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It's a young man's game for Lakers star Kobe Bryant

He's leading the league in scoring and shooting 53% while waiting for Steve Nash to return.

November 22, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sends a behind-the-back pass to teammate Pau Gasol on a pick-and-roll play against the Nets' Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez during their game Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sends a behind-the-back pass to teammate Pau Gasol… (Paul Buck / EPA )

It's always funny to see those stories that speculate when Kobe Bryant will retire. He looks like he can play forever.

His driver's license says he's 34, but his stats pass for someone 10 years younger. He is averaging 27.3 points (tops in the NBA) and shooting 53.1% for the Lakers, impressive accuracy for a career 45.3% shooter coming into this season.

Bryant is also averaging 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists, the latter a nod to his role as the team's primary point guard while Steve Nash and Steve Blake recover from injuries.

Bryant downplayed it all after scoring 38 points with three assists in the Lakers' 113-97 loss Wednesday to Sacramento.

"I'm not working too hard, to be honest with you. The shots that I made were all jumpers. It doesn't take much energy to knock those jumpers down," he said. "Bringing the ball up and having me kind of initiate the offense and score and stuff like that, it's making me work a little more than I will when Gatsby gets back.

"When Gatsby gets back, I don't have to do that. The game's going to become even more easy for me."

Gatsby would be Nash, sidelined until at least Monday because of a small fracture in his left leg. He hasn't played since getting accidentally kneed by Portland guard Damian Lillard on Oct. 31.

Nash ran Coach Mike D'Antoni's offense to perfection when the two were together in Phoenix for four seasons.

This might be Nash's offense, but it's Bryant's team.

"Our offense, when Steve Nash runs it, should look a little different. He did it the best and I'm looking forward to that," D'Antoni said.

But wouldn't that mess with Bryant's recent run?

"We'll always go through Kobe," D'Antoni said. "If it is changed a little bit then we'll sit down and get it changed back because right now he's playing the best I've seen him ever play, or as good as he's ever played. He's really letting the game come to him."

Hack-a-Howard

Sacramento intentionally fouled Dwight Howard only once in Wednesday's game, a departure from Tuesday's foul-fest against Brooklyn.

Howard made one of two from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter against Sacramento. It was actually progress from Tuesday's game, when he made only three of 10 in the fourth quarter after being fouled on purpose.

"I think Dwight will work his way through it," D'Antoni said. "I think he'll become a decent foul shooter and that will go away. He needs to work on it because he needs for it to go away because nobody likes getting hacked every time. He takes some punishment out there."

Howard has made 49.2% of his free-throw attempts this season. He is a career 58.6% shooter from the stripe.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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