Everyone knows Kobe Bryant is one of the world’s greatest competitors that it has ever seen, and everyone knows that the Los Angeles Lakers need him to play well and every minute on the court is of paramount importance to their success. However, everyone may not know that coach D’Antoni is overplaying Bryant over these past four games as Kobe has played nearly all 48 minutes in every contest. That’s right, almost 48 minutes, that is unreal even for a player in their mid 20’s let alone a 34 year old Bryant.
In the past four games the Lakers played SAC, DAL, MEM, LAC, and Bryant played 47 minutes 37 seconds, 47 minutes four seconds, 42 minutes 32 seconds, and 47 minutes 20 seconds in each game respectively. That’s an average of about 46 minutes per game, an extremely high amount for someone with the mileage that Kobe Bryant has on his body. However, if anyone could do it it’s Bryant, he takes care of himself, conditions well, and makes sure he is always in top shape so he can perform his best on the basketball court.
Even though Bryant is clearly capable of playing these minutes as he’s exhibited these past four games, it’s going to harm him in the long run should the Lakers make the playoffs. It’s even affecting him now, and considering Bryant is coming off a severely sprained ankle and a bone spur on the same foot, these minutes seem to be taking a toll on Bryant.
Throughout these past four games Bryant’s shooting percentage is down sitting at 37% during the span, and he’s even worse from beyond the arc at a paltry 5% on 1-20 shooting, the lone make being against the Clippers in a loss on Sunday. This can be attributed to tired legs and Bryant just not quite being able to muster up all his strength at times when he normally could on adequate rest.
There is a silver lining though as Bryant’s RPG and APG have been dramatically higher as he works to get his teammates involved early and often and stays active on the boards, securing rebounds and extra possessions. Bryant, over the span, is averaging 8 RPG, and 11 APG, both significantly higher than his season averages. He’s also averaging 22.75 PPG which is noticeably lower than his season average of 26.96 PPG, but that can be attributed to his increased assist total as Bryant is looking to pass more often than taking shots.
Playing these kind of minutes takes a large toll on a 34 year old body with the kind of basketball mileage that Bryant has accumulated throughout his career. Seeing those numbers dip to a sub-par level is just a precursor of what fans can expect to see come playoff time should the Lakers make it. If Kobe doesn’t start to see some rest soon he could be completely burnt out come playoff time, having used up his energy just to make it their. Bryant isn’t playing this many minutes unwillingly however says coach D’Antoni. This via latimes.com:
“A lot of it is in the moment, ‘How do you feel?’ ‘What’s going on?'” said D’Antoni about making sure Bryant isn’t overextended. “We’re trying to steal minutes when we can for him.”
“He insists. He wants to play,” according to D’Antoni. “I’ve got to trust how he feels about his body and how he feels about his situation.”
Regardless of whether Kobe wants to play these minutes or not, someone has to step in and say enough is enough and he needs to start saving some of those
minutes for a potential playoff run. There is no point to work this hard to make the playoffs if the Lakers lose in the first round because their star player is burnt out. There needs to be a common ground where Bryant can play a larger sum of minutes and still get the rest he needs and deserves during these important games.
Kobe Bryant wants his team to make the playoffs more than anything and he is willing to go to extreme measures to ensure that happens. Unfortunately it’s at the expense of his health and overall stamina which may affect his level of play should the Lakers make the playoffs. Seeing Bryant play this much is a true testament to his will and drive to win, but even he knows he needs to save himself for the playoffs, which is all Los Angeles has ever played for. Bryant’s minutes need to decrease over the next five games if the Lakers hope to keep him at full strength for the playoffs, and they need to find a way to win at least four of those next five games without Bryant playing so much if they hope to hang onto that elusive eighth seed and make a playoff run.