The Lakers (8-19) face a difficult schedule this week, playing four games against high-caliber teams: the Golden State Warriors (22-3), Chicago Bulls (17-9), Dallas Mavericks (20-8) and Phoenix Suns (15-14).
With Kobe Bryant laboring through recent games, Coach Byron Scott is still mulling over whether to sit his 36-year old All-Star, and how to approach the remainder of the season.
"I think not only the next game, or the next two games, we need to talk about the next 40 games," said Scott after practice Monday. "He wants to go out there and play every minute that he can. The mind is willing but sometimes the body is not."
Bryant is averaging 24.6 points a game while playing 35.4 minutes a night. He's shooting a career-worst 37.2% from the field.
"He can't play 38, 39 minutes a game and there are probably some games where he shouldn't play back to back," said Scott. "I'm not going to sacrifice his well-being for W's or anything like that.
"I've got to look out for Kobe, and make sure he's going to be able to get through this season without killing him."
What if Bryant doesn't agree with Scott's plan?
"I'd have to go to [General Manager] Mitch [Kupchak] and say, 'Mitch, this is what I want to do and Kobe is not in agreement with it,' " answered Scott.
Bryant didn't practice Monday, the norm for him this season in an effort to save his legs. Scott may keep him in the lineup on Tuesday night when the Lakers host the Warriors.
"At home definitely impacts my decision, because I know how much he wants to play in front of the fans -- and I know how much the fans love to see him play," said Scott. "On the road is a totally different story."
The Lakers visit the Bulls on Christmas Day, followed by a quick trip the next day to Dallas. A logical guess would have Bryant sitting out against the Mavericks.
Scott is trying to diminish Bryant's workload so he can have more energy in games, but he also wants the veteran to reduce his role on the court.
"That's probably going to be the hardest part, to try to take that workload off of him. From a mental standpoint, when the game is going, he still feels he can get it done," said Scott. "I think for the most part he can, but when you're playing four games in six nights, your body is saying, 'No, you can't.' "
Scott acknowledged, to a point, that Bryant is doing too much on the court.
"He's just trying so hard, which can equate to doing too much," admitted the Lakers coach.
Scott said the onus is split evenly between Bryant and his teammates.
"[They] need to be a little bit more aggressive, and show him that they're willing to take on that responsibility," he said. "At times he's got to let them fail, if they're going to fail -- just like you've got to let them succeed. You've just got to give them that chance."
With Bryant at home instead of at the team's practice facility in El Segundo, Jordan Hill knocked down a half-court shot to end practice 30 minutes early. Scott said he didn't mind letting his players off early, giving them a little bit of extra rest to save their legs for the Warriors.