This could be Kobe Bryant‘s last season. No one knows for sure, including Bean himself. So what does that mean for the Lakers, and for Kobe — who was just cleared to return to the court like a real life NBA player? LA’s got other things to think about besides Kobe’s swan song, and no one’s even sure it’s his final season; Kobe will hate a victory lap around the league anyway. No word on how he feels about swans.
D’Angelo Russell has been blundering his way through the summer, talking playoffs, deifying T-Mac — while earning the ire of Kobe — and generally behaving exactly like young kids with millions of dollars. But they’ve got Julius Randle coming back after that half-game rookie debut, and surprising second rounder Jordan Clarkson is back too. Besides the youngsters, they’ve got Lou Williams and Roy Hibbert donning the purple and gold for the first time in their lives. It’s really a motley assortment of pieces, jumbled together by GM Mitch Kupchak.
Now it’s on Byron Scott to make it work, and he’s gotta figure out a way to keep Kobe healthy. That last part is what he discussed with Bill Oram in the Orange County Register, specifically the decisions that’ll determine how Kobe plays in what’s looking to be his final season (his contract is up at the end of the year and they’re not extending him before the Oct. 31 deadline).
Q. What decisions are you facing with Kobe?
Byron Scott: I think the biggest decision is playing time, trying to make that as limited as possible and also back-to-back games. That’s something we have to talk about. Other than that, there really is no other decision to make. He wants to play, and he wants to go out the way he wants to go out — if this is indeed his final year. He and I have talked a number of times on the phone, we’ve talked about playing time, we’ve talked about back-to-back, we’re going to probably sit down as we get closer to training camp or as we get in training camp and even talk more about it. Because the one thing I want, if this is his last year, I want him to go out standing. I don’t want him to go out hurt. I want to make sure I do everything in my power to make sure we stick to the game plan, as far as his minutes and as far as back-to-back games.
It sounds like he learned from last season’s mistakes, but actually following through with this strategy is another thing entirely, especially with a hungry Mamba hoping to feast on his doubters.
Scott said later in his talk with Oram that Bryant “knows his body better than anybody,” so does that mean when Vino is trying to check back in after playing 30 minutes through the first three quarters, Scott will prevent him?
“When we start talking about those minutes,” Scott said. “I want to listen to him more than anything.” This sorta sounds weird to us. Especially this last part.
“I’m not going to go by what I think he can play like I did last year, I want to really go by what he thinks he can play. Then I want to make sure we stick to that.”
But what if Bryant thinks he can play more than he actually can? Isn’t that a symptom of the pathologically intense competitor we’ve spent the last half decade commemorating and revering? That Bryant pushed himself beyond whatever wall mere mortals run into?
We could add some hackneyed line about Father Time, but we’re tired of talking about Kobe. He’s one of the best players of all time, but now it’s time to see what D’Angelo, Clarkson and Randle can do.