Kobe returns to Lakers' lineup after latest rest
LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant returned to the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup against Miami on Tuesday night after his latest prolonged stretch of rest.
The Lakers are working on a plan to keep their 36-year-old superstar healthy for the rest of a rough season, but they're not entirely sure how to do it. Scott intends to decide before every game whether to use Bryant that night, but Kobe likely won't play in back-to-back games again this season.
''It's uncharted waters for both of us,'' Scott said.
Bryant had skipped three of the Lakers' last four games to rest, and he missed three games last month, sitting out six of the Lakers' last 11 games overall. Scott plans to rest Bryant again Friday when the Lakers visit Utah, but hopes Bryant will play against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday - all subject to change, of course.
''I'm not going to anticipate anything,'' Scott said. ''This is a day-by-day, game-by-game situation.''
Although Bryant is the NBA's sixth-leading scorer with 23.0 points per game, the accumulated wear of his 19th NBA season has prompted Scott to rest him with increasing frequency. Bryant has been surprised by the overall soreness in his body, gradually realizing the effects of the accumulated wear on a player who regularly suited up with innumerable injuries ranging from jammed fingers to sprained ankles.
Scott thinks Bryant's famed toughness and his desire to wring more wins out of another bad season compromised his long-term plans for Bryant. Kobe is averaging 34.8 minutes per game, a number that's higher than Scott intended when the season began.
''I was maybe playing him a little too much,'' Scott said.
Bryant is in the first year of a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension signed last season while he was injured. Bryant played just six games in the previous 18 months before this season began after struggling with two major leg injuries.
''It's a two-year deal, and we want to make sure he can play it out to the best of his ability and to the highest ideal,'' Scott said.
Scott claims the Lakers haven't discussed shutting down Bryant for the season, but the coach acknowledged during the pregame shoot-around that such a discussion might occur in the future.
For now, Scott will stick to a strict limit of 32 minutes for Bryant.
But what if a game goes to overtime?
''He won't play overtime,'' Scott said.
Bryant is the third-leading scorer in NBA history, a five-time champion and by far the Lakers' biggest draw. Fans spend thousands of dollars on tickets with the express interest in seeing Bryant before his career ends - and while Scott is aware of his responsibility to fans, he feels a bigger responsibility to Bryant, his former teammate during Kobe's rookie season.
''It's been a great experience to know him a little more,'' Scott said. ''I'm getting to know him on a different level. That's been the fun part. The toughest part of coaching him at this point in his career, you wish you had him six or seven years earlier, when this wasn't an issue.''