Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Kobe Bryant will sit out tonight when the Lakers (12-25) host the Portland Trail Blazers (29-8) on Sunday at Staples Center, which will mark the third game he has missed in the past four games.
Lakers coach Byron Scott said the reasons strictly involve “general body soreness” and his hope to preserve his 36-year-old star. But Scott also conceded his conservative approach stems from initially mismanaging Bryant’s playing time.
“I’m just trying to make up for all the minutes I played him early to get him more rest,” Scott said. “It was overload. My number was higher and I played to my number. That had a lot to do with him being worn down a little bit.”
Scott initially played Bryant between 30 to 40 minutes per game and even exceeded that threshold. Scott justified the move because the Lakers went into overtime in two games and they also had a four-day window between games in another scenario. But Scott conceded he should have restricted Bryant to around 31-32 minutes per game and sitting him on one night of any-back-to-back. Scott also said that Bryant’s minute suggestion proved more conservative than his own, though Scott reported the Lakers’ star remained willing to take on the heavy workload. Bryant has averaged 23 points on a career-low 37.5 percent shooting.
So what prompted Scott still to play Bryant more than even the Lakers’ star suggested?
“I didn’t take into serious consideration of him missing almost a whole year and him just getting back playing,” Scott said, referring to Bryant playing only six games last season amid injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee. “I should’ve figured out that would have taken time. But watching his workouts and watching how great in shape he was in, I took a little too confidence expecting he could handle those kind of minutes. I was wrong.”
Scott has since scaled back Bryant’s workload. After sitting for three consecutive games last month, Bryant has taken more of 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 game. Scott plans to rest Bryant on one night of a back-to-back, and will choose the first or second game depending on how many days of rest remain before and after the back-to-back.
Would Scott ever shut Bryant down for the 2014-15 season to preserve him next season for what could be his last year?
“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Scott said. “Maybe after All-Star break, we’ll talk about something like that if necessary. But right now, that’s something we haven’t discussed.”
The Lakers resume play after the All-Star break on Feb. 20. Until then, Scott downplayed any concerns about Bryant’s health despite his recent absences.
“I’m not concerned about his health right now,” Scott said. “His body, it’s a basketball player who has played a lot of years. I have to be concerned about that. That’s why I’m taking precautionary measures as far as not allowing him to play so many games. I want him to be right not only for this season, but for the rest of next season as well.”
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