Kobe Bryant and LeBron James Win February Player of the Month AwardsThe much anticipated LeBron James-Kobe Bryant NBA Finals showdown may never materialize but the NBA's best player and the NBA's five-time Lord of the Rings are both performing at a very high level. James led the Miami Heat to a 12-1 record in February while averaging 29.7 ppg (first in the league during the month) on .641 field goal shooting (tied for the league lead during the month) and contributing 7.8 apg, a team-high 7.5 rpg and 1.9 spg. He set an NBA record by scoring at least 30 points and shooting at least .600 from the field in six straight games. James has won 24 Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards, including all four this season and seven of the last nine overall. James is without question the 2012-13 NBA MVP, despite attempts by some media members to drum up interest in other candidates; Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and perhaps one or two other players are operating at an MVP-caliber level but no one has been as dominant, productive and efficient as James.
Bryant is playing some of the best and most efficient basketball of his career as he tries to lift the injury-battered and often listless L.A. Lakers into playoff contention; the Lakers went 9-4 in February as Bryant led the team in scoring (23.9 ppg) and assists (6.6 apg) while also averaging 6.7 rpg. He has scored at least 30 points in a game 24 times this season, tied with Durant for the NBA lead in that category. This is the 17th time that Bryant has won the Player of the Month award. He earned his first such honor in December 2000, the last season when the league selected just one Player of the Month; starting with the 2001-02 season, the NBA chose a Player of the Month for each conference.
Bryant has indicated that he might retire when his contract expires after next season but Kevin Ding eloquently asked Bryant to reconsider:
Game 1,440 was not unlike the others.
The Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night. Counting the playoffs, it was Kobe Bryant's 1,440th NBA game.
And Bryant was great again.
Not just pretty good. Not just flashes of greatness.
Artfully, inspirationally, intensely, winningly great.
So great...and yet not particularly greater than he was in Dallas a few days back, or the game before that with 29 after halftime to beat Portland, or when he twice had 14 assists in back-to-back victories over Utah and Oklahoma City in late January, or the time his fanatical prep work and relentless chasing left Brandon Jennings certain no one in the history of the game had ever defended a point guard that well (and also had 31 on 12-of-19 shooting and six assists), or all of December with Bryant's 33.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists across the board higher than he has averaged in any month in any year of his career.
The Lakers' day-to-day struggles have obscured the work of art that Bryant has erected over the past four months with those bent and battered fingers and his usual common-man tools of hard work, fundamentals, dedication and desire...
Retirement should not even be on Kobe Bryant's radar.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:41 AM