Kobe Bryant’s Minutes A Major Concern In Lakers Slow Start

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“I have to make sure that when he’s up to those minutes, that’s it, no matter what the game situation is, as much as I want to win, as much as he wants to win, I’m not going to sacrifice his health to try to win games.”

– Byron Scott on Kobe Bryant’s minutes ahead of the 2014-15 season.

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Heading into the 2014-15 NBA season, all the talk was about Kobe Bryant’s return and most importantly, how his minutes would be managed. Taking into consideration his age, overall minutes played through his 18-year career and coming off two consecutive season-ending injures, the ultimate goal was to have a minutes restriction in place to keep Kobe playing at a high-level for what will likely be the final two seasons of his career.

However, with every loss, there is a level of desperation that gradually increases to get that second win in this young season. Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers should absolutely be playing with desperation after eight losses in nine games, but it shouldn’t come at Kobe’s expense — mainly when games are clearly out of reach in the fourth quarters.

Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs provided an example of a troubling trend as Kobe suffered one of his worst shooting performances in his career as he went 1 for 14 from the field. Down 11 points to start the fourth quarter, Scott opted to continue playing Kobe the entire second half and despite the deficit ballooning and hovering around 15-18 points, continued to play him until 6:50 remaining in the game.

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As much as the minutes restriction was discussed throughout the offseason and preseason, Kobe’s minutes haven’t decreased at all and in one of the rare instances in his career, it finally caught up to him as he was on pace to play more than 40 minutes in a blowout loss when he clearly shouldn’t have been in. While Kobe will do whatever it takes to win a game, the five-time champion admitted even he couldn’t get through this latest illness following the loss via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:

“19 years in and your body just won’t respond when you’re sick and you’re used to being able to fight through those things … it’s tough.”

While Kobe clearly wasn’t himself and will naturally bounce back like he’s done throughout his entire career, the current situation sounds all too familiar. Unlike two seasons ago, there is very, very little margin for error now and the Lakers need him to play meaningful minutes at a high-level. Although we’re only nine games into the season and the return of Nick Young should help, Kobe Bryant’s minutes — sick or not sick — and how they’ve been managed is a major concern in the Lakers’ 1-8 start and potentially, for the rest of the season.

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Kobe Bryant On Illness: ‘Used To Be Able To Fight Through’

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