The lift from Kobe Bryant’s legs have looked sluggish. So has his shooting percentage. It has become so noticeable that even Bryant himself has commented in recent days about fatigue catching up to him.
Lakers coach Byron Scott pledged he would play Bryant between 30-40 minutes in hopes to preserve his 36-year-old body. So will Scott scale back Bryant’s playing time even more?
“Still kind of keep it where it is,” Scott said. “It prompts me to give him more days off, if anything, so I can keep it in the 30-40 range.”
Bryant actually played a season-high 44 minutes in the Lakers’ 101-94 loss on Sunday to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. He also played 44 minutes in the Lakers’ loss on Nov. 4 to Phoenix. Scott defended playing Bryant over his self-imposed threshold for two reasons. The Lakers had four days off after playing against Phoenix. The Lakers played in overtime against Denver.
That’s why Scott reported telling Kobe during Monday’s practice “to just get a few shots up and relax.”
“It’s a process. When you have a year off and come back as hard as he worked, training camp, especially mine, it’s going to take your legs from you for a couple of weeks,” Scott said. “Then you get them back for a week or two. Then the season hits you with the traveling and the games come constantly. He’s at that point right now where it’s hitting him. He needs a couple of days where he can relax and recuperate and he will get his legs and his lift back.”
Hence, why Scott also plans to rest Bryant for Tuesday’s practice before the Lakers (3-11) host the Memphis Grizzlies (12-2) on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Lakers will then have off for Thanksgiving Day before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday at Staples Center. After a scheduled practice on Saturday, the Lakers then host the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Staples Center. The Lakers will then travel for a three-game, five-day trip with stops in Detroit (Tuesday), Washington (Wednesday) and Boston (Friday).
“This week at home getting a couple of days off here or there will definitely help him,” Scott said.
Nearly every coach from Phil Jackson, Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni hoped to lower Bryant’s minutes, but found it easier to scale back his workload during practice. But that approach produced mixed results. Once the 2010-11 season ended with a first-round sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, Bryant admitted that his absence inhibited the team from developing chemistry. After playing an average of 45.6 minutes per game through seven games in the 2012-13 season in hopes to secure a playoff seed, Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon. Although D’Antoni sparked criticism for the heavy playing time, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and outside medical experts have characterized Achilles’ injuries as freak occurrences.
After appearing in only six games last season because of injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee, Bryant has averaged a league-leading 26.7 points this season on a career-low 38.1 percent shooting in 35.7 minutes per game. In the past two contests, Bryant has shot a combined 16-of-46 from the field.
“He was upset with himself because he said everything he was shooting was short,” Scott said. “I said that’s expected. When you haven’t played that long and missed that much length of time for a year off and you come back basically with a bang because that adrenaline is flowing. Later in the season, it will catch up to you. You’ll just have rejuvenate and get back there. He will.”
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