If this is truly about building towards next season, wouldn’t it be beneficial to build chemistry with Bryant as opposed to developing a style only to have it ruined when Kobe returns?
Only Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly and Nick Young are under contract for next season. However, players like Jordan Clarkson, Ed Davis and Wesley Johnson (the new version 34.0) are young players who could be keepers with the Lakers. Kobe being on the floor, learning their tendencies and vice versa is an extremely important part of their individual and team growth.
Furthermore, how can you really discover Kobe’s limits if he isn’t playing at all? Developing a good substitution schedule, and figuring out how to best maximize him so he’s fresh in the fourth quarter can be done now, instead of sacrificing games at the beginning of next season when there is a clean slate.
To be clear, Kobe’s workload does need to be scaled back and in all honesty, he really shouldn’t be playing more than 30 minutes a night at the very most. If he is hurt, he shouldn’t be playing and once the Lakers get down to the last week or two of the season, I have no problem with him not playing the last five games or so.
However, if the Lakers need to shut Kobe down now ‘to save him for next season,’ then it’s probably time for him to hang up his sneakers altogether. Kobe provides too much to this team on and off the court to be lost at this point and the players who need the minutes can still get the necessary time on the court around him.
The Lakers are still trying to contend in the short-term, which by all accounts involves Kobe Bryant. We’ve already seen Steve Nash disappear and Kobe has done the same thing before. The post-Kobe Lakers are coming soon, but the current Lakers stand to gain too much from him being around to let that go.[divide]
Kobe Bryant’s Take On His Poor Shooting