Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Struggling Lakers easing load on aging Bryant

AFP, LOS ANGELES

Kobe Bryant does not like the idea, but he would comply if the Lakers opt to shut their aging superstar down in what is turning into a lost season for Los Angeles.

“It’s a tough one for me,” Bryant said of the prospect of sitting out a considerable chunk of an NBA season. “I want to play, but at the same time, I understand management’s position. I will do what they ask me to do.”

It is a subject that has come up as the Lakers’ struggles have continued and the 36-year-old, sidelined for all but six games last season, has been inconsistent on the floor.

Last month, Bryant passed NBA icon Michael Jordan for third on the league’s all-time scoring list.

However, the strong performances have been overshadowed by poor-scoring nights and uncharacteristic spates of turnovers.

Thursday night was one of the good ones for Bryant, who handed out a career-high 17 assists and scored 19 points with only three turnovers. However, it went for naught as the Lakers lost to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Staples Center fans chanted: “We want Kobe!” whenever he was on the bench, but Lakers coach Byron Scott has vowed to strictly limit Bryant’s minutes in a bid to keep him fresh.

“I wanted to say: ‘I want him too,’” Scott said. “I know how much he means to us, but I also know that in the long run it’s going to be the best thing for us.”

And if the Lakers are out of playoff contention come March — which seems virtually certain for the 12-28 club — there has been talk that the team could choose to shut him down entirely in a bid to make sure he is healthy for a final NBA campaign next season.

“But right now the situation remains the same as far as game by game,” Scott said.

In the meantime, Scott wants to do what he can to keep the star going, and he said Bryant, a workhorse throughout his career, is getting used to the reduced minutes.

“I think he’s dealt with it extremely well,” Scott said. “I think he understands he’s still a hell of a basketball player, but he’s not what he used to be.

“He can’t play 40 minutes a night,” he added. “He can’t play four out of five nights. He doesn’t want to limp out — that’s one of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing right now.”

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