Lakers’ Mike Brown gives players time to rest


The Lakers showed up to their El Segundo training facility, took their annual team photo and left. There were plenty of reasons to smile.

They’re 4-1 without Kobe Bryant, playing inspired basketball at the right time and getting closer to resting key players for a game or two before the real ones begin.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to do that,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

He definitely rested them Monday, letting them go home without practicing, a day after Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions and Pau Gasol each played 44 minutes in the Lakers’ 112-108 overtime victory against Dallas.

There were no complaints of fatigue afterward, only the glow of a short-handed victory against another playoff-caliber team. The Lakers also beat San Antonio and Denver last week without Bryant.

They play host to San Antonio on Tuesday, almost surely without Bryant. He has had plenty of rest since the team shut him down to heal a sore left shin.

“Hopefully, it helps him go into the playoffs a lot fresher, a lot more energized,” Brown said. “We played him a lot of minutes this year and the season was [compacted], so he played obviously a lot of games.”

Bryant did some shooting Monday at the training facility but hadn’t started running yet, which would be the next step in his progression. Then he would be asked to undergo jumping exercises without feeling pain. If that happens, he would be cleared to play by Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

“Gary keeps telling me, ‘He’s getting close, he’s getting close,’ ” Brown said.

Until then, the Lakers (39-22) have the Spurs to keep them busy.

The Lakers stunned them last week, leading by as many as 26 in a 98-84 victory. Bynum became one of only five Lakers to ever take 30 rebounds in a game, and Metta World Peace blistered the Spurs for 26 points.

“We have to be really disciplined with our execution, understand how unselfish they play and how well they move the ball,” Gasol said.

They could also take advantage of the continued renaissance of World Peace, who has averaged 18 points and shot 58% in his last six games.

He didn’t shoot well against Dallas (seven for 20) but finished with 18 points and a late 18-foot fadeaway in overtime to give the Lakers a four-point cushion.

“He was phenomenal,” Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s stepped up since Kobe went out. There are some shots available for him and he’s making the best of the opportunity.

“We all know he’s a great defender. He’s been doing that his entire career, but offensively he looks like he’s in a good groove.”

He’s a coach

Bryant continues to work from the sidelines in his business suit, exhorting teammates during the Dallas game and even grabbing a white board at one point to show something to Bynum.

“That’s Coach Bryant now,” Sessions said. “He’s over there helping everybody out and drawing stuff up. He’s pulling for us over on the side and he’s helping us out tremendously.”