Kobe Bryant, as reported by ESPN.
“I knew I could make a push and once I made that push, it felt like it energized us a little bit, get the game back under control, get it under 10 where we knew we could be in striking distance. I just tried to read the flow of the game and tried to manage the game. I can get off at any time. In the second half I did that.”
The awkwardness of his explanation aside, the scary suggestion here is that Kobe Bryant, perhaps as confident and emboldened as he’s ever been in his career, is now feeling good enough to toy with the game—a state of being perhaps only ever reached before by the likes of Bird and Jordan. (There’s a much-repeated story about Bird getting bored enough at one point that he started shooting left-handed just to challenge himself. Then again, I also once saw Rasheed Wallace do that.)
With LeBron now at home wondering how many roster overhauls it’ll take before Cavs management finds him a half-decent supporting cast, Kobe is the last truly dominant player left in the NBA playoffs. As LeBron proved last year against Detroit, it’s entirely possible for one player to decide an entire series against a very good team. And, unlike LeBron last year, Kobe has the supporting cast (namely a man named Pau) necessary to win a championship. So where the Cavaliers got past Detroit last year, but had little left for San Antonio, the Lakers could get past the Spurs and still have plenty to fight the Pistons or Celtics.
And it’d all be that much more impressive if, you know, Kobe had nearly destroyed that Lakers team just six months ago.