Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant #24 stands next to coach Byron Scott in the first half. The Lakers played the Minnesota Timberwolves in the opening game of the 2015-16 NBA season. Los Angeles, CA, 10/28/2015 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
MIAMI — The plan seemed so concrete only a few days ago. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant told Lakers coach Byron Scott he would like to pursue playing all 82 regular-season games amid the likelihood his 20th NBA season would also mark his last. Scott then confirmed Bryant would start for when the Lakers (1-5) play the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic on Tuesday and Wednesday, the first of the Lakers’ sets of 17 back-to-back contests for the 2015-16 campaign.
But apparently that concrete is not dry.
“That’s a grind to try to play all 82,” Scott said following Monday’s practice at American Airlines Arena. “We’re going to talk again.”
The Lakers still expect Bryant to start for Tuesday’s game against the Heat (4-3) after missing Monday’s practice to receive treatment. But Scott said he does not know how he will handle Bryant for Wednesday’s contests against the Magic (3-4).
“I know how he feels and I understand that. But my objective is to get him through this whole season,” Scott said of Bryant. “That might mean him missing some games so he can get through the whole year.”
Bryant has failed to do that for three consecutive seasons. He tore his left Achilles tendon on April 2013 and rehabbed for the next eight months. Bryant played in six games before fracturing his left leg and ultimately needing season-ending surgery. Last season, Bryant lasted only 35 games before tearing a rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
After criticizing himself for playing Bryant an average of 34.5 minutes per game last season, Scott has reduced Bryant’s to 29.2 minutes per game through six contests. But Bryant has remained woefully ineffective, averaging 16.5 points on a career-low 32 percent shooting. It has not helped that Bryant missed two weeks during training camp because of a bruise in his lower left leg, something that both hurt his conditioning and exposed his vulnerability.
Yet, Scott said that Bryant has “always been honest with me” regarding his health.
“Sometimes he says he feels like ‘You know what.’ Other times he says, ‘I feel good,'” Scott said. “I’m relying on that conversation to go one way or another and then go from there.”
When that happens, it remains to be seen how much Scott and Bryant will equate which venues he would miss knowing this could mark the last time certain fanbases would see him play. For example, Bryant’s appearance on Dec. 1 in his Philadelphia hometown could bode more importance than a forgettable night in Orlando.
“That’s something I have to weigh as well. But I don’t know if that is something [Kobe] is thinking about,” Scott said. “He might just be thinking I want to see if I can play every game. That’s just him and the competitive nature you have in him. We’ll talk about it again.”
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