Throughout Kobe Bryant’s Hall of Fame career that’s now in its 19th season, the thought of him getting the Spurs treatment — sitting out games merely to rest — would never have even been considered as a realistic option.
Bryant is the game’s most fiery competitor, and relished the opportunity to get after it on a nightly basis, even if at times he was playing at less than 100 percent.
But this season, it’s been a different story, especially recently. Bryant has been convinced by Lakers head coach that he needs to dial it back a bit, and after missing Tuesday’s win over the Warriors, he sat out the Christmas Day matchup in Chicago against the Bulls to get some additional rest.
“It’s extremely difficult, especially playing here, playing on Christmas Day and playing in this city. I love playing here,” Bryant said. “The fans have always been great. There’s always a lot of energy in the building. At the same time, I’ve just got to try to be smart. It’s really going against my nature, but I’ve got to be smart about this.”
When asked if there was any particular injury hampering him, Bryant cited age and soreness.
“Old age. My knees are sore at this stage of the season,” he said. “My Achilles are sore — both of them. My metatarsals are tight, back is tight. I just need to kind of hit the re-set button.”
Bryant has played at a frenetic pace to this point of the season, often to the detriment of his team. His high-volume, low-percentage shooting has been the stuff of nightmares in the box score, and while Nick Young cracked wise about the way the team played in Bryant’s absence, the reality is there’s some truth in those words.
It’s worth wondering if Bryant is more willing to sit games out now that he’s surpassed Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time list of scoring leaders. That was the last meaningful statistical achievement left to grab this season, and after suffering serious injuries in each of the past two years, he may have been unsure if he’d remain healthy enough to attain that accomplishment.