By Eric Pincus and Melissa Rohlin
1:22 PM PST, January 30, 2013
Midway through his 17th season, has Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant reinvented himself as a point guard?
Bryant has embraced a facilitating role in the last three games, averaging 13 assists per game in impressive victories over the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Hornets.
When asked how good he would have been if he had always been a point guard, Bryant didn't hesitate.
"What do you think I'm going to stand here and say I wasn't going to be the best?" he asked, laughing.
In each of the last three games, Bryant had more assists than two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash. It's the first time since 2009 that Bryant has scored 10 or more assists three games in a row.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul averages 9.7 assists nightly. Boston Celtics now-injured point guard Rajon Rondo averages 11.1.
Bryant has noticed the impact he's having on his teammates.
"You see everybody else gain confidence from playing well off of it -- so first and foremost that's what I enjoy," he said. "Secondly, because most of you guys [in the media] thought I couldn't do it, so it's pretty funny."
The Lakers have seemingly found a winning formula but is this just a passing phase or is this new Kobe Bryant here to stay?
"When I focus in on something, I become obsessed about it. I want to be perfect at it. It's my personality," said Bryant. "If I was to be a point guard, I'd obsess over it and I wouldn't stop until I got it absolutely right."
Is playmaking his new obsession?
"Can't you tell?" he asked back.
One of the biggest criticisms of Bryant in his career is that he hogs the ball. Maybe now Bryant is driven to rewrite the book. The Lakers need him to sustain the pass-first mind set if they want to survive the season.
"I can do it. I'm like Neo," he said, referring to the Keanu Reeves character from "The Matrix."
Does Bryant love passing now, like he has always loved scoring?
"I enjoy doing it. I prepare for each game," he said. "I look strategically at where defenses are going to be coming from and how to put guys in the right place to be successful."
Bryant, who is averaging 26.4 points a game this season, said that when he was young, he wanted to be a point guard in the mold of Magic Johnson.
"My idol was Magic growing up and I just so happened to not grow to 6-9" (Johnson's height), said Bryant, who is 6-6. "After that, when I realized I wasn't going to be 6-9, that was the end of that dream."
Bryant, 34, is in the 17th year of his NBA career. He's already proven that he's one of the best scorers of all time and now he said he's enjoying being called something else -- a facilitator.
Bryant needs to embrace the notion that he can be the best closer in the game with the pass instead of the shot -- the Lakers season is riding on it.
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