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Kobe's playing time...tick, tick, tick

January 3, 2010 |  9:37 am

Here's another reason the Lakers miss Ron Artest: Kobe Bryant's minutes are creeping steadily upward.

Not only are the Lakers lacking defensively in recent games, but Bryant has played 47 minutes, 43 minutes, a relatively breezy 36 and a staggering 51 minutes in the four games Artest has missed because of a concussion.

That's a lot of time logged by Bryant, who often slides to small forward in offensive sets without Artest.

Dare I say it...the Lakers also miss Luke Walton, who is set to return some time this month from a pinched nerve in his back. Without commenting on his play (I'll leave that to our readers), the 10.6 minutes a game Walton was logging would surely help Bryant get more rest these days.

Artest might return tonight against Dallas. If not, the Lakers hope he will be back Tuesday against Houston.

Bryant, no surprise, isn't complaining about the excess time.

"Right now, we've just got to pick it up a little bit more, play a little bit more," he said. "We've got Luke out, we've got Ron out, so our small-forward lineup is kind of thin right now, so I'm carrying the bulk of those minutes."

Bryant, 31, is averaging 38.7 minutes a game this season after averaging 36.1 minutes a game last season.

--MIke Bresnahan