Kobe Bryant has dramatically increased his shot totals the last few weeks. Phil Jackson knows why.
"He gets motivated, activated by injuries," the Lakers coach said Friday. "It's like saying he can't do something and then he has to prove he can do it. It's just one of those things about him that is unique."
Bryant has been bothered by an avulsion fracture in his right index finger that has forced him to adjust his shooting style, putting more pressure on the ball with his thumb instead of his injured finger. He also has a strained right elbow.
Bryant has taken 23 or more shots in 11 consecutive games.
Bad news for the Lakers: It can distort their share-the-ball triangle offense. Good news for them: Bryant has been shooting with decent efficiency, making 47.6% over the 11-game span. He is a 45.6% career shooter.
Bryant had 39 points on 13-for-27 shooting Friday against the Sacramento Kings, including the winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
In the never-ending analysis of Andrew Bynum's decreased productivity, Jackson offered another angle, a reminder that the Lakers' center is a young 22.
"We have to remember he only played like 30 games of high school. Some kids play 100 games in high school," Jackson said. "He really has a limited amount of experience. His first year was pretty much a wash here. Then he has two injury situations that go on and limited how much he could actually participate."
Bynum has gone 21 consecutive games without a double-double.
Pau Gasol is fourth among Western Conference forwards in All-Star voting, trailing Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan, but Jackson doesn't care. In fact, he seems to be losing faith in the voting system.
"I think Houston might have all their players in the top five at every position," Jackson said. "That Chinese fan group, they vote for the Houston team because of Yao Ming and their relationship to Houston. It's all skewed."
Jackson's only partly correct. Tracy McGrady is second among West guards, but Aaron Brooks is sixth among guards, Trevor Ariza is sixth among West forwards and Luis Scola is seventh among forwards.
Jackson had one more complaint.
" Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady . . . they haven't even played this year," he said. "Allen's played a few games so it's kind of askew to suggest that the voting is something to count on."
Iverson has played only 11 games but is second among East guards in the voting.
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With the new year officially in gear, Jackson was asked to list his surprise teams so far this season.
He said Washington was the most disappointing -- "I think everybody was really kind of saying Washington was going to be the sleeper this year in the East" -- but he wasn't ready to call Portland a disappointment.
"It's kind of shocking, I guess, to see that many kids injured," he said.
His most improved team? The Phoenix Suns.
"I don't think people expected them to rejuvenate [to] what they were before the Shaq [O'Neal] trade, to come back and play that kind of basketball," Jackson said. "They've done a good job."