not going to happen. I’ve been around him long enough. I know how to deal with him.

Q: On evaluating his patience level when the offense isn’t running well:
Kobe: To me, it’s night to night. I really just read the defense in front of me and take the shots that are available. I really don’t have to force anything. If I have mid-range jump shots, I take them. If they come off me, I make the pass. It’s pretty simple for me.

Q: On the level of concern about adjustments not occurring quickly as he’d like:
Kobe: They’re not happening fast, but they have to happen. Come hell or high water, it has to happen. There’s always a level of concern, but it has to happen. There are no excuses to be mad, there’s no whining or putting your head down. We persevere, we have the talent to make the adjustments and we have to make them.

Q: On if he’s taking it upon himself to get that message across to everybody:
Kobe: Yeah, I’ll kick everybody’s ass in this locker room if that doesn’t happen*. That’s just the attitude you have to have. Metta (World Peace) is the same way. Dwight (Howard) has that in him as well. He smiles a lot, but he still cares a lot about this thing. Like I said, come hell or high water, this has to get done.
Getting Steve Nash back certainly won’t hurt.

Q: On nearing 30,000 points:
Kobe: That’s a lot of points, that’s a lot of points. I’ve just been very fortunate to play for a very long time and be relatively healthy for the majority of my career. I’m proud of being able to play 17 years and still be able to perform. Just been very fortunate.


MONDAY’S PRACTICE:
Q: On if he thinks the team is overcomplicating things at times:
Kobe: You just got to show up and do your job. It’s not rocket science. We’re not solving world hunger. Just got to go out there and do your job. It’s as simple as that.

Q: On the team being without Steve Blake:
Kobe: It’s a big concern for me. Steve and I always played extremely well together. He’s a clutch shooter and he’s a tough competitor. That’s one of the things I like about him. He’s going to be missed a lot. I’m not sure how long he’s going to be out, but I’m assuming it’s going to be awhile. Hopefully he’ll keep his head in it and be ready to go.

Q: On reaching 30,000 points and being in that type of company:
Kobe: It’s a huge honor, to say the least. Whenever you hear those kinds of names, you think about the amount of players that have played this game, and then to be in that kind of company, it’s always extremely, extremely special.

Q: On if he ever thought about reaching 30,000 points when he was younger:
Kobe: When I was a kid, the only thing I looked at was the ring count because that was the thing that was most important. I knew how many Magic (Johnson) had, I knew how many Larry (Bird) had, I knew how many Doc (Julius Erving) had. Those are the things I looked at the most – teams that won, teams were successful. I never really knew this person had this many thousand points, this person had this many thousand points. To be honest with you, I was always pretty bad at math and something I wasn’t excited to look at.

Q: On four of the five top scorers in the NBA playing for the Lakers:
Kobe: How unbelievable is that. That’s incredible.

Q: On how proud he is of knowing that:
Kobe: Beyond. This is franchise that, like I said in the past, guys whose jerseys hang in the rafters are some of the all time greats, not just greats for the franchise. I don’t know if there’s any organization that can say that.

Q: On keeping his composure during this time as a leader of the team:
Kobe: Yeah, it’s a balance, it’s a balance. You have to be able to find that and understand the personality of this team. It’s a figuring out process. Obviously everybody here is brand new. They’re brand new to playing with me. I’m brand new to playing with them. You just kind of have to figure out that balance.

Q: On if he thinks everything will be fine when Steve Nash returns:
Kobe: I think the flow will open up a little bit more. He’ll be able to direct guys and keep us spaced. That’s really the big thing. Steve (Nash) has been conducting this offense for awhile and when he gets out on the floor, he’ll be able to make sure guys are in the right places.

Q: On if it’s good for the team to go on the road and figure themselves out:
Kobe: It can be. Turnovers have killed us and free throws have killed us. You just got to cut that stuff out.

Q: On free-throw shooting advice:
Kobe: It’s just repetition, it’s just repetition. It’s muscle memory. That’s how you get to the point where you don’t think about things. You just overload your system. We come out here at practice, shoot a ton of them and then in he game, you don’t think about it because it’s muscle memory at that point.

Three Lakers in Top 15 Most Popular Jerseys

The NBA released it’s list of most popular jerseys and three Lakers found their way into the top 15. Kobe Bryant, a stalwart of this list, came in at number three, while newcomers Dwight Howard and Steve Nash ranked #9 & #13 respectively.

Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys:

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
4. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
5. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
6. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
7. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
8. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
9. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
10. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
11. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
12. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
13. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
14. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
15. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

(Rankings based on sales from the NBA Store and NBAStore.com from April 2012 through Nov. 26, 2012)

-Since 2001, Bryant has claimed the No. 1 position six times in the bi-annual survey.
-The Lakers were the only team to place three players on the list.
-The purple and gold ranked third in team merchandise sold.

Kobe’s Postgame Session

We thought Kobe’s postgame comments were worth your time to read (or watch), so here’s a transcription of what he had to say after Tuesday’s narrow loss to San Antonio.

Bryant reflected on the recent improvements in the team particularly on defense, missing Steve Nash/Steve Blake and thus playing some point guard, what Mike D’Antoni has in common with Phil Jackson and a whole bunch more about Phil:

Q: On improvements he’s seen:
Kobe: We’re playing much, much better. We’re being much, much more aggressive on both ends of the floor. On defense, we’re doing a phenomenal job. We’re doing a good job of communicating during the game and during timeouts, pushing the guys where we need to push them, making guys take tough shots – shots that, percentage wise, they don’t normally hit. If they hit them, that’s just something you have to live with.

