Kobe Bryant has attracted many headlines for his words since coming to the NBA in 1996, but even by his standards he's in an unusual groove this year. The latest came Monday when Bryant reacted to Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka's below-the-belt hit on Blake Griffin by saying, "I would have punched him in the mouth."

On Feb. 24, after Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested the Lakers use the amnesty clause to rid themselves of Bryant's contract, Bryant dropped 38 points in a 103-99 win over Dallas then emphatically tweeted, "Amnesty THAT." Earlier in February, he took to Twitter after a loss to chastise two fans for using gay slurs on the social network.

These stories seem like a sideshow to a disappointing season, but the Lakers are inching back into the playoff periphery and Bryant knows what it takes to win in May and June. The top seeds in the West should be much more worried about Bryant shooting from the hardwood than from the hip.

- Elliot Smilowitz