The preservation of Kobe Bryant continues, and at what cost to the Lakers?
Continuity has jumped into the back seat for Bryant's farewell ride — he rarely practices, almost never attends morning shoot-arounds on game days and sometimes isn't announced as being in or out of the lineup until an hour or two before tipoff.
Bryant played in the All-Star game last Sunday in Toronto and didn't make it to the Lakers' training facility for Wednesday's or Thursday's practice, not to mention Friday morning's shoot-around a handful of hours before the team played the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott couldn't remember the last time Bryant practiced with the team. He was jokingly asked if it was in Honolulu. That would have been for training camp, back in October.
"I think it's a little after that. He practiced a couple of times," Scott said Friday.
Bryant, 37, is in his 20th and final season, as every Lakers follower knows. His whole body is wearing down.
His right shoulder hurts continually thanks to a torn labrum that ended last season prematurely for him. His knees bother him. There are other aches and pains associated with being in the game this long. You don't score 33,000 points without sacrificing.
There's one endgame left for Bryant. Finish this season, even if it means taking lots of time off between games.
"I think he wants to be able to walk off that court, and that's an accomplishment within itself — walk off that court relatively healthy and be able to wave to the fans and say his proper goodbyes," Scott said. "I don't think he wants to be with a cast on or anything like that. I think he wants to be in uniform, healthy."
Even though the Lakers were 11-44 before Friday's game , Scott didn't sense a lack of continuity because of a lack of Bryant during game preparation.
"I don't think there's anything that we could say we were going to do defensively or offensively that he doesn't know," Scott said, before talking about the team's younger players. "I don't think it makes it tougher for them. The guy it should be tough for is Kobe.
"But like I said, I could go over a play before the game and tell him exactly what I want him to do and what we need to do, and it's something we've been going over the last couple days with the guys, and he's got it. There's nothing that he hasn't seen or hasn't done. Spending most of our time with our young guys on both ends of the floor in practice is a whole lot more important than Kobe practicing."