Mike Brown’s Mission: Managing the Mamba’s Minutes

I am twenty-three years old. In fact, I have NBA stars Kevin Durant and Kevin Love beat by at least a month and a half. So take that Kevins! I breathed air before you did! In all seriousness however, our lives are characterized by what we do with the time and resources we are given.

It can be easy to envy another’s success and blame it on the luck of the draw, but what we do in the present will always have implications for the future. I can be honest, I haven’t worked on my jumper as much as KD has (being 6’9 doesn’t hurt either). But the fact of the matter is, people achieve success when they make the most out of the time they have by working hard to achieve those goals.

In today’s NBA, the general consensus is that nobody works harder than Kobe Bryant. At 33, no one doubts whether Kobe has made the most of the time he’s been given. He’s polished every aspect of his game, and from a skills standpoint, he has no weaknesses. He can post up, fade away, spot up, drive, dunk, rebound, and pass. On a Lakers team that has some glaring weaknesses, it’s a nice luxury to have a player that can shore up those holes.

But despite all arguments to the contrary, Mr. Bryant is still human, and in terms of basketball years, is very, very old. In a lockout shortened season, Kobe is playing nearly as many minutes per game as he did in his prime, a period some would argue ended four years ago. Like always, Kobe is making the most of the time he’s been given. Let’s take a quick look at some significant numbers:

  • At the moment, Kobe is averaging more points per game than any other 33-year old in NBA history who was on the court just as much. For players over 33 that averaged at least 38 minutes per game, Bryant (averaging 29.0 points a game) is followed closely by Michael Jordan (at 28.7) and Hakeem Olajuwon (at 26.9).
  • When you take into consideration the point in their respective careers at which they hit 33, Kobe has played more games than either of those two players.
  • Kobe’s usage rate of 37.3 is higher than any other player’s in NBA history at that age, demonstrating that despite the fact that the Lakers boast two seven-footers, the offense is still entrusted to Kobe’s direction.

The point has been beaten to death that Kobe needs to rest more if the Lakers are to be in good shape for the playoffs. A rested Kobe is a dangerous Kobe, and Mike Brown has repeatedly stated that he is aiming to reduce Kobe’s usage dramatically soon.

At earlier points in the season, this seemed unfeasible. The Lakers needed Kobe, faults and all, to dominate the ball in order for them to be effective. For all the chatter about Kobe’s “selfish behavior”, the reality is that Bynum and Pau cannot perform well without a ball handler to relieve some of the pressure.

With the recent arrival of point guard Ramon Sessions, hopefully those dreams of reducing Kobe’s minutes can become a reality. The Lakers have performed well this season despite all setbacks, and sit on a well earned third seed in the West. Let’s hope the addition of Mr. Sessions can relieve some of the pressure off of Kobe, and make good use of the minutes that he’s given.

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