The Lakers are in shambles, but Kobe Bryant‘s presence continues to make them interesting to the basketball public. After taking a break for three consecutive games last month, he returned with a flourish, and he’ll now sit out one game — dependent on the opponent — of LA’s eight remaining back-to-backs this season. Coach Byron Scott now admits to the Los Angeles Daily News he played Vino too much earlier in the season and it wore him down.
As the LA Daily News‘ Mark Medina notes, Scott said, “One thing I’ll never do is sacrifice a player’s health for a basketball game,” before the season started. “If it can hurt him in the long run, I won’t do it.”
Except, Mamba is averaging 34.8 minutes per game this season, which is almost a minute more per game than he averaged (33.9) in Phil Jackson‘s last season as head coach during the 2010-11 campaign. This is also taking into account that Scott has lowered Bryant’s minutes during the last five games, where they’ve gone 2-3; he’s averaging between 31.4 minutes a night within that span.
“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.”
For the season, Bryant is shooting a career low 37.5 percent from the field, but over the last five games since he came back, he’s shooting 41 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. His rebounds and assists have jumped as well. For the season he’s averaging 5.6 boards per game, but is up to 8.4 over his last five, and he’s averaging 5.3 assists per game for the year, but is up to 7.8 over his last five. Then again, he’s also turning the ball over more. So how did Scott get fooled into over-playing Bryant earlier in the year?
“I didn’t take into serious consideration of him missing almost a whole year and him just getting back,” Scott said, referring to Bryant playing only six games last season amid injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee. “I should have 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 says Kobe suggested the more conservative approach, but also that he’d be willing to go back to his early season marathons if the Lakers need that production from the future Hall of Famer. Within the first 23 games of the season, Mamba played over 40 minutes three times, and besides the opening two games, never played less than 30.
It seems Scott will play Bryant what he intended to in the beginning of the year, starting when Bryant came back from his three-game exodus. This 12-26 Lakers team isn’t worth over-extending their big draw — especially with Nick Young unable to hit the water when he falls out of the boat.
Scott hasn’t thought about just shutting Bryant down for the season so he can come back strong in the last year of his current deal, something the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony have discussed, though they haven’t pulled the trigger just yet.
It’ll be interesting to see if ‘Melo or Mamba are in uniform for their respective teams during the last week of this trying regular season.
How much longer does Kobe play before shutting it down?
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