"This is probably the best I've played in a while. 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 evidence is in the numbers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the month of December Bryant just finished playing was historic for him, as he had never reached the averages of at least 33.79 or more points, 5.57 or more rebounds and 4.64 or more assists all at the same time for an entire month before in his career.
Along with Bryant's improved scoring and efficiency, he's playing 38.7 minutes per game, slightly up from the 38.5 minutes he played last season under Mike Brown and significantly higher than the 33.9 minutes per game he logged in his final season under Phil Jackson.
"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."
Bryant said he was playing on "one leg" in Jackson's farewell season in 2010-11 and the Hall of Fame coach tried to manage Bryant's health by cutting his minutes, something that led critics to declare Bryant's career was on the decline.
"I played OK considering I was on one leg, but the minutes were also down too so the numbers were down," Bryant said. "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."
D'Antoni is enjoying his steady diet of having Bryant on his team, rather than as an opponent.
"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."
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