Kobe Bryant stood just outside the Lakers’ training room barefoot, a towel wrapped around his lower body, his ice bath complete even before his teammates began a practice session he wasn’t going to be a part of on this Saturday morning.
Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors had been a heavy workload for Bryant, his 37 minutes a season high, and now he was getting his body prepared to play in another game Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.
“I feel great,” Bryant said, leaning against one of the workout machines.
The plan, the Lakers said before the season began, was to keep Bryant’s playing time between 28 and 32 minutes per game.
But the 37-year-old forward has crept past that limit in the last two games. After Bryant played 36 minutes against Detroit, he joked that he didn’t look “forward to walking to the car” after that game.
One game later at Phoenix, Bryant didn’t play, resting his aching body.
This time, however, Bryant said he feels good after playing so many minutes against Toronto.
“I’ve been playing about 30 minutes all season long,” he said. “For the last two games, I played 35 minutes and last night I played 37 minutes. So for the most part, I’ve been playing 30, 32 minutes. It’s not a concern.”
Bryant is averaging 31.1 minutes per game, tops on the team.
But he maintained that the minutes he averages is not the issue.
“I really just go by how my body feels,” Bryant said. “We communicate constantly about my body. It’s just if my body feels OK, I’ll play more. If it doesn’t, I won’t. But my workload has been really, really light. So playing 30 minutes, 32 minutes and having the off days from practice, off from shootaround and things like that, I have plenty of time.”
Point guard lessons
At no time, it seems, will D’Angelo Russell get a break from facing the best players at his position.
Russell is a rookie point guard for the Lakers who now has to deal with Portland All-Star guard Damian Lillard on Sunday night at Staples Center.
Russell just had his hands full trying to compete with Toronto All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who torched Russell and the Lakers for 25 points Friday night.
It won’t be any less challenging for Russell against Lillard, who is averaging 25.2 points per game.
“It’s kind of like putting your feet to the fire,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “He’s getting a pretty good indication of what the point guards are all about in this league. I think once you see them for the first time, sometimes it kind of shocks you a little bit because you don’t know how good some of these guys are, how quick they are, how strong they are, how explosive they can be.”
Bryant has warned Russell about Lillard.
“Damian, that kid can go,” Bryant said. “So that’s going to be a challenge for young fella [Russell] to play against and see what he can do.”
LAKERS vs. TRAIL BLAZERS
When: 6:30 PST, Sunday.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.
Records: Lakers 2-10; Trail Blazers 5-9.
Record vs. Trail Blazers: 0-4 (2014-15).
Update: The Trail Blazers have one of the best backcourts in the NBA in Damian Lillard (25.2 points per game) and C.J. McCollum (20.1), whose combined average of 45.3 points per game is almost half of what Portland averages (100.7) as a team. The Trail Blazers broke a seven-game losing streak with a victory over the Clippers. Former Lakers forward Ed Davis started against the Clippers because Meyers Leonard has a dislocated shoulder.
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