Preservation plan a new challenge for Kobe

LOS ANGELES -- The plan was to sit Kobe Bryant so that his body could recover from the dump truck-sized minutes load that he never should have been carrying earlier in the season.

All that mandated R & R came in big chunks: The Los Angeles Lakers star missed three of the past four games and six of the past 11 entering Tuesday. But it was deemed necessary for the 36-year-old to recharge his worn-out batteries.

With all that rest comes rust, and Bryant carried plenty of it in the Lakers' 78-75 loss to the Miami Heat here at Staples Center.

Sure, no one on either team shot the lights out -- as the final score indicates -- but Bryant was especially off target. He shot 3-of-19 from the floor, including 2-of-9 from 3-point range, and he finished with 12 points in 31 minutes, one shy of his minutes limit set by Lakers coach Byron Scott.

Afterward, Bryant admitted it was hard to get limber again.

"The hard part is sitting down for stretches and trying to get back in," he said with his feet dunked in an ice bucket. "I feel like the Tin Man. That's just part of the process, part of the challenge."

Scott knew Bryant's rhythm would be affected by sitting out all those games.

"It's going to throw off his timing a little bit and his rhythm, but that's the price we have to pay right now for that," Scott said. "I'm going to live with that -- obviously he has to live with that, as well -- and we'll just go from there."

Bryant shot 2-of-9 in the fourth quarter, missing several shots late, when the Lakers were trying to pull off a remarkable comeback after opening the game in an 18-0 deficit.

"I'm on the perimeter way too much," he said. "That's my call. Nineteen shots, nine are threes -- that tells you I'm on the perimeter way too much. Defenses are trying to keep me away from the basket as much as possible. I've got to mix it up, get to the post a lot more."

Bryant said he needs to do a better job of getting and keeping his body loose, but he didn't make it seem as though it's a huge deal. Nor did he wax nostalgic about what his body was once capable of and say how he wished so badly that he were young again.

"I'm comfortable with how I'm playing," he said. "I see how to pick my spots. The game will look at lot different. If we shoot the ball a lot better, the game looks a lot different. I'm comfortable with where I am. I'll get my legs a little more lively. That just comes from playing instead of having so much time off. But I feel very good about my game at this age."

The plan is for Bryant to sit out one game in a back-to-back set, which he will do Friday in Utah against the Jazz. He is slated to play Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a matchup against LeBron James.

"I just follow [Scott's] lead on it," Bryant said, referring to his coach.

During the games he sits out, Bryant said he is at home, stretching, resting and watching the rest of his teammates play while with his own family.

"It's great spending time with my family, but playing the game is always fun, especially for the fans," Bryant said. "They spend their hard-earned money to come and watch me play. That's tough."

So when he's on the edge of whether he can play, how does he weigh how he feels physically versus his own obligation to give the fans their money's worth?

"It's a no-win situation," he said. "You wind up picking the lesser of two evils."

It's just another challenge that Bryant faces toward the end of his career, one on an ever-growing list.