By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
|Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics on February 9, 2012 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP)
“See the NBA’s fifth all-time leading scorer live” is how the Raptors are marketing Sunday afternoon’s game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
They also could have gone with: “See the hardest working, most determined, most offensively gifted superstar since Michael Jordan.”
Those descriptions fit as well and help to explain why Bryant — with more miles on his body than almost anybody else in the league — once again finds himself atop the NBA’s scoring leaderboard at 29.4 points per game.
Compton-native DeMar DeRozan grew up close to the Staples Center idolizing Bryant and knows from watching all those years, as well as playing against him this summer in Los Angeles what keeps Bryant on top.
“Don’t matter if you’re in the backyard playing or on the main stage playing, he’s going to try to take your neck off,” DeRozan explained after practice on Saturday.
“(It can be) a little girl guarding him, no matter who. It don’t matter where, it could be a snowy day against Eskimos ... he’s gonna try to kill them all.”
DeRozan has only been in the league three years, but that is long enough for him to realize Bryant’s consistent elite play isn’t normal.
“It’s rare just to keep it up day in and day out, night in and night out no matter where you’re playing,” said DeRozan, second on the Raptors in scoring at 15 per game.
“Some guys definitely tend to take a day off or a play off (from) time to time, but that’s not the case with him.”
Dwane Casey also pegs Bryant’s sky-high basketball IQ as a significant factor in his success and says that is what makes him so difficult to stop.
“He has laser-like focus on every possession, every play. He thinks the play. Some players get paralyzed by different schemes, different looks, he doesn’t. He analyzes, dissects it and knows how to attack it,” Casey said.
“He’s a computer on the floor, a lot like Michael (Jordan) and that’s what makes him different than any other player.”
Los Angeles stumbles into Toronto a disappointing 15-12, having lost 3-of-4 on the road, including a 92-85 stunner against Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks. The team did pull out a 88-87 overtime win in Boston on Thursday, which pleased Casey, who didn’t want any part of facing Bryant during a four-game losing skid. Not that Bryant will be in a great mood, regardless.
“Yes he is (tougher to stop when angry), and that’s why I was hoping they beat New York (Friday as well) because he’s a wet hen when he’s in that situation,” Casey said.
“They’re coming in (Saturday night) to practise after a back-to-back which is unusual. They’re going to be upset.”
After the Knicks loss, Pau Gasol said as much, throwing himself and his teammates under the bus for a lack of effort.
But he wasn’t referring to Bryant of course. Questioning his effort would be both wrong and foolish.
Of course Bryant has famously gotten on Gasol in the past, another way he is similar to Jordan, who constantly went at his teammates when he thought they weren’t giving their all.
DeRozan doesn’t question Bryant’s behaviour, saying the results speak for themselves.
“He’s a winner he won five rings and you can see that when he’s out there playing. He demands the most out of every player that’s on the court.”
Nobody moreseo than himself.