TSN Archives: Kobe Bryant’s rookie scouting report

It hasn’t exactly been a storybook season for high schooler-turned-rookie Kobe Bryant. The ending, though, is turning out to be a happy one.

Having persisted through the wrist and hip injuries that set him back before the season even started, the wild swings in minutes, the demands of playing three positions and the spotlight that has come with being the youngest player (18) in league history. Bryant is playing at his highest level yet.

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Entering the week, he was averaging 7.8 points per game and 13.6 in his previous 10 games. He scored a career-high 24 points in a game against the Warriors last week.

“He’s been remarkable,” coach Del Harris says. “He had no training camp, was injured twice early in the season, and yet is doing these kinds of things. He makes a rookie mistake from time to time. But for every rookie mistake he makes, he does some incredible NBA things three or four times.”

Because of those mistakes — turnovers, poor decisions and a tendency to try to make something happen with every touch of the ball — and the fact the team has a deep backcourt, he often has sat for long stretches.

But few rookies can match the range of Bryant’s raw skills. Besides his exceptional first step and the leaping ability he showed in winning this year’s slam-dunk contest, he is shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and already has shown an ability to post up stronger guards.

He also is considered by Harris to be the club’s best ballhandler, which is why Bryant has seen some time at point guard in addition to off-guard and small forward. “He can do as much with the ball as anybody on the team,” Harris says

Lately, Bryant has been mixing in more jumpers to counter defenses that have been playing him to drive along the baseline, and he has made a conscious effort to play more under control and pick his spots within the flow of the offense. “I’m really trying to work on taking my time and visualizing things before they happen,” he says.

All these strides might seem astounding for a teenager one year removed from his senior prom. But his teammates became believers a long time ago.

“Kobe can flat play.” Nick Van Exel says. “Anything he does I’m not surprised about because I see him every day.”

 

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