Well, it seemed obvious to the rest of us, too.
Steve Nash, at age 39 with a chronically bad back and coming off a broken fibula, didn’t exactly get to take it easy this season. His minutes per game increased to 32.5, up from the season before in Phoenix. When the Lakers were making their push to get in the playoffs there were plenty of 35 to 37 minute nights. Mike D’Antoni looked at his bench and played Kobe Bryant, Nash and his other key guys heavy minutes.
Lakers trainer Gary Vitti sat down and talked to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell in a fascinating piece where they talk about a lot of things, including the minutes impact on Kobe’s Achilles injury.
Vitti hints at the idea Nash should be on a minutes limit next year.
“I think he’s going to come back in great shape, and then it’s all about how he’s used. You don’t want to beat him up in practice. Save it for the game, figure out the appropriate minutes that put him in a successful situation. The example I use is Robert Horry, where we played him a lot of minutes, and it was difficult for him to recover and be productive at his age. But he goes to San Antonio, plays 18 minutes a game, and the guy was an unbelievable force off the bench for them. I think if we figure out how best to use Steve, he can be the same way.”
Back in 2003 the Lakers played a 32-year-old Horry 29.3 minutes a game, and he did struggle shooting 38.7 percent overall, 28.8 percent from three and with a PER of 12.4. The next season the Spurs cut him back to 15.9 minutes a game off the bench, he shoots 40.5 percent overall and 38 percent from three with a PER up to 14.5.
There’s a lot more to work out for the Lakers. They had Nash working off the ball more with Kobe last season, do things stay that way or will Nash have the ball in his hands more? Who will be the backups at the guard spots? When does Kobe return, and how does his absence for part of the season impact what they do on offense? (Oh, and that Dwight thing needs to be worked out, too.)
On top of all that, D’Antoni has to find a way to keep the minutes under control for his best players. Have fun with that.