Bryant carries less of the load

Times Staff Writer

Kobe Bryant’s scoring average is down from the last two seasons, although Lakers Coach Phil Jackson isn’t complaining.

“This is probably a good thing for the team,” he said.

The Lakers are balanced. They’re sharing. They’re caring.

With the emergence of Andrew Bynum, the return of Derek Fisher and the strong play of the Lakers’ reserves, Bryant simply hasn’t had to do all the scoring, although he did come up with 37 points in a 110-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

He is averaging 26.7 points a game, down from the 31.6 he averaged last season and way down from the 35.4 in 2005-06. He won the scoring title each of those seasons.


At the same time, Jackson said Bryant’s decision to blend more into the scoring background was day-to-day.

“I think that it’s game-by-game, is what it really is,” Jackson said. “It’s how well we’re playing as a group and how well we’re shooting the basketball.”

As if to update Bryant’s current mind-set, Jackson related a vignette from the Lakers’ 109-80 victory Wednesday over New Orleans.

During a timeout, Bryant demanded the ball in the post because of a mismatch on smaller Hornets guard Bobby Jackson. Jackson agreed that, sure, the Lakers should always try to take advantage of such a thing.

“He said, ‘I have a mismatch every game,’ ” Jackson said, smiling.

Bryant’s playing time has also dipped, to 36.5 minutes a game this season, down from 40.8 minutes last season.


“I think it makes a huge difference,” Jackson said. “The biggest difference is grinding games out. If you can get by some games where you don’t have to expend the kind of energy to win or to be close or to be competitive in a game, I think it makes a world of difference for a team. It eliminates injuries and burnout.”

Forward Vladimir Radmanovic sat out a fifth consecutive game because of a sprained right ankle and might not play Sunday against Memphis.

“This is a process where someone who watched him come off the floor the other day after he was injured would have no inkling it was as severe as it was,” Jackson said.