In Friday night’s 102-91 Lakers loss to the Raptors, Kobe Bryant played a season-high 37 minutes. He has so far been the Lakers’ leader in minutes per game, despite looking like a shadow of the all-time great player he used to be. Lakers coach Byron Scott has downplayed the concerns about Bryant’s minutes, and what that could mean for his long-term health.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
“I also was thinking we got a chance to see if we can cut into this lead,” Scott said, “let’s see if we can get this win.”
Entering the fourth quarter, Bryant had already played nearly 26 minutes. Scott left him on the court for the start of the fourth and beyond.
“We didn’t even talk about it,” Scott said. “I just left him out there because I knew we needed him out there.”
Does the coach worry about the impact of those minutes?
“I worry about it now,” Scott said at his postgame press conference. “At the time when we’re trying to win the basketball game you try not to worry about it. But obviously after the game you worry about it.”
The thing is, with the way Bryant has been playing, is having him out there really the Lakers’ best chance to win? This is likely his final season, so the Lakers’ goal (in addition to developing their younger guards) should be making sure he makes it through the year healthy and without a fourth consecutive season-ending injury.
Scott is in a tough spot: he has to manage the twilight years of one of the best basketball players of all time, someone who will never consent to sitting out the ends of close games despite not being good enough anymore to give the Lakers their best chance to win—which shouldn’t even be their goal this season anyway, but that’s another conversation. Scott can’t win no matter what he does. But dismissing the concerns entirely is not the right way to handle it.