Kobe Bryant reduces practice time

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant pledged he would be returning to the practice court after the Los Angeles Lakers were manhandled by the Miami Heat on Christmas Day.

The 32-year-old guard had cut his practice time down significantly this season in "early-to-mid November," according to a team source, to save wear and tear on his surgically repaired right knee. Following the loss to Miami, Bryant resumed practicing with the team and the Lakers responded positively to his added involvement, going 12-4 since then.

Apparently Bryant feels the team has righted the ship and he can go back to saving himself for games. Bryant began the week with a full practice Monday, but did not practice with the Lakers on Thursday, a day after the team was off Wednesday.

When asked if Bryant has started to cut back on his practice time once again, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said, "Yes."

Jackson said it's a flexible situation, however.

"A lot of it I think just depends on how it's going," Jackson said.

Bryant was not interested in the discussion.

"I'll refrain from saying something really smart-ass," said Bryant.

The lack of practice has not had a negative impact on Bryant's production. In fact, it's been quite the opposite. Bryant is averaging 23.4 points on 55.3 percent shooting along with 6.4 assists and five rebounds in his past eight games.

"It's my responsibility to be a threat and that entails many things," Bryant said. "Whether it's scoring the ball or penetrating or whatever it is, it has to be the primary threat to make life easy for the rest of our guys."

Bryant echoed the statement he made after Tuesday's win over the Utah Jazz that his game continues to ascend even though his right knee that he described as "bone on bone" would lead some to believe he is on the decline.

"I'm just getting better," Bryant said. "I'm just becoming a better player. It's 15 years in and you never stop getting better. So, I continue to make improvements."

Lakers center Andrew Bynum said that Bryant is a welcome addition whenever he does practice.

"When he's out there I think it gives us a more realistic look at the rotations because we got somebody who we're playing the defensive scheme for," Bynum said. "I think it makes everybody lock in a little bit more."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.