Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's offseason featured a trip to Germany for PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy treatments on his right knee and left ankle, and is currently playing with a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right wrist. These factors, plus his age (33) and the compressed season's rigorous pace, provide head coach Mike Brown all the reason in the world to reduce the superstar guard's minutes.
But the opposite has taken place so far. Bryant is averaging 37.7 minutes per game, nearly four more than last season. His coach would like to see that change.
"I hope so," said Brown on Tuesday at practice when asked about the possibility. "I was shooting for 35 minutes (against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday), but there are gonna be times, especially in games like that, that I think we'll have a chance to win, where that 35 may go to 36, 37 and hopefully no more than that. I wanted to keep it at 35, but I didn't do a good job with it.
"But I do want to get it down, because he's played a ton of minutes too early."
For this reduction to take place, Brown needs the team to play well enough on a regular basis where he'd feel comfortable keeping Bryant on the bench for longer stretches. Until that happens, Brown views Bryant's heavy minutes as a necessity towards victory.
"Just hopefully, especially with the second group, just getting a rhythm. If we can get a rhythm on both ends of the floor, I know it would put me at ease a little bit more, and allow me to sit him a little bit more," Brown said.
"I did talk to him about increasing his minutes right now in order to help us win a few games, so that we were able to get a little cushion in the win-loss column."
Bryant has responded well to the additional workload. Over 10 games in January, he's averaged 33.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, five assists and 1.3 steals. He also scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games (two back-to-back) and is the Western Conference Player of the Week two weeks running.
Andy Kamenetzky covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.