The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in street clothes during their game against the Heat at the Staples Center December 25, 2013. Bryant may not return to play this season. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)
Despite their contrasting personalities and different skillsets, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have a connective thread beginning from entering 1996 NBA draft and eventually retiring with a sure lock for a Hall of Fame nomination.
Amid Bryant’s thirst for scoring and Nash’s enjoyment out of passing, both have maximized their careers by perfecting those particular skills with versatility and creativity. They have done so through sheer work ethic, through mastering fundamentals and through overcoming too many injuries to count. Yet, both Bryant and Nash failed last season in translating their devotion to training, dieting and rehabbing into actually staying healthy.
Nash appeared in only 15 games because of persisting nerve issues in his back that emerged through seemingly any measure of physical contact with an opponent. Bryant played in only six games after a seven-month rehab on his left Achilles tendon coincided with a fractured left knee. The Lakers have labeled Bryant and Nash as fully recovered, but how will they manage the two veterans in the 2014-15 season?
That marked one of many topics Time Warner Cable Access SportsNet host Chris Geeter, analyst Dave Miller and I addressed Wednesday to preview the schedule release of the Lakers’ 2014-15 season. We discussed the possibility that both Bryant and Nash could sit out on the second night of the 16 sets of back-to-back games this season, a slight dropoff from the 19 sets of back-to-back games the Lakers played last season.
It seems likely Nash would continue that formula considering the Lakers immediately adopted that route with him last season. But how about Bryant? Both former coaches Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni talked in recent seasons about needing to limit Bryant’s minutes both to ensure his long-term health and ease the burden on his workload. But overlooking Bryant’s 29.2 minutes he averaged last season in only six games, considering the playing time in previous seasons, including the campaigns in 2011-12 (38..5) and 2012-13 (38.6). Clearly, the ideal for Bryant not to log so much playing time often does not comform to the short-term pressures the Lakers face.
That is why Miller argued how Lakers coach Byron Scott handles Bryant’s workload will mark his biggest challenge in handling a potentially lengthy rebuilding process.
So what should it be? Should the Lakers play Nash and Bryant conservatively, hoping their long-term health would maximize the Lakers’ chances at winning even if their absence creates additional challenges? Or do the Lakers need to establish some comfort level in the standings before taking such measures?
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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org