“Under normal circumstances [in a season like this], at some point, you would probably concentrate on just developing all your young players,” Kupchak told ESPN. “But we can’t do that right now. This [season] is really a justified farewell to perhaps the best player in franchise history. And, God-willing, he's going to want to play every game and he's going to want to play a lot of minutes in every game, because that's just the way he is.”
Kupchak went on to say that minutes given to Bryant each game could otherwise go to younger players if this was not the star’s last season. Kupchak also said that it is difficult for the Lakers to asses themselves and grow as a team while Bryant is still on the court.
“That's not a bad thing,” Kupchak added. “I'm not saying it's a bad thing at all. It's something that I think is a good thing. In some regards, there's a silver lining. Our younger players can make mistakes, and it can kind of go under the radar because Kobe garnishes so much attention. Every game, it's about Kobe. Even when he doesn't play, it's about Kobe. So in a lot of regards, there's a silver lining that our guys can develop under the radar and maybe make a mistake or make two mistakes and it not be a big deal.”
Bryant is currently averaging 30.4 minutes per game this season, while younger players such as D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, have had inconsistent playing time.
The Lakers currently sit in last place in the Western Conference standings with a record of 8–28 after a three game win streak was broken by the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. The team is set to take on the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
- Xandria James