Kobe Bryant’s time is up
Not that the suddenly overtaxed Lakers need the reminder, but their top player is spending a lot more time on the court.
Kobe Bryant is averaging 38.8 minutes a game after averaging only 36.1 last season, a relatively large jump that makes him and 22-year-old Andrew Bynum the only Lakers starters logging more minutes this season.
“It shows maybe the need, the desire to have him on the floor, something along the lines that we need him out there to win games,” Coach Phil Jackson said.
Jackson said he was surprised by the size of the increase in playing time but not troubled by it, perhaps because Bryant took an 18-day break last month while sidelined by an ankle injury for five games.
Pau Gasol is down slightly to 36.8 minutes a game after averaging 37 in the same department last season. Ron Artest is playing 34 minutes a game after averaging 35.5 with the Houston Rockets last season. Derek Fisher is down to 27.4 minutes, 2.4 fewer that last season. Bynum is up from 28.9 minutes a game to 30.5 this season.
Bryant, 31, was tied for ninth in the NBA in minutes coming into Tuesday’s game against Toronto.
Sasha Vujacic raised his right arm in the air in a shooting motion.
It was his way of showing the media that he had become healthy enough from a strained right shoulder that kept him out of eight games to suit up for the Lakers on Tuesday.
“The pain is not going to go away,” Vujacic said. “The biggest thing is just to be ready and forget about the pain.”
Vujacic has been out almost three weeks, which has caused his conditioning to suffer. He worked out while the team was on a three-game trip. “I have to keep up with that,” Vujacic said. “At that point when I step on the court, there’s no pain no more.”
Luke Walton has started running and is hoping to rejoin the team before the playoffs, Jackson said. Walton has played only 24 games this season, mainly because of recurring problems with a pinched nerve in his back.
Bryant needs to watch himself after picking up his 12th technical foul Sunday in Orlando, Jackson said.
“He’s got to be careful about it,” Jackson said.
Players are suspended for a game if they pick up 16 technical fouls in the regular season. A warning letter has already been sent to the Lakers, as is the NBA’s custom when a player picks up a 12th technical foul. The Lakers have 17 games left.
Jackson was unhappy in the first place that Bryant received a technical foul Sunday after he and Orlando forward Matt Barnes got tangled up while getting position for a rebound.
“My concern is that kind of a situation that is instigated by Barnes, a guy can just get caught up in that situation,” Jackson said. “Really, Kobe did not deserve a technical for that sequence of actions. Kobe boxed him out. It was just a simple box out that I think the refs got [more] excited about it than the players.”
Bryant is fourth in the league in technical fouls, one behind Orlando center Dwight Howard and Boston centers Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace.
Players are given a clean slate when playoffs begin and are handed a one-game suspension if they reach seven technical fouls.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.
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