After the Los Angeles Lakers' 102-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday, head coach Byron Scott was defiant in the face of questions about his extended usage of Kobe Bryant. The 37-year old shooting guard played 37 minutes in the loss, a team high for the night and season high for Bryant. After the game Scott told reporters that he understood that was a lot of minutes for the 19-year veteran, but "at the time when we're trying to win the basketball game you try not to worry about it," Scott said, "but obviously after the game you worry about it."
Given more time to think about the issue, Scott took a different tone on Sunday after the Lakers had their morning shootaround in preparation for their Sunday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers. "It's really really hard," Scott told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. "I know when he's out there, we have the best chance to win. But I have to give him rest."
Scott, who earlier this season said his goal was for Bryant finish the season healthy, pledged to do a better job exercising self-control over Bryant's minutes:
"I have to fight myself on that," Scott said. "I don't want to get to the point where we have so many games left in the season and only 20 games out, hes' already worn out."
Still, Scott maintained he will remain flexible in different circumstances. For example, Scott argued Bryant "could play 35 to 37 minutes" in Tuesday's game against Golden State because of the team's light schedule the rest of the week. Scott will likely rest Bryant during Wednesday's practice. After a likely day off on Thanksgiving, Scott could have Bryant complete half-court drills during Friday's practice. The Lakers then play in Portland on Saturday.
Scott is still walking a fine line regarding Bryant's minutes. While he is right that no situation is exactly the same, and that Bryant could probably play more minutes against Golden State before resting for a few days, at some point this high usage of an aging player is tempting fate. If the Lakers continue to lose these games late, expect Bryant's minutes and usage to continue to decrease as the season rolls along.