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Kobe Bryant is NBA’s leading scorer and D’Antoni could keep him there

Nov 17, 2012, 2:27 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Kobe Bryant had a pretty standard night for himself Friday against the Suns compared to his past couple seasons — 31 points on a not terribly efficient 10-of-24 shooting but getting to the line a lot (10-of-11 from the stripe).

With that night, Kobe has averaged 26.9 points per game and moved past James Harden into the NBA’s per game scoring lead. The two big guns — LeBron James (24.8) and Kevin Durant (24.5) and hanging back there and could move up the list.

Before the season we all assumed Durant would win the scoring title again because… well, he is the best pure scorer walking the face of the earth right now and his team needs him to produce. LeBron would put up points but he’s as likely to kick it to Norris Cole with the game on the line as shoot. (As ESPN noted, did you see LeBron do exactly that against the Nuggets on national television and nobody even questioned his manhood? Rings change things.)

But Kobe wasn’t seen as a threat — he was too old plus he has Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard around him to soak up shot attempts and buckets. Plus you knew Metta World Peace needed his touches whether he should get them or not.

Mike D’Antoni may have changed that.

He said at his introductory press conference he expects the Lakers to score 110 to 115 points a night — a lofty goal that most don’t think the Lakers at their age can achieve. They are probably right. But they are going to score more per game.

If the Lakers are pushing the tempo, scoring more points and playing more just on basketball instincts not micromanaged plays, Kobe could be the guy to beat in the scoring race.

Especially if he continues to be efficient — he is shooting 53.1 percent on the season (up from 43 percent last season), and 41 percent from three (30 percent last season). He was getting his shots closer to the basket — 19.3 percent of his shots this season have come on post ups and he’s shooting 43.9 percent on those and getting the and-1 on 10 percent, according to Synergy Sports — taking fewer contested long twos or threes, and the result of the good looks was more efficient scoring.

While the numbers he put up against the Suns wouldn’t have had you blink last season, this season they stand out as different from the rest.

It should be noted Kobe is going to spend more time as the pick-and-roll ball handler and he has shot 46 percent doing that this season and 37 percent from three in that role. Watching him for a couple games, he is comfortable in that role.

If Kobe continues to be efficient, if the Lakers put up a lot of points, Kobe could well lead the league in scoring at the age of 35. With D’Antoni at the helm it is possible. Kobe will downplay it — he’ll say he doesn’t care, it’s only about the rings, and he’ll mean it — but this could happen.

  1. eureca323 - Nov 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    It is crazy that at this age he nearly led the league in scoring last season even though he didn’t play the last game and Durant barely beat him for it. Now hes leading again. I do think though that Durant or Melo will win it this year. As a Laker fan I hope Kobe isn’t playing too many minutes during the season.

    • saint1997 - Nov 17, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      Thanks for giving Melo some credit!

  2. saint1997 - Nov 17, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    The reason nobody questioned his manhood was because Ray Allen made the shot. If Ray had missed it we would be hearing about it, even if it was the best move. I mean would you rather LeBron takes a contested fade away J or the best 3PT shooter the NBA has ever seen takes a fairly open corner three?

  3. dysraw1 - Nov 17, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    no no no i have decided to give Dick the benefit of the doubt, i was gonna get on him,an, talk about how terrible he was here for almost three seasons. an call him Dick D’antoni as much as possible.. but i decided to take the high road. an leave Dick to his new business.

  4. pricejustin24 - Nov 17, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    Hi.

    My name is Kurt.

    I write stories that feel like bullet points, and in most cases actually are.

    The flow of my menstrual cycle is better than anything I could ever write.

    Sincerely,
    Kurt

  5. jerdogthompson - Nov 17, 2012 at 10:42 PM

    Am I the only one that can see the irony in this headline? Kobe leads the NBA in scoring yet his team is at the bottom in standings. Must be something about what papa said, “hero ball is BORING”. Hero ball is also a a prescription for LOSING. I hope Kobe does win the scoring title and his Lakers fail to make the playoffs. That would be priceless. Keep the faith baby, keep the faith.

  6. money2long - Nov 18, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    pretty sure i posed the question ‘you guys thought kobe could score before’ in light of diantoni’s hire, and got thumb downs . im assuming it was haters or age-ists.

    stop judging kobe on age. i think it’s become fact kobe defies his age every year. plays through injury, and i can’t name another 30+ year old guy in the top 5 of scoring in the game besides the mamba.

  7. thelakeshow562 - Nov 18, 2012 at 5:49 AM

    Damn Kobe at 35 my boy still put up numbers like that hell yeah LAKERS #1 WIN OR LOSE (FAH)

  8. diehard7lakersfan - Nov 20, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    At his age kobe can still put up big numbers every night and what amazing about it is his shooting percentage. He’s starting to decrease his shots attempts which is in favor for them and getting his teammates involved more. Without a doubt he might get his 2nd MVP..

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