The 2012-13 NBA season has been one of polarizing numbers for the Los Angeles Lakers. From their 12-14 record to Kobe Bryant's seven consecutive games with at least 30 points, there has been as much to boo as there has to marvel.
The question is, could Mike D'Antoni be running Kobe into the ground with an overload of playing time?
When you have a 34-year-old player on your roster, it is hardly rational to play him more minutes than anyone else on the team. It becomes even less acceptable to force that burden upon a player who is in his 17th season.
When you realize that the player we're speaking of is Kobe Bryant, that argument ends.
The question is, could even the almighty Kobe fall victim to a heavier burden than physically possible to handle? Even if he were to, the Lakers are pigeon-toed until Steve Nash returns.
Fortunately, Bryant's production remains at an all-time high.
Thus far in 2012-13, Kobe Bryant is averaging 38.4 minutes per game. He's played at least 40 minutes in seven consecutive games from Dec. 7 to Dec. 18.
Bryant played 40 minutes or more in just 20 games during the entirety of the 2011-12 regular season, and he never played 40 in more than three consecutive games.
No matter how much of a warrior Kobe may be, you'd be hard-pressed to find an individual capable of handling such a heavy workload. Just don't expect Bryant to complain any time soon.
So Far, So Good
Over Kobe Bryant's last 10 games, he's averaging 33.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals in 40.7 minutes of play. Until we witness a decline in production or efficiency, why would we ever doubt the ageless wonder?
Minutes are nothing but a number to a man like Bryant.
For the season, Kobe is averaging 38.4 minutes per game. Even still, he's managed to post a slash line of .477/.381/.865.
Bryant is also averaging MVP-caliber numbers of 29.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Furthermore, Kobe ranks fourth in the NBA in player efficiency rating at 25.81. He's third in value added, coming in at 228.0.
When you weigh the fact that he ranks first in the NBA in usage rate at 30.7, it's a marvel that he's played this efficiently.
What Else Do They Have?
Until Steve Nash returns, the Los Angeles Lakers don't have any option but to ride Kobe Bryant to the promised land.
Bryant ranks third in the NBA in estimated wins added at 7.6. When you evaluate the numbers, it's no wonder.
When Kobe Bryant is on the floor, the Lakers are averaging 105.2 points scored and 98.4 points allowed per 48 minutes. They're also shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1-to-29.
When Bryant is on the bench, it's an entirely different story.
Without Bryant, L.A. is averaging 89.3 points for and 102.9 points against per 48 minutes. The Lakers are shooting 38.8 percent from the floor and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1-to-23.
In other words, the Lakers are a bottom-feeder without Kobe on the floor. And although the minutes could have an effect on Bryant's body, the Lakers have no option but to place the burden of victory on his shoulders.
For those in need of one final number, the Lakers are 17.8 points better with Kobe on the floor, according to NBA.com's net rating system.