After sitting out for three of the past four games, Kobe Bryant seemed rested enough that he participated in 90 minutes of the Lakers’ two-hour practice on Monday that entailed light shooting and half-court drills.
“He looked more focused,” Lakers forward Nick Young said of Bryant.
But will that prove enough for Bryant to return when the Lakers (12-26) host the Miami Heat (16-21) at Staples Center? Lakers coach Byron Scott said he will “pencil” Bryant in, but will not make a final decision until he sees the how 36-year-old feels following both morning shootaround and shortly before tipoff.
After all, Scott has delivered a mea culpa for the past two days on how he handled Bryant’s minutes.
“You try to move away from it and forget about it,” Scott said. “But it’s hard to do when you have a guy you care about so much and you think you kind of messed up. I think I played him too much early.”
Bryant averaged 24.6 points per game on a career-low 37.2 percent clip in 35.4 minutes through the Lakers’ first 27 games. But after going through a five-game stretch where Bryant averaged 20.6 points on a 29.2 percent clip, Bryant sat for three consecutive games in late December. Bryant has also missed three of the past four contests. In between those periods, Bryant took more a facilitating role in the next five games by averaging 17 points on 40.9 percent shooting and eight assists in 31.4 minutes per contest.
“If I would’ve stuck to 32 minutes or 33 at the most, he might have been able to play a little more in these games that he missed. But I realize it and have to move on from it and learn from your mistakes.”
That explains why Scott planned to have light practice sessions for Bryant Monday and Wednesday to build his rhythm. Bryant will also sit in Friday’s game against Utah, representing Scott’s new quest to sit the Lakers star in at least one night of the Lakers’ eight remaining sets of back-to-back games.
Bryant did not speak to reporters following Monday’s practice. Scott also said he did not offer a mea culpa to Bryant directly and remains unsure if the Lakers’ star became aware of his latest commentary.
Scott has placed the blame on himself and not on Bryant, noting that the Lakers’ star entered training camp suggesting a lower number than the 30-to-40 minute range that Scott initially projected. Scott also praised Bryant for deferring to him on managing his playing time.
“His reaction was ‘Coach, whatever you want to do,'” Scott said. “Some of the statistical things that you have that’s available to us, I end up finding out when he hit the 32-minute plateau, his game went down. Those four or five minutes was crucial. He’s much more fresh at the end of the games at the 30-minute mark than he was a the 33 minute mark with two or three minutes left in the game.”
All of which Scott hopes will lead to Bryant having enough energy to stand up for himself against Father Time without experiencing punches that will knock him unconscious.
“I want his body back to where it was before we started training camp,” Scott said. “He felt great and he was healthy. When you start training camp, you won’t be healthy the rest of the season. You’ll have aches and pains. But when you play 19 years regular season counting, he’s going to have his share of aches and pains. I added to that. Right now what I can do is give him more rest when I can to benefit him in the long run.”
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