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Kobe says his knee is “best it’s been in a long time”


Maybe what Kobe Bryant’s knee needed was a little rest and some expensive, exotic therapy.

His knee had been an issue the last couple seasons — it’s almost bone on bone. It’s why Kobe had surgery on it last summer, and why he had to have it drained multiple times in previous years. It’s why Kobe sat out most Lakers practices last season. But three straight trips to the NBA finals with an Olympics thrown in is a lot of basketball and not a lot of rest the last few years.

This year the Lakers got unceremoniously bounced in the second round by the Mavericks. Lakers fans hated that, but apparently Kobe’s knees liked it.

That’s what he told Derek Fisher while the two were raking in an easy paycheck in the Philippines, according to the Orange County Register.

Derek Fisher said Friday about teammate and pal Kobe Bryant: “He’s telling me — and I saw for myself — that his knee is the best it’s been in a long time…”

Fisher said he didn’t really believe Bryant’s boasting initially, but seeing Bryant in action was convincing.

“I saw it a little bit in Manila,” Fisher said, smiling, “so I believe it now.”

Things that would help the Lakers bounce back next year include a healthier Kobe (with a new coach he can’t be sitting out practices). Another thing that would help is a new point guard, but we’ll talk to Fisher about that later.

Kobe admits his knee is nearly bone-on-bone

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns

It is hard to judge just how much Kobe Bryant is hurting.

It’s because he doesn’t give in to his body, he just keeps pushing through the pain. He keeps playing, keeps pressing forward and pushing his team with a Terminator like will. He can be slowed by pain, he may miss shots with a broken finger, but he does not stop. Ever.

But Kobe’s right knee — the one he had surgery on this past summer for a third time in his 15 seasons — is bad and that is why he has been sitting out team practices this year, he told Peter Vecsey of the New York Post.

“Because I have very little cartilage under my right knee cap, it’s almost bone on bone…

“You know how competitive and combative I am on the court,” he said. “There’s nothing I like better than to practice. In fact, I like practice more than the games, because I get to go at my teammates hard. That’s when you find out what they’re made of, how much you can push some to get the most out of ’em, and how you have to back off others so you don’t lose ’em…

“So, in order to protect my knee and avoid a situation like last year (where he had to have his knee drained of fluid during the playoffs), we decided before the season to sacrifice the team’s intensity by minimizing wear and tear as much as possible.”

After the ugly string of Lakers games around Christmas, Kobe scrapped that plan and has come back to practice to pick up the intensity. He also has picked up the intensity of therapy on his knee so he can get through all this.

We’ve seen what bone-on-bone knee pain has done to Brandon Roy. It should make Lakers fans — and just fans of basketball — take a step back and really appreciate what Bryant does on the court right now. Because at some point soon he will not be able to push past the knee pain any more, the elevation won’t be quite the same on the jump shot, the explosion heading to the rim will be missing.

Kobe will adjust and still be effective. He already has started to, moving more into the post for his offense. But that will be a slightly different Kobe. We should appreciate the one we have now.

Phil Jackson wants to limit Kobe’s minutes at start of season. Good luck with that.

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Kobe Bryant rests about as much as the T1000.

He played just a hair under 39 minutes a game last season. He has never played less than 36.1 minutes a game since 1998. And that’s just the regular season. (And you wonder why people talk about all the miles on that body, minutes that would matter more if he was not made out of a nanomorph mimetic poly-alloy just like the T1000).

Kobe’s conditioning and will to win drive those minutes, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson has watched him on a gimpy knee this preseason and said he wants to limit Kobe’s minutes when the games get serious next week. Here is Jackson’s quote from the Kamenetzky brothers at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“He’s the best caretaker I’ve ever seen of his own personal physique. So I anticipate he’s got this measured as to how he wants to do it. I don’t anticipate he’s going to be playing heavy minute games to start the season. So we’ll have to find a pattern out there so he has the greatest influence in the amount of minutes he’s in.”

Kobe isn’t on some Yao Ming-like limit. It’s more about taking him out and giving him more rest while Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes fill in (and maybe Sasha now and again). It’s about getting him healthy rather than letting everything linger.

Which is a great plan until there’s a close game early in the fourth quarter next week and Kobe just checks himself in and pushes through the rest of the way. Kobe is not quietly going to just sit there on the bench if his team is struggling to score or is locked in a close on. That’s not how he is wired.

Jackson is a powerful coach. But good luck keeping Kobe’s minutes down.

It’s not time to worry about Kobe… yet

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Kobe Bryant is shooting 14.3 percent in the preseason.

Last night he said he felt better but he was 2 of 10.

You don’t need those stats or any advanced ones to tell you he is not right — just watch him. Wednesday night Kobe came down on the break with the ball in his hands against two backpedaling Kings defenders and pulled up and waited for the offense to set. Healthy Kobe just attacks that and at least draws the foul.

Continuing recovery from off-season knee surgery has taken the edge off his game right now (he said last week he was at 60 percent). He can’t explode past people, he lacks the elevation to rise above defenders and knock down jumpers. As Kevin Ding noted in the Orange County Register, when he came out after one unimpressive play Wednesday in Las Vegas and Lakers assistant (and head coach in waiting) Brian Shaw questioned him about it, he pointed down at his knee and shrugged.

Should Lakers fans be worried? No. Not yet.

True, without Kobe, the Lakers are like all the teams chasing them in the West have felt for the past three years — good but not quite good enough. The Lakers are not intimidating anyone without Kobe.

But this is still the preseason. Too early for even Lakers fans to hit the panic button.

Kobe did look a little bit better Wednesday night, he seemed to move a little more smoothly even if that movement is not up to his own standards. Phil Jackson held Kobe down to 19 minutes in the game, you can expect that or less in future games. Followed by rehab on his days off. Come Oct. 26, Kobe will be better, capable of taking on a bigger role in the offense.

Maybe not as big a role as he’d like. Probably not as big a role as he will need to play come April and May next year. But big enough for the Lakers to win — they still have Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and other guys who can put the ball in the hole. Kobe has to be a viable threat in the offense, he doesn’t need to be THE offense, for the Lakers to win consistently in the regular season.

The only question is will a slightly slowed Kobe force too much of the offense. He did that a few times against the Kings, as he did against Barcelona before. His competitive nature gets the better of him. When he does that, healthy or not, the Lakers offense can struggle.

Right now he needs to trust teammates, get in the flow. Take good, high percentage looks.

If that is what it takes to win, smart money is Kobe will do just that. Until he is healthy and ready to do whatever he wants. And the Lakers become intimidating again.

Kobe on 16-minute a game limit… until the games count, anyway

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Kobe Bryant played 25 minutes against Barcelona, his competitive nature getting the better of his  need to rest his knee.

He asked to come back in the close game despite him not being able to fully trust his knee yet (which shows in his inability to drive and his off-target jumper). Kobe was 2 for 15 on the night, 0-6 from three and was not in the flow of the Laker offense. What little of that there was.

So Phil Jackson is putting limit on his star, for now anyway, according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

Jackson said Monday one way he’ll adjust that situation is limiting Bryant’s playing time in upcoming exhibition games while his surgically repaired right knee gets stronger. He played 25 minutes in Barcelona, but Jackson said 16 minutes is enough now — which would mean Bryant going for eight minutes to start each half.

“Any more than that right now is expecting a little too much,” Jackson said.

That’s the plan for now. In two weeks, on Oct. 26, when the Lakers open up against the Rockets, you can throw that plan out the window.