Byron Scott has been making his media rounds this week, telling everyone what he expects from his team this season. One important note was that Scott was very adamant about limiting Kobe Bryant’s minutes this season.
Scott said that he would not sacrifice the health of Kobe simply for a win, and even joked that he may have to tackle Kobe to keep him from entering a game if he had to.
While Scott’s intentions are admirable and Bryant needs to see his minutes drop from the 38.6 he averaged in 2013, one has to wonder how good the Lakers can be with Bryant limited.
The San Antonio Spurs kept Tim Duncan at 30 minutes or less the last four seasons, while resting other stars in random games and back-to-backs whenever they felt like it. The Miami Heat limited Dwyane Wade to only 54 games in an effort to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
The Lakers, however, don’t have a playoff tested roster or another star to handle the burden without Bryant. With the Western Conference being so difficult, the Lakers playoff prospects are slim even with Bryant in full form.
So we asked our panel of experts if they believe the Lakers can be successful with Bryant on a minutes and/or games limit. This is what they had to say:
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I am overjoyed to hear Byron Scott talking about limiting Kobe’s minutes. By keeping him in the 28-32 minute range, it will force Kobe to be more efficient when on the court.
Obviously the Lakers are likely to be better with Kobe on the court than off of it, but I actually believe the Lakers may be able to succeed, even with Kobe playing less minutes.
With Kobe rehabbing injuries last season, he wasn’t around the team nearly as much. But even without him, the young Lakers had a lot of fight in them, upsetting some top teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kobe’s presence, and being around the team will help these young guys and give them more confidence when they get their opportunities to contribute. It is a long shot for the Lakers to make the playoffs this season regardless, but a more efficient Kobe, with improved chemistry and confidence thanks to him being around could help the Lakers’ success even with him playing less.
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): The Lakers will not be able to succeed without Kobe playing substantial minutes. Certain teams around the NBA have been able to win games by implementing a strategy to limit the minutes played by some of their older veteran players.
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are most notable for trying to conserve the longevity of their players, Dwayne Wade and Tim Duncan respectively. The difference with the Lakers is that the Heat and Spurs are elite teams. In fact, they played each other in the Finals this past season.
They both have excellent team chemistry and are familiar with playing with each other under a disciplined style of play. The Lakers on the other hand have a new head coach. This means that they will play under a drastically new system than that of previous head coach Mike D’Antoni. The team is also full of young players, with limited talent. Kobe is the only real star on the team.
The vast majority of fans and analysts do not project the Lakers to do that well this season. If Kobe does not play, the reality of the Lakers upcoming season would fall below that of the already low expectations. It the Lakers are to have any sort of success this season, Kobe must play substantial minutes.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Expectations are low for the Lakers heading into next season. Outside of die hard Lakers fans, no one believes this team can compete in a stacked Western Conference.
Kobe Bryant, limited or not, might not be enough to make this team successful next season. The 18-year veteran is coming off consecutive season-ending injuries that will hinder his play.
Much like the majority of Lakers fans, I’m trying to be optimistic heading into next season. Kobe is as resilient as anyone that has ever played the game and that gives me a glimmer of hope, but that’s not enough to run with.
Unfortunately, my job forces me to be realistic. With that being said, it is doubtful Bryant being limited will help this team unless he inspires his teammates in a way he’s never done before.
I’m all for defying the odds and silencing critics, but all signs point to another rough season no matter how many minutes Kobe plays a night.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): After coming back from a torn achilles and a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee, it is no surprise that the coaches are looking to potentially limit Kobe’s playing time. Now an elder statesman, Kobe is no young buck anymore – and no matter who you are this mantra holds true, ‘the older you get, the slower you heal.’
Kobe is said to be 100%, but his body will likely suffer from soreness throughout the season. The Lakers luckily have a good amount of depth at shooting guard, but nobody with the ability of Kobe.
So if Kobe is indeed given a minutes/games limit, the Lakers performance on the court will likely suffer. But I’d rather have Kobe’s minutes limited and body preserved so he can finish out his career on a strong note as it would be terrible if he were to sustain another career-threatening injury.
Given the Lakers roster this year, there are relatively low expectations for this squad, so there’s no reason to overplay Kobe and burn him out. The Lakers are going to need to learn to win without Kobe at some point. They might as well get started this year while he’s still around to help show the way.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Do I believe Kobe Bryant could be successful in limited time? Yes. Do I think the Lakers could be with him playing less? If being successful means making the playoffs, than no. If it means fighting for a spot and not laying over, than yes.
For a franchise accustomed to deep playoff runs, the last two seasons have been tough. Bryant only played six games last year, and the Lakers were a much different team because of his injuries and time missed.
It’s going to take an unexpected run for the team to return to the playoffs this season. The majority of teams who finished ahead of the Lakers last season didn’t take major steps back during the off-season. The Lakers will need everybody, especially Bryant, healthy to make some form of run.
I believe he should be available for as many games as possible and can still be efficient seeing less minutes. To keep Bryant from being injured, some minute management will need to be done. He doesn’t need to be rested for whole games, but he should be playing closer to 30 minutes than 40.
While the Lakers won’t be one of the West’s top eight teams, they will surprise people and be more competitive in games. Unfortunately, that would be another disappointing season missing the playoffs. Laker fans have heard this for a long while, but sadly, it’s going to be about next year.
Byron Scott To Limit Kobe Bryant’s Minutes, Plus Talks Starting Lineup