Q: On the last 30 seconds of the game, with the Spurs hitting a three and L.A. missing two.
Kobe: (Danny Green) hit a big, big shot. He shot 4 for 12 tonight, but he had the guts to take (it). It was a tough one; it was a contested shot and he knocked it down. We just came down on the other end of the floor and had a brain fart, and lost the game.

Q: On not having Steve Blake or Steve Nash:
Kobe: It makes a huge impact, but our guards have been playing pretty well. Darius (Morris) struggled a little bit tonight, but he’s been playing well. Chris Duhon is the consummate professional; he came in and played extremely well. Obviously you miss those guys. I miss Steve (Nash) because during games, you see me initiating the offense and making plays for others. With Steve in the game, I’m finishing plays, which is a little bit more dangerous.

Q: On when he remembers playing point guard last:
Kobe: Yeah, every year in the triangle offense. That’s what I did. I was pretty much the facilitator and I scored as well. Right now, it’s kind of my responsibility to do those things and get guys open shots, as well as score the ball. When Steve gets back, I’ll get back to finishing, which is what I do best.

Q: On finding some sort of relief when Nash gets back:
Kobe: I have more responsibilities, but when Steve gets back, he’ll be able to share, and I’ll be able to backside finish, so I’m looking forward to that.

Q: On how much he’s talked to Mike D’Antoni:
Kobe: Only one time, via text. He’s just excited to get this going, and put together the blueprint to be successful.

Q: On Bernie Bickerstaff:
Kobe: Bernie has been great – real chill and real laid back. He’s not showing any signs of facing the pressure. He just lets us do what we do.

Q: On what he’s noticed in his teammates the last four or five days:
Kobe: Guys are being more aggressive and being more assertive, and trying to find their way. Metta, l love his aggressiveness. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, but we need him to be aggressive and get his rhythm offensively and those shots will fall for him.

Q: On what he learned about the team’s character the last four or five days:
Kobe: We did a pretty good job of focusing what we’re doing individually. I think we showed a lot of character despite the distractions. We were able to kind of zero in on what we had to do, came out and played extremely well.

Q: On how the team has had to adjust defensively in wake of what has gone on:
Kobe: Defense is a lot like offense in the sense you want to be unpredictable and you want to be able to communicate well with each other. When you have one way of doing it, then you become very predictable. For us, we’ll continue to do what we do – just communicate well, play personnel, play percentages and make them take tough shots.

Q: On why more of Phil Jackson’s assistant coaches don’t have jobs around the league:
Kobe: It seems like all our assistant coaches when they left here, to even mention the word ‘Triangle’ was like taboo. I don’t understand it. I really don’t know the answer to that question. It’s very strange, very bizarre. You would think that organizations and other coaches should try to learn from Phil. That’s what you should try to do, right? If you have a coach that’s won more than anybody in our profession, you would think you’d want to study them and analyze them, and figure out why that’s the case, but they haven’t done it.

Q: On Phil adapting to his players:
Kobe: It’s his theory. It’s his philosophies and things that he lives by. It’s that whole Zen Master thing. He really believes in letting things unfold, letting players develop, letting teams grow into their identity, for guys to communicate with each other and be able to adapt to each other; removing themselves from the equation which is part of the mastery of what he’s done here. If you talk to Michael (Jordan) or myself, we’ll be singing his praises to the heavens. Michael didn’t want to play for any other coach. That’s just how it is.

Q: On what D’Antoni has in common with Jackson:
Kobe: Mike (D’Antoni) has some of the same characteristics in terms of not micromanaging – kind of setting guys up and putting guys in position to be successful. He was probably one altercation away in San Antonio from getting to the Finals.

Q: On what he’s held onto from Phil’s coaching:
Kobe: Everything, everything. I’m basically baby Zen Master.

Q: On if he’s thought about how his career would have turned out if he didn’t have Phil:
Kobe: I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t have learned the game to the depths the way I know now. But I think the thing about Phil (Jackson), (Gregg Popovich) and great coaches is the role player’s play very well. Guys like myself, Shaq (O’Neal), MJ and (Scottie) Pippen, our numbers will always be excellent no matter who you put us with. That’s just what we do. But them instilling confidence in the rest of the team, putting them in position to be successful, allowing them to play the fourth quarter when they blow a lead and let them develop, that’s what makes them great coaches.

Q: On maximizing his star players, too:
Kobe: He’s gotten the most out of their role players. When they play well and they have confidence, me, MJ and Shaq become more dangerous because those guys are playing with more confidence and those guys are making shots. You put us with anybody, our numbers are the same no matter what. But to win championships, those guys have to feel comfortable with their role.

Q: On whether he would have won five titles without Phil:
Kobe: Probably not. If you’re talking about winning championships, that’s what a great coach does – install confidence in the rest of the guys. Make sure they’re comfortable in their roles and that’s how you win championships. If you’re talking about from an individual standpoint, like I say, no matter who’s coaching I’m still going to do what I do, but it’s not going to equate to winning championships. If you’re talking about from an individual standpoint, I’m going to do what I do, but it’s probably not going to equate to championships.

Q: On what he learned from Tex Winter:
Kobe: I used to sit with Tex pretty much every game for two to three hours and watch the entire game and break down film with him. He was like Yoda.

Q: On what he remembers from D’Antoni’s teams defensively:
Kobe: They did a good job when they had (Shawn) Marion and Raja (Bell). They covered up for a lot, a lot of errors. They covered the ground and were physical. That’s what their biggest strength was – those two guys. Here on this team, you got several of them – myself, Metta (World Peace) and obviously Dwight (Howard), so it should be fun.