Kobe Bryant shrugs off shooting slump

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
5:23
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Even while the Los Angeles Lakers struggled at the onset of the 2012-13 season, Kobe Bryant was playing at a prolific pace. Months into the season, Bryant's shooting percentages from the field and from 3-point range were as good as they've ever been in his 17-year career.

Those numbers have come down to earth.

Bryant's 46.3 percent mark from the field is better than his career average of 45.3 and the best he has shot since the 2008-09 season, but his shots from beyond the arc have gone awry. Bryant has made just one of his last 30 3-point attempts over his last 13 games, dropping his 3-point percentage to 32.6 -- lower than his 33.6 career average.

Bryant's cold streak was punctuated by a 1-of-8 performance against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday (including an 0-for-4 mark from the outside), but he insisted he is not concerned.

"I'm not in a slump," Bryant said after practice Wednesday. "I just haven't shot it (much). I can't be in a slump. The game before against a good team in Miami, I shot the s--- out of the ball. So I'm not worried about it."

Slump or not, Bryant spent an extended period shooting Wednesday from spots all over the court, but the vast majority of the attempts came from inside the arc.

"I really haven't been focusing on 3-pointers the last three or four games," said Bryant, who had attempted just three 3s in his previous three games before taking four against the Suns. "I haven't really shot that many consciously. I'm just trying to get into areas where I'm a little more threatening and get away from the long ball a bit."

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said the extra practice is all a player can really do to try to find their shooting stroke.

"You got to work through it," D'Antoni said. "There's no solutions, otherwise no one would ever go through a slump. You wouldn't have that word. That's why you have them and people do go into it at different times of the season. Your legs might be a little tired. The break might be good for everybody. There's a lot of things that go (into it). February is usually the dog days. So, you go through that stuff. Try to keep your head, try to keep things simple and keep moving forward."

Aside from tired legs, Bryant has been playing with a sore right elbow that he aggravated on a dunk against the Detroit Pistons during L.A's recent trip. He also has a sore right hand that he hurt against Miami. Both injuries are worth mentioning because Bryant shoots right-handed.

"I've shot through worse," Bryant said when asked about his health.

Bryant's shooting has taken a backseat to his passing as he's adopted more of a facilitator role in recent weeks. While his assists have spiked, he still needs to adjust to having his shots reduced.

"It takes me out of my rhythm quite a bit, so it's just getting used to it, that's all," Bryant said. "It's just working it out."

Bryant recently had zero points on just two shots in the first half against Charlotte and zero points on zero shots in the first half against Phoenix.

"You just go through periods where it just doesn't quite go in," D'Antoni said. "But, it will be back, I'm sure."

Is the coach worried Bryant will abandon his pass-first mentality to try to get his shot back on track?

"You hope not, because I think he's playing the right way," D'Antoni said. "You hope he can play the right way and be really good at it. So, I don't think there’s a correlation."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0