Kobe Bryant playing limited minutes?
In hopes of ensuring his left Achilles tendon stays healthy, the Lakers star may play fewer than the 38 minutes he averaged in the past two seasons whenever he returns.
"It will probably be self inflicted," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "His conditioning will limit most of it."
Bryant spent Sunday following the team's morning shootaround working on shooting drills. After the Lakers' designated day off Monday, Bryant plans to participate in the team's three full-court practices in hopes of feeling healthy enough to play Friday in Sacramento, though D'Antoni said he "has no clue whatsoever" whether that will happen.
"I'm comfortable with that," Bryant said last week about possible reduced playing time. "The goal is to win a championship and put ourselves in a position to win a championship. I feel we have some really good pieces and guys who are really competitive, athletic and energy that can carry a game."
The Lakers and Bryant endorsed the same idea the past two seasons. Then reality got in the way and Bryant logged 38 minutes per game.
Former Lakers coach Mike Brown relied on Bryant heavily in the 2011-12 season for various reasons. Bryant looked spry following an offseason right knee and left ankle procedure in Germany. The Lakers lacked backcourt depth. They also struggled with Brown's offense after remaining immersed in Phil Jackson's triangle system for many years beforehand. D'Antoni relied on Bryant heavily last season as the team fought to sneak into the playoffs. Prior to Bryant tearing his Achilles seven months ago, Bryant had averaged 45.6 minutes per game in the previous seven contests.
This year, Bryant has preached patience with his recovery. So much that D'Antoni conceded the possibility Bryant would sit on the second night of back-to-back games, a proposal D'Antoni suggested both Bryant and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti will decide.
"If that's a restriction," D'Antoni said, "they'll tell me."
Whenever Steve Nash earns an eventual induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his resume will include his MVP awards (two), his assists (10,278) and free-throw shooting (90.4 percent).
The 160 games he played off the bench? Nothing more than a footnote. But it could define how he plays the rest of this season with the Lakers. D'Antoni expects Nash to practice Tuesday after reporting "some improvements" since spending the past week with his personal trainer Rick Celebrini in Vancouver to heal the nerve pain in his back. But D'Antoni conceded the possibility Nash will return as a reserve.
"We'll see," D'Antoni said. "We haven't gotten there yet."
Such a proposal would seem unthinkable in other seasons. Before his injury, though, Nash averaged only 6.6 points on 26.1-percent shooting and 4.8 assists in 22.5 minutes. The Lakers also entered their game Sunday against Portland with a 6-3 record during Nash's absence, partly because of the team's backcourt depth in Steve Blake (9.8 points, 7.8 assists) and Jordan Farmar (9.9 points, 4.6 assists).