The Los Angeles Lakers came into this season with a plan to keep Kobe Bryant rested, limiting his minutes to keep him fresh down the stretch, and for what the team hoped would be a playoff run.
Things haven’t exactly gone as planned.
Kobe has been bearing the brunt of the workload on a team dwelling in the basement of the Western Conference. A fatigued and uncharacteristically poor-shooting Kobe has now been working with the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Tim DiFrancesco, for strategies on how to keep his body in playing shape despite the heavy workload. DiFrancesco has prescribed taking more ice baths on game days and extra lower body weightlifting on others.
“It’s a fine balance at 36 [years old], trying to find the rhythm of strengthening your legs as the season goes on without wearing them out,” Bryant said after his team’s practice Tuesday. “We’re in uncharted territory in terms of trying to figure this out, but we will.”
But the future may not get any easier, as the Los Angles Lakers have been forced to lean on Kobe just to keep them in games. He leads the team with nearly 36 minutes per game, and has been noticeably struggling in the second half of contests.
“The second half of games for me have been a struggle lately with my legs,” Bryant said. “My shot’s just been really short even though my legs feel good.”
But there are some who believe that the emphasis on Kobe Bryant is holding the team back. The Guardian columnist Hunter Felt wrote that Kobe “might be hurting his team” by taking so many shots, and others have suggested that the Lakers could try trading Bryant to clear the way for the team’s future stars.
With the Los Angeles Lakers already drifting out of the playoff picture and young stars like Nick Young waiting in the wings, Kobe Bryant could even be moved before the trade deadline, some insiders believe. That is, of course, if the Lakers can find a team willing to take on Bryant’s colossal salary.