The Los Angeles Lakers still have not replaced their head athletic trainer Marco Nunez since firing him last month, but when they add his replacement, that person will already have the first member of their staff in place, because Judy Seto — the team’s former head physical therapist who famously helped keep Kobe Bryant intact through injuries and his rigorous training regiment — is rejoining the team, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
Seto was not retained by the Lakers after Bryant retired in 2016, and as Youngmisuk notes, she most recently was working with former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz as he deals with his own nebulous health issues. While it’s not immediately clear if Seto will rejoin the Lakers in her former role or a new capacity, she should be a positive for an organization that’s needed one — especially on the injury front.
The Lakers lost 212 games to injury during the 2018-19 season, the ninth-most in the league, and saw LeBron James be limited to a career-low 55 games due to his own health issues. While James’ version of Seto — Mike Mancias — is employed by the Lakers as an “athletic trainer and athletic performance liaison,” he almost exclusively works with James, as he has since their days together in Miami. Still, there are few that have as much experience working with a high-mileage, aging player as Seto, and her experience would seem likely to help the rest of the Lakers as well.
In a must-read feature from Baxter Holmes of ESPN on how Seto and the rest of the training staff kept Bryant functioning during his final season, she outlined the approach she had to take with the aging star:
As Seto explains, “Before, he could give it his all and he’d recover the next day, no big deal. And then do it again, no big deal. Because he could recover. Now, it’s let’s see how you’re doing tomorrow, because we’re not sure how you’re going to recover. Then we’re going to have to wait until the next day happens.”
In that story, Seto’s work with Bryant on gamedays and offdays is rigorously detailed, so for those of you curious about what she specialized in and might bring back to the team, it’s worth a read. She also extensively outlined her approach to Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated in her own words, and Bryant told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com back in 2012 that Seto had been “enormous” and “really huge” in allowing him to perform as well as he did for as long as he did.
So while I’m not going to lie to you and say I know how to evaluate physical therapists from afar, logic would follow that if she can help the current Lakers even 70 percent as much as she helped Bryant, this is a worthwhile hire.