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Kobe Bryant's possible scoring title has mixed implications

April 26, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Kobe Bryant could win the scoring title this season.
Kobe Bryant could win the scoring title this season. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

As the Lakers prepare for an otherwise meaningless season-finale Thursday against the Sacramento Kings, Kobe Bryant does have something significant he could try to achieve.

Bryant would surpass Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant for the league's scoring title if he drops at least 38 points, providing the most vivid example on how he's continuously turned back Fathertime. Just as many give up chocolate for the Lent season, however, Bryant has professed all week "I don't care" about reaching such a milestone.

Bryant surely has his eyes on the bigger prize of trying to earn a sixth championship ring, but even Coach Mike Brown hardly knows how he's going to approach tonight's game. Brown left open the possibility he could rest some of his starters entirely, but Bryant shouldn't and probably won't take the bait. He's had plenty of time to rest during his seven-game absence because of a sore left shin. Considering Metta World Peace's absence from a seven-game suspension and Matt Barnes' right ankle injury, it's probably a good idea Bryant manufactures some chemistry with teammates that will suddenly see some playoff minutes when they wouldn't have otherwise.

But should Bryant pursue what would be his third scoring title?

Missing the milestone wouldn't minimize anything about his legacy, but Bryant shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to chase it. After all, only Michael Jordan was older when he secured his 10th scoring title at age 34 in 1998. Securing his third title would provide further evidence that Bryant's managed to play at as much a prolific rate as when he collected his other scoring titles in 2006 and 2007. He's done this despite Fathertime, accumulating injuries and 42,377 career minutes catching up to him. 

No one can truly answer this question, though, until they see what context Bryant may pursue such an achievement. If Bryant's grinding toward a 40-minute plus effort tonight just to surpass Durant, there's nothing to gain from that. Why put the extra mileage in when he needs to conserve that for the postseason? But if Bryant opens the game going lights out, by all means, keep firing away. Doing so might yield similar momentum as when he helped the Lakers go on a 17-1 tear last season after collecting his fourth All-Star MVP.

Although balancing his thirst for scoring and ensuring the team's balance remains tricky, Bryant has managed to maintain a big-picture perspective this month. He sat out those seven games to improve his health. Upon Bryant's return last week against San Antonio, he ensured the Lakers remained balanced. That strategy only backfired because the Lakers' frontline lacked aggressiveness. And on Sunday against Oklahoma City, he opted to defend speedy guard Russell Westbrook. Bryant still provided late-game clutch baskets, but the energy he channeled on defending Westbrook arguably contributed to his overall poor shooting performance.  

Should Bryant show signs he sees the scoring title as important to pursue tonight, don't automatically hold it against him. Don't blindly cheer for him as if he can do no wrong, either. 

Seeing how the team dynamic unfolds during the actual game has always been the correct way to measure whether Bryant's high-volume shooting benefits or hurts the team. That shouldn't change tonight. 


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