Breaking Down an Ideal Plan for L.A. Lakers to Keep Kobe Bryant Healthy
That's why it came as no surprise when Bryant strained his foot (via CBSSports.com), forcing him to sit out the Lakers' final preseason games, ultimately putting his status for the team's season opener in question.
Kobe played 58 of 66 games in a truncated 2011-12 season, and logged an impressive 38.5 minutes per game throughout the condensed slate. No one questions Kobe's toughness, but he's going to be most effective when he's at 100 percent, which is why the Lakers will have to carefully monitor his minutes during the 2012-13 season.
Here we present to you a plan that will help keep Kobe Bryant healthy throughout the upcoming season.
Limit His Minutes Per Game
The most obvious element of this plan, it's imperative that Mike Brown and the Lakers' coaching staff formulate a plan to limit Kobe's regular season minutes to fewer than the 38.5 he averaged a year ago.
The 82-game slate should provide Kobe with more relief on a day-to-day basis, but that doesn't mean the Lakers can trot him out for close to 40 minutes a night.
With the Lakers' limited depth on the wings, it will be tempting to maximize Kobe's minutes while they still have him, but playing things on the safe side will be beneficial in the long run.
Jodie Meeks may have to shoulder more minutes than fans would ordinarily prefer, but he's going to have to adopt a significant role as the Lakers preserve Kobe for a crucial postseason.
Occasional Nights Off
It became a running joke in NBA circles last year when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich listed (via Yahoo!) Tim Duncan as a "DNP-Old" for a regular season game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
We see it in baseball all the time. A lengthy schedule gives way to everyday players getting games off to rest their bodies. As Kobe approaches age 35, it makes sense for this trend to transfer to basketball. With a litany of injuries, it's only logical that Kobe take the occasional night off against lesser opponents.
Does Kobe really need to play against the Sacramento Kings through the dog days of January? No. Will he want to play? Unequivocally, yes.
It will be tough to convince the game's most competitive mind to take a night off, but it could be a tactic that helps the team's chances of winning a title down the line.
Stress the Princeton Offense
The Los Angeles Lakers are ready to install (via ESPN.com) the Princeton offense, which could be great news not only for the Lakers' team chemistry, but for Kobe Bryant as well.
The Princeton stresses off-ball movement and precise passing, which will help lead the offense away from some of the excessive Kobe isolations we've seen in the past.
By making Steve Nash the primary ball-handler, there will be an emphasis on feeding the high and low post and running the pick-and-roll with the Lakers' impressive repertoire of bigs.
In a way, Kobe will be able to sit back and let the offense come to him. With so many dynamic offensive options, there will be opportunities for Kobe to become a more conventional spot-up shooter, which would be a nice way to relieve his body of an excessive workload.
Stray from Defensive Switches onto Bigger Bodies
It certainly sounds easier in theory than it does in practice, but Kobe Bryant could be aided by limited defensive switches onto bigger bodies.
There's no need for Kobe to take a beating in the post, especially with defenses trying to manipulate switches off of the pick-and-roll, attempting to draw Dwight Howard away from the basket.
Perhaps this isn't the biggest concern, but the pounding Kobe could take from more physically imposing bigs is a concern when it comes to his long-term health.
We all know that Kobe's at his best when he's out on the perimeter both offensively and defensively, so it's imperative that he logs the majority of his minutes away from the paint.
Proper Postgame Treatment
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The key to longevity in the NBA is superb treatment, whether it's before, during or after games. In order to preserve his body, Kobe will need to heed the advice of the Lakers' licensed medical staff and maintain awareness of his body's limits at age 34.
Kobe has played through countless injuries in his day, and it'd be hard to argue that they haven't collectively taken a toll on his body. Treatment, even in excess, could be necessary to extend Kobe's career.
It may be a joke, but it's really unfortunate the Lakers couldn't swing a deal for the Phoenix Suns' vaunted training staff (via TrueHoop) in the Steve Nash deal this summer. If they had, Kobe's greatness could have been preserved until 2020. Or something like that.