For Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, this is nothing new. At this point in his career, he is no longer judged by the merits of his individual stat-line, but by how many rings are on his finger.
Nonetheless, after two straight seasons ripe with questionable surrounding talent, the influx big-named players and depth should give Bryant his best roster in recent memory.
While the ultimate goal of surrounding Bryant with players like Dwight Howard and Steve Nash is to win a championship, it has an equally beneficial side effect of taking some pressure off the 34-year-old star.
One way, at least according to reporter Mike Trudell, Lakers head coach Mike Brown plans to relive some of Bryant's pressure is by playing him fewer minutes this season.
Mike Brown definitely wants to reduce Kobe's minutes this year. Acknowledges they were too high last year, feels team is now deeper.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 2, 2012
Brown faces the untenable position of anything less than championship glory being an abject failure. By resting Bryant when possible, the Lakers coach is doing both the best thing for his player and the team in the long term.
In 2011-12, hindered with the franchise's shallowest roster in recent memory, Brown rode his starters hard during the cramped 66-game schedule.
Bryant and Pau Gasol both played more than 37 minutes per night while, along with departed center Andrew Bynum, carrying a motley crew of supporting characters.
While that strategy worked in the regular season, all three stars seemed fatigued by the time June rolled around.
Fortunately for Brown, he is not facing a similar situation this season. With Nash, Howard and a bevy of veterans coming off the bench, the team is loaded with star power and depth in 2012-13.
For the purposes of managing Bryant's minutes, the added talent could not have come at a better time.
Let's not mince words here: Bryant is an aging veteran whose knees are unreliable to say the least. Over the past couple of years, Bryant's athleticism has noticeably fallen off as he relies more and more on defenders biting on his head fakes to get shots off.
What's more, Bryant's knees were so bad following the 2010-11 season that he went to Germany in order to undergo the Orthokine (blood platelet spinning) treatment.
Granted, Bryant is one of the league's toughest players and has battled through the grueling injuries to excel on an almost nightly basis. Nonetheless, time waits for no player. Bryant has been in the twilight of his prime for the better part of two seasons and a renaissance is certainly not going to happen.
This is a wholly understandable part of the aging process. No player, nor everyday person for that matter, is the same at 34 years old as he is at 24.
However, Bryant's body has been worn far more than an average 34-year-old player. In 16 NBA seasons, the Lakers guard has played in 1,381 games (including playoffs). For reference, Michael Jordan played in 1,251 games over the course of his entire career.
The fact that Bryant continues to be among the league's 10 best players after so many games is a testament to his brilliance and hard work.
By reducing his minutes (and thus the wear-and-tear) on his body, Brown will extend the twilight of Bryant's prime even farther while also extending the Lakers' championship window.