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Lakers' Byron Scott says plan is for Kobe Bryant to continue to play

Lakers Coach Byron Scott says the plan for now is to have Kobe Bryant continue to play.

Bit by bit, clues are being dropped about when the Lakers might shut down Kobe Bryant.

"I'm pretty sure if we're nowhere near playoff contention in March or something like that, then we might discuss that," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Wednesday. "But the plan right now is to continue to play."

Bryant, 36, has sat out six of the last 12 games for rest reasons. He said he felt as creaky as the Tin Man after making only three of 19 shots Tuesday against Miami in his return from a two-game hiatus.

Many would say the Lakers (12-27) have already fallen out of playoff contention, currently 10 games from the final spot in the Western Conference and owners of the NBA's fourth-worst record.

They would need to go 35-8 the rest of the way to reach 47 victories, the average number needed the last five years based on win percentage of the West's eighth-best team.

It makes sense to eventually shelve Bryant if they want to keep their top-five protected pick in the draft, but fan interest and ticket sales presumably slip if Bryant sits.

"I don't worry about that business [aspect]," Scott said. "I could care less about that, to be honest with you. That's something that's out of my control anyway. My main interest is him and this team."

As Bryant's shooting accuracy has plummeted to 36.9%, his playing time has been limited to 32 minutes per game, his body unable to sustain anything beyond that in an NBA season going asunder for the Lakers.

Bryant began his "rest" retreat Dec. 23, after making eight of 30 shots in a 108-101 loss at Sacramento on Dec. 21.

He will play Thursday against Cleveland and stay home for the Lakers' game Friday in Utah, part of the plan to sit him for a game in every back-to-back situation.

He seemed fine with it after scoring only 12 points in the Lakers' 78-75 loss to Miami.

"I'll just follow [Scott's] lead on that and try to get myself as ready as possible," he said.

Bryant knows he needs to get closer to the basket after making two of nine three-point shots Tuesday.

"Nineteen shots [overall], nine threes, that tells me I'm on the perimeter way too much," he said. "Defenses are trying to keep me away from the basket as much as possible. I've got to mix it up, get to the post level."

Scott would welcome that, saying the three-point frenzy was "not his game."

Back to the post it will be for Bryant.

"That was kind of the plan at the beginning of the season, get him a little bit closer to the basket, playing at the elbows and the mid-post," Scott said. "But as we started progressing, he started to think that he was feeling much better where he could play a little bit farther out. I think we'll probably go back to the first plan."

Hill, Price injuries

Jordan Hill said he would play against Cleveland despite sustaining a hyperextended left knee after stepping on the foot of Miami's Hassan Whiteside on Tuesday.

Ronnie Price needed an MRI exam because of a sore right elbow but was listed as probable for Thursday's game.

LAKERS VS. CLEVELAND

When: 7:30.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 12-27; Cavaliers 19-20.

Record vs. Cavaliers (2013-14): 1-1.

Update: The return of LeBron James couldn't help the Cavaliers avoid a sixth consecutive loss, 107-100, Tuesday at Phoenix. James had 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists after missing two weeks to rest a sore foot and his lower back. Kevin Love, a potential free agent in July, is averaging 17.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first season with the Cavaliers.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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