Lakers have designs on how to ‘preserve’ Bryant
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers have had internal meetings to determine how to “preserve” Kobe Bryant over the final year-and-a-half of his contract, coach Byron Scott said Tuesday.
Bryant, 36, has sat out six of the Lakers’ last 11 games to rest and is a game-time decision Tuesday against the Miami Heat.
Lakers trainer Gary Vitti has also been part of the discussions, along with Bryant.
“A lot of it is trying to preserve (Bryant) as much as possible. That’s the biggest thing, to be honest with you, is just trying to make sure that he can get through this season healthy — relatively healthy — and get ready for the next season as well,” Scott said.
“The one thing we want to do with a year remaining on his contract is make sure that he can play as much as possible that year. The more minutes that I play him (now) is probably the worst thing that I can do.”
Bryant, 36, will make $23.5 million this season and $25 million next season.
“This is going to be game by game,” Scott said. “And I think it’s going to be that way until the end of the season or until March or February if we ever decide to say, ‘OK, let’s just shut it down for the rest of the season.’ We haven’t got nowhere near that point at this particular time.”
Lakers executives Jim and Jeanie Buss haven’t directly been part of the internal discussions about Bryant, though they have been updated.
“I think Mitch is talking to Jim and Jeanie about the whole situation,” Scott said. “I know they’re brought in on the loop. They know exactly what’s going on.”
The plan is to limit Bryant to 32 minutes a game after he averaged 37.1 minutes in November and 34.2 in December.
Bryant hasn’t spoken to reporters since last week, but Scott said there wasn’t a particular area of Bryant’s body forcing him to sit.
“From a physical standpoint, he’s in pretty good shape. There’s no problem with the knee. There’s no problem with the Achilles’,” Scott said. “It’s just general soreness.”
Scott was leaning toward playing Bryant on Tuesday.
“I feel pretty good about what I heard from him this morning but I still want to wait until tonight,” he said. “He just looks like he’s a little bit more energized.”