The Los Angeles Lakers may have started slow at just 15-15 for the season, but one player says this is the best he's played in a long time.
This is probably the best I've played in a while," Kobe Bryant told ESPN after Monday's practice. "I've had years the last few years where I've felt pretty good but we kept my minutes down so the numbers didn't look the same, but this year I feel pretty good."
The NBA's leading scorer at 30.1 points per game has averaged 38.7 minutes per game, up from last season (38.5) under Mike Brown.
I think it's just the minutes," Bryant said. "I'm playing more. And I'm also extremely healthy. I had a whole summer to really be healthy, to be in shape, to get stronger and I think that has a lot to do with it. Diet has a lot to do with it, too. Watching what I eat."
In Phil Jackson's last season with the Lakers, the Hall of Fame coach limited Bryant's minutes to an average of 33.9 per game, which led to critics claiming he was on the decline. But it was all because he was injured.
"I played OK considering I was on one leg, but the minutes were also down too so the numbers were down," Bryant said referring to the 2010-11 season. "It was one of the things that kind of frustrated me. Everybody said I was on the decline but the reality is my minutes were just fewer. That's something I took to heart and wanted to come back this season improved."
Lakers current coach Mike D'Antoni told ESPN he believes Steve Nash will extend Bryant's career by "five or six years."
"He's playing 40 minutes right now and going as good as he's ever gone so there shouldn't be a limit and that's on him a little bit where he can mentally prepare himself every day," said D'Antoni.
D'Antoni appreciates the opportunity to coach the future Hall of Famer.
"He's played awful good, so it's a high level we're talking about but he's playing phenomenal," D'Antoni said. "You watch him from Phoenix and New York, you get one opinion which is good, but then you coach him and you start to appreciate what he goes through and how he gets himself ready every game. You got to really respect what he's doing."