HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re still trying to figure out exactly how he does it, but while other members of his generation are fighting Father Time all the way to the finish line, Kobe Bryant continues to act like he’s in his mid-20s as opposed to closer to his mid-30s.
The reports from the Lakers’ initial training camp workouts have been glowing where Bryant is concerned. He’s been dominating the action, asserting himself the way you’d expect a young Kobe Bryant would, not the elder statesman entering his 17th season in the league.
With Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the fold now alongside Bryant and Pau Gasol, there is a bit more firepower around to help ease some of Bryant’s offensive burden. The Lakers don’t want him to have to push quite as hard. But Bryant doesn’t seem to be interested in easing up at all.
He played 38.5 minutes per game last season and spent his summer as a starter on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team that won gold at the Olympics in London.
Lakers coach Mike Brown from trying to limit his minutes, though, according to Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times:
“If I can, I’d definitely love to keep his minutes down and not have them up to 38,” Brown said. “But I’m sure he’ll tell you he can play 48, which is probably true if he needed to. But we feel like we have a deep team this year and hopefully at the end of the day it leads to reduced minutes for him.”
Shannon Brown‘s departure before last season left the Lakers without a quality backup shooting guard, leading to increased minutes for Bryant. Enter sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, who made 37.1% of his three-point shots in his first three pro seasons before signing with the Lakers in August.
“I think that’s one of the reasons they got me,” Meeks said, “to keep his minutes down and keep him fresh.”
Bryant said he’d be happy with fewer minutes preceding what is expected to be an extended playoff push.
“It’s always a goal to have good players rest as much as possible for the season and be as fresh as possible for the postseason,” Bryant said. “We’ll see. I’m ready either way.”
He certainly looked ready in London. And from what’s being reported so far in Los Angeles he looks every bit as good now as he did then.
But ultimately the decision on how much burn Bryant gets throughout the regular season will come down to what he and Brown work out. You know the coach won’t be interested in wearing out his biggest star. And you know Bryant has an iron will and won’t want to let up at all in his quest to get championship No. 6.
The smart money is Bryant winning this tug of war.