WORKING LIKE DREAM Each time he backed down Houston's Shane Battier in the post and then deftly spun around him for a layup Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant jogged up court staring into the same pocket of fans seated courtside across from the scorer's table.

The man who met his gaze knew exactly the message Bryant was trying to convey.

"He looked at me to confirm, 'I'm using what you taught me,' " Hakeem Olajuwon said. "That was the greatest gift for me. It was wonderful."

Hoping to improve his footwork on the low block and add a few new moves to his repertoire, Bryant e-mailed Olajuwon this summer and asked if the legendary former Houston center would work with him on his post game.

Just a week before training camp began in September, the master of the "Dream Shake" enthusiastically obliged, giving Bryant a two-hour step-by-step lesson on everything from head fakes and ball fakes to spin moves and jab steps.

"It was an honor for me to have the opportunity to work with him, and I want to make him proud of what I've learned," Bryant said. "I have wanted to work with him in the past, but the timing was right this year. I got a chance to work with the greatest post player ever. I've always been a student of the game, and he was very patient with me."

Although Bryant built his reputation as one of the league's most explosive scorers primarily from the perimeter, the 31-year-old knows he won't always have the quickness to get to the rim with such ease. As a result, he has shown more inclination to try to score easier baskets from the post in recent years, the same way Michael Jordan did in the latter half of his career.

It would have been difficult for Bryant to find a better tutor than Olajuwon, the player who renowned big man coach Pete Newell once said had the best footwork of any center he'd ever seen.

Obligations to USA Basketball kept Bryant occupied the past few summers, but he had the free time this September to not only work with Olajuwon but also practice what he learned on his own a couple hours a day afterward.

"Kobe always comes back with a goal," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He doesn't go through summer playing golf or going fishing. He's got something in his mind he's going to work on with his game during the offseason."

What impressed Olajuwon most about Bryant was the fluidity with which the Lakers star duplicated his moves. Whereas some young big men twisted themselves into human pretzels trying to imitate Olajuwon, Bryant's agility and athleticism allowed him to have success within hours.

Bryant showcased some of what he learned in front of Olajuwon on Wednesday night, shaking off the effects of a lingering cold to score 41 points on 15-for-30 shooting in an overtime victory against the Rockets. Olajuwon was especially pleased to see Bryant take a perimeter defensive ace such as Battier into the post and comfortably turn and score around him with either shoulder, one of the skills they worked on together.

As the Lakers showered and dressed after the game, Olajuwon ducked into their locker room for a brief powwow with his star pupil. He emerged beaming, absolutely thrilled that a player of Bryant's stature would embrace his advice.

"He wanted to work on his post moves, and he wanted me to work with him," Olajuwon said. "That's a great compliment because I know I added value to his game. Now to see him using it, that's a great thing for me."

Olajuwon paused and then added one last parting thought.

"I just hate that it was against the Rockets," he said, smiling.

Reach Jeff Eisenberg at 951-368-9357 or

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Added: November 7, 2009


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