Two days after remaining defiant about surpassing his self-imposed minutes threshold on Kobe Bryant, Lakers coach Byron Scott has since admitted he needs to stay more disciplined with monitoring Bryant’s playing time.
“It’s really really hard,” Scott said following morning shootaround at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “I know when he’s out there, we have the best chance to win. But I have to give him rest.”
That’s not how Scott viewed things during the Lakers’ win last week in Detroit and in Friday’s loss to Toronto. Bryant played 36 minutes against Detroit and 37 minutes against Toronto despite Scott’s insistence at the beginning of the season that would never play more than last season’s average of 34.5 minutes per contest. In fact, Scott had previously aimed to keep Bryant’s minutes lower around 28 to 32 minutes per game.
But Scott defended the increased workload, mindful that the Lakers (2-10) could collect any victory they can. Scott also argued Bryant could handle the added minutes since he skipped Monday’s game in Phoenix before mostly resting before Friday’s game against Toronto. Can Scott show more discipline in any future games that will not be decided until the final moments of the fourth quarter?
“I have to fight myself on that,” Scott said. “I don’t want to get to the point where we have so many games left in the season and only 20 games out, hes’ already worn out.”
Still, Scott maintained he will remain flexible in different circumstances. For example, Scott argued Bryant “could play 35 to 37 minutes” in Tuesday’s game against Golden State because of the team’s light schedule the rest of the week. Scott will likely rest Bryant during Wednesday’s practice. After a likely day off on Thanksgiving, Scott could have Bryant complete half-court drills during Friday’s practice. The Lakers then play in Portland on Saturday.
But for Bryant’s workload tonight against Portland, “Scott said he will “try to keep it at the normal minutes I want to keep it at” above the 34.5 minute per game threshold.
“If I want him to play both those two games [tonight and Tuesday] and be effective,” Scott said, “I have to put the minutes back down.”
Bryant has averaged only 16.1 points on a career-low 34 percent shooting in 31.1 minutes per game through nine contests. After experiencing season-ending injuries for three consecutive seasons. Bryant also has monitored less serious ailments. He missed two weeks of training camp after bruising his lower left leg. Bryant also sat the Lakers’ first set of back-to-back games last week in Miami and Orlando because of back soreness.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have listed second-year forward Julius Randle as probable to play on tonight against Portland after nursing some soreness in the big toe of his left foot. Scott said Randle “didn’t show any ill affects” after participating in Sunday’s shootaround.
“I all indications of him coming out here today means anything,” Scott said, “I think he’s okay for the night.”