Kobe Bryant didn't join his teammates on the bench Tuesday night preferring the sanctity of the Lakers' locker room to courtside at Staples Center. It was impossible to tell if he was stewing after NBA general managers knocked him down a notch in their assessment of the league's top shooting guards but it's not out of the question given his recent reaction to other perceived slights. Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to "1225" presumably in response to ESPN ranking the Lakers as the 12th-best team in the Western Conference and Bryant as the 25th-best player in the NBA. What's another jab besides extra inspiration? "I like it because Kobe always finds ways to motivate himself and to keep those things in mind" Lakers center Pau Gasol said after the Lakers' 108-94 exhibition victory over the Utah Jazz "so it kind of pushes him to push himself harder and be better." Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said he figured the 56.7% of general managers who voted Houston's James Harden as the best shooting guard in the league according to an anonymous survey released Tuesday by NBA.com must be taking into account Bryant's torn Achilles' tendon. Bryant received 20% of the tally the first time in the 12-year history of the survey that he had not led the voting at his position. Bryant 35 is coming off a season in which he displayed no discernible dropoff averaging 27.3 points a game and playing heavy minutes until his injury ended his season in mid-April. He is not expected to return before next month at the earliest. "My gosh nobody played better than him" D'Antoni said of Bryant who didn't speak with reporters. "You never know what's behind their thinking but I'm sure 30 execs would get him in a second if they could get him." NBA general managers did bestow one honor on Bryant selecting the 18-year veteran as the league's toughest player. They'll get no argument from D'Antoni and not just because he watched Bryant make a pair of free throws in the moments after he ruptured his Achilles. "Just take every day he plays" D'Antoni said. "When we were in New York with his back he couldn't even get to the bus and he played 30 40 minutes whatever it was and I didn't think he was going to play at all. So no toughness is not a hard word for him."
Can Kobe Bryant settle for being second-best?
Los Angeles Times | Oct 